Google Tag

Search This Blog

Friday, April 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Sandwiches


Oat milk is like, milk, but from cows that only eat oats, right? I once made the facetious argument that instead of nut milks, food manufacturers should use milk from vegan cows since they would logically yield vegan milk. I explained in the very next paragraph that the whole thing was a joke, but I still got a few snide remarks informing me that milk from vegan cows is not, in fact, vegan. Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, I'm still one of those weirdos that prefers real cow's milk.

I suppose it's not fair to compare non-dairy oat beverage treats with actual dairy-based desserts. But once you're hooked on the creaminess of real milk and ice cream, it's hard to get used to anything else. Mostly out of curiosity, I've sampled all different types of non-dairy desserts and beverages: coconut, almond, soy, cashew, oat...you name it. I like them all just fine, but none have ever stolen the title from good old moo juice.


That said, these oat-based "ice cream" sandwiches are about as good as one could possibly expect. The oat milk is sweet and pleasant. It's just a shade more watery than traditional ice cream, but it's still somewhat thick and smooth.

The chocolate wafers are soft, and they have a nice cocoa flavor that pairs well with the frozen dessert. Everything else from the wrappers to the shape of the sandwiches emulates the traditional ice cream sandwiches I enjoyed every summer as a teenager.


For $3.69, you get six of the non-dairy desserts. I probably wouldn't buy these again if I'm honest, but I'd heartily recommend them to vegans and lactose intolerant folks. Sonia agrees, though she's a tad more fond of the flavor than I am. Four stars from her. Three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Sandwiches.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Salmon Burgers


This ain't our first ride at the Trader Joe's brand salmon rodeo. At a quick glance, we've reviewed around 20 salmon items throughout the years, including salmon bacon, salmon pastrami, a salmon poke bowl, not one but TWO kinds of salmon jerky, and even salmon with Everything but the Bagel pre-applied.


You can dig around those old reviews on the blog yourself if you're interested. Some of those salmon offerings were among the very best Trader Joe's products we've ever seen and others were among the very worst. But it's moot point, really. The vast majority of those fishy morsels have gone the way of the dodo as so many of TJ's items do eventually. Oddly, these salmon burgers have been around quite a while and yet we've never taken an official look. Let's change that...now.

$7.49 gets you four frozen fish pucks of boneless, skinless Alaskan salmon. It's good quality fish and the portions are adequate. As per usual, the stove top heating instructions are wildly inaccurate and not even worth reading. I just kept flipping the discs every few minutes until the meat tanned a bit and started darkening in a few spots. I think I had them on medium heat for about 20-25 minutes by the time it was all said and done.

In terms of "fishiness," I feel like it's definitely a stronger flavor than, say, mahi mahi. But for those of us that like the taste of fish, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I made a sauce with mayo, sriracha, lemon juice, and garlic powder that went great with them. I used pretzel bread rolls and feta cheese, too. We were fresh out of greens at the time, otherwise I would have tossed a big stack of arugula on the sandwich to make the ultimate fish burger.

Sonia raved about them served that way. She's down for four and a half stars and a repeat purchase. I think they're worthy of four stars and a thumbs up. If you're one of those folks that doesn't like fishy fish, I'd steer you towards the above-mentioned mahi mahi burgers, but I don't think I've seen those around lately. So...maybe some other kind of white fish would do the trick. But if you don't mind fish that tastes like fish, I think Trader Joe's Premium Salmon Burgers are a great, convenient choice.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo


The first five years of my life or so were spent in Hershey, just blocks from Hersheypark, Chocolate World, and the old chocolate factory. My family kept in touch with a few folks in the town for many years after, so we'd find ourselves there quite often even after having moved away. You'd frequently smell cocoa wafting through the air of the affluent Pennsylvania neighborhood, and of course much of the local economy revolved around the chocolate industry.

Even in a town about an hour away, it was hard to escape the influence of Hershey and their world-famous chocolate brand. Thanks to some food sensitivities, I wasn't allowed much, if any, chocolate in my early years. Nevertheless, as I was treated for and grew out of said intolerances, I was heavily exposed to Hershey's chocolate and Hershey's syrup as I grew up and they naturally became my reference points for all things chocolatey.


We've frequently been criticized for comparing Trader Joe's chocolate products to Hershey's since, in the opinion of many chocolate snobs, Hershey's isn't that great compared to, say, European chocolate. In fact, foreign chocolate connoisseurs are often inclined to say that Hershey's tastes like literal vomit. But I digress. All that to say I'll be comparing this syrup primarily to Hershey's because I'm not all that familiar with any other brands.

Let's start with the ingredients. Hershey's kicks things off with high fructose corn syrup. It could still be those childhood food allergies lingering around, but my body hates HFCS. Trader Joe's syrup uses organic cane sugar. Good stuff. From there, the ingredients in Hershey's get even more unpronounceable and artificial, while Trader Joe's sticks with organics and basics.

Still, I think I like the taste of Hershey's a little better than this Trader Joe's chocolate syrup. It's sad, but I think my palate is just used to consuming chemicals, dyes, and fake stuff. Hershey's is a bit sweeter and thinner, both of which make it just a tad more chuggable. Trader Joe's syrup is a "darker" cocoa and it has a heavier consistency, which makes it harder to dissolve in milk. It's much more optimized for topping vanilla ice cream or other desserts in my humble opinion.

TL;DR—Trader Joe's Midnight Moo uses much higher quality ingredients than Hershey's but there's still something familiar about the old standby that makes it taste slightly better to me.

$3.99 for the squeeze bottle. Apparently this product was around years ago, got discontinued, and then came back again somewhat recently. Would I buy again? Maybe. I think it's growing on me. Four stars from Sonia, three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Texas Vodka

Based in Austin, Texas, Tito's Vodka has become the gold standard for cheap American vodka in recent years. It's far more drinkable and mixable than other inexpensive vodkas in our opinion, and if we have an occasion to buy vodka—which is relatively rare—Tito's is generally our go-to. Also Sonia and I are dog people and Tito's runs a charity called
Vodka for Dog People, which we love.

So, naturally, others have tried to imitate the relatively smooth, sweet, gluten-free corn profile of Tito's affordable vodka, and it was only a matter of time before Trader Joe's hopped on that bandwagon. Trader Joe's Texas Vodka is similar in appearance and smell to Tito's, it too hails from the great state of Texas, and it's even more affordable at just ten bucks per 750 mL bottle. Which part of Texas is it from, you ask? Well, traderjoes.com says it's from Houston, but my bottle says "Dallas." Not sure about the discrepancy, to be honest.

Quality and taste-wise, it's pretty close to its name brand counterpart. There's a strong ethyl alcohol component to the smell and on the front end of the palate, which is dampened by the corn essence. The finish might be just a tad harsher than Tito's, but that can be remedied by mixing it with any number of juices, sodas, or soft drinks.

For the value, it's hard to beat. I like it just a wee bit less than Tito's, and I'd say it falls just shy of the Small Batch Vodka we looked at last year, too. Again, all of the vodkas mentioned in this review would fall under the category of "cheap vodka" and our opinions lack expertise—but you can't say we're not honest. Three and a half stars a piece from the beautiful wifey and me for Trader Joe's Texas Vodka.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Trader Joe's Jalapeño & Cream Cheese Crispy Wontons


What we have here is a wonton disregard for condiments and sauces. You feel me? This is a decent product, but for goodness sake, throw us a bone and give us some sweet chili sauce in a little packet next time. They even show a bowl of dipping sauce on the packaging. It might be nice to include the condiment since it's generally understood we'll be pairing these apps with something sweet and tangy.

Alrighty, I'll stop ranting for a bit and tell you what I like about them. They are crispy. We heated ours in the air fryer, and the wontons get all dark and crunchy around the edges. The middles are less crispy since they're a bit soggified from the cream cheese filling. They're just a tad oily, too, but letting them cool for a spell on a paper towel or napkin remedies most of that issue. They taste good—like typical crab puffs but without the crab.


The jalapeños are picante enough to give the wontons a kick but not enough to produce any discomfort, at least for folks who enjoy moderately spicy foods. There's a decent amount of cream cheese in every bite, so there's a rich, milky aspect to them as well. They really do want to be dipped in something sweet, though. Fortunately we had some non-TJ's sweet Thai chili sauce stashed away in the back of the fridge. I think they're way better when slathered with that stuff.


$4.99 for a dozen little wonton appetizers. Not the best value in the store, but still worth a purchase if you're looking for something tasty, crispy, and easy to make. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four stars from yours truly for Trader Joe's Jalapeño & Cream Cheese Crispy Wontons.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa Paste


Everything I ever knew about harissa I learned from Trader Joe, which admittedly isn't all that much. We saw a decent harissa-based salsa some years back. And I vaguely remember trying some sardines packed in harissa during one of our short-lived podcast episodes. What is harissa? It's a spicy chili pepper paste that comes from the Maghreb region of North Africa. This item isn't shy about its origins. It's a proud product of Tunisia.

I remember liking the flavor and intensity of harissa, but I think this paste is a more concentrated format than either of my previous encounters with the spicy sauce. I like a good bit of heat with certain foods, but I definitely have my limits. Hopefully I'll be able to apply this paste so it's strong enough to enhance my meals but not to the point of pain. Let's dive in...


The harissa hits you up front with a rich, pungent fragrance. It's peppery, smoky, and faintly vinegary. There's a layer of oil around the edges of the jar, and a moderate amount of seeds can be seen throughout the mixture.

Flavor-wise, it's similar. There's a bit of garlic and coriander in the paste, but they're mostly overshadowed by the intense hot pepper flavor. I mean, this isn't the spiciest sauce I've ever had, but it's not for the faint of heart, either. I'd put it at the same intensity level as a jalapeño pepper—and definitely a good bit hotter than the gochujang sauce we looked at recently. You feel it in your mouth and tongue immediately, and over time it slowly warms your tummy internally.


So far, we've had it on chicken and fish, both of which worked really well. We've added it to plain hummus to give it a kick. And we've also put dollops in things like Asian-style stir fry. I've heard some people like to mix it with a bit of mayo to temper the spice level and add it to burgers and other typical American fare. Sounds good, but we haven't tried it that way yet.

$2.99 for the jar. Not a bad value considering it came from halfway around the world and it'll most likely last us a long time due to its potency. We're eager to experiment with it some more. Four stars from Sonia, four from me on Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa Paste.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People 10th Anniversary Edition

Breaking news! It's back...for a limited time only. Get your 10 Year Anniversary Edition Dog Food...For People while supplies last!

Friday, March 29, 2024

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Halibut


Got some GF battered halibut here. That could stand for gluten free battered halibut. Could mean Good Friday halibut. Both are accurate in this case.

I know a bunch of you do the whole Lent thing where you eat fish on Fridays in the weeks leading up to Easter. That's cool. I mean, I'll eat fish any day of the week, any month of the year, but we have been hitting up the local Catholic church lately for their Fish Fry-days. It's not just the Alaskan pollock that's the attraction. They've got coleslaw, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, and homemade desserts, too. Quite enjoyable.


So I figured we'd look at these crispy critters today because why the heck not? Let's heat them up in the air fryer...just for the halibut. Get it? <sigh>

Anyway, this is one of those gluten free items that I might actually prefer over its wheat-based cousins. The thin coating here is so delectably crispy, it feels even better than regular batter. It's just a tad more rigid than the traditional stuff, but in a good way.


The halibut here is beautiful, flakey white fish. Absolutely no complaints there either. It goes great with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, malt vinegar, or whatever you eat with your normal fried fish. My only grievance: the value. Twelve bucks for six or seven modestly-sized pieces of breaded fish is a little steep in my book.

But hey, you get what you pay for. I think we're still looking at about four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Halibut.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Trader Joe's Corn & Cheese Arepas


Sometimes I just have to rant about Trader Joe's preparation instructions. I recently saw a tweet, or an X post—or whatever the heck we're calling those now—from a similarly frustrated dude, and it read: Man, Trader Joe's really is just guessing at the cook times huh? Truer words were never spoken. How that tweet only got one like, I'm not sure. We can't be the only ones.

Throughout the years, I've had plenty of folks indicate that indeed TJ's heating directions are often way off the mark—usually on the short end of the spectrum. And still others have taken it upon themselves to tell me that Trader Joe's is right and that I'm a blithering idiot. That's fine. I'm no culinary wizard. That's no secret. It could be user error to some degree, for sure.


But in this case, following the stovetop instructions to a T, I wound up with a product that was still frozen solid in the middle. I mean the outer portions of the corn cakes were browning and wanting to stick to the pan and the middle portions were like a cornbread and cheese flavored popsicle. I mean, I didn't eat it that way, of course. I threw it into the oven and tried heating it through on a cookie sheet.

Fortunately, it worked. After a spell in the oven, the griddle cakes were nice and brown and just lightly crispy in a few places, and the cheese in the middle melted beautifully to the point where the cakes wanted to slide off the top a little.

The taste? It's a grilled cheese sandwich made with cornbread instead of wheat or white. We've got a large slab of soft, creamy mozzarella cheese in between two griddle cakes made of corn—not a far cry from American cornbread. It's slightly sweet, dense, and filling. The overall vibe falls somewhere in between home-cooked comfort food and something you'd get from a street vendor.


Why is this not a thing here in the states? It's not even really a thing in Mexico. ¿Por que? This treat comes all the way from South America, Colombia in particular. I love it. I want more.

$3.49 for two big arepas. Gluten free. Would definitely buy again. I recommend either thawing completely before heating on the skillet or using the conventional oven heating method. Apparently there are makeshift air fryer heating instructions floating around in cyberspace. I would have gone that route had I realized it beforehand. Anyhoo, four and a half stars from me. Four stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Corn & Cheese Arepas.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Trader Joe's Fruits & Greens Smoothie Blend


Sonia and I make our own smoothies from time to time. Although the ingredients are subject to change and substitutions, we generally use blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and some kind of juice. If it involves milk or ice cream, in my mind anyway, it's a milkshake even if it does contain some fruit. So if we're talking smoothies at our house, it's generally understood that they're 100% fruit and fruit juices.


This mix has some spinach and kale included, which of course, are also fairly common smoothie ingredients. I've had pre-mixed smoothies that sneak in traces of nutrient-dense vegetables like kale successfully, but my palate is generally sensitive enough that I can taste the veggies and to some degree or another, they detract from my enjoyment of all the sweet fruit flavors. I don't want a salad smoothie. I want a fruit smoothie. If I want greens, I'll eat them on the side, heated with a little butter and salt.

The greens didn't bother Sonia one bit, but they did bug me a little. Every third sip or so, I'd taste the relatively bitter essences of spinach and kale. And it wasn't because the beverage wasn't blended enough. Our little wannabe bullet blender got the ingredients pretty darn liquefied. There was just a tad too much in the way of greens. If there had been half as much, I think it might have slid under my taste bud radar undetected.

Still, it's not a bad mix. It's bursting with berry flavor and some banana underneath. Dragon fruit is such a relatively mild taste in comparison, I don't think it affected the flavor profile in any significant way.

We've used apple, orange, and/or pineapple juices to make smoothies in the past. With these ingredients, Sonia and I both agreed apple was the way to go here, as the extra sweetness helped cover over most of the earthiness of the kale and spinach. It worked pretty well.

$3.99 for the bag, which will easily produce four or more smoothies for us, despite the three serving specification on the nutrition info. In the end, I'd rather just buy my own smoothie ingredients. This is pretty close to what I'd want, but with fewer veggies. Sonia would buy again for the convenience factor. Four stars from her. Three stars from me for Trader Joe's Fruits & Greens Smoothie Blend.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Trader Joe's Kanom Krok Thai Coconut Pancakes


Dang, I need to start being more adventurous when I go to Thai restaurants. If it's a place I've never been to before, nine times out of ten I'll get the pad thai on my first go around. On subsequent occasions, I might try some sort of curry or soup, but I rarely grab appetizers or desserts that I've never heard of. I've apparently been missing out.


So...people seem to be calling these "Thai pancakes." I guess I can see where that comes from. But to me, a pancake is a breakfast food—something carboriffic that you'd eat first thing in the morning alongside juice, toast, and milk. These do have a thin, crispy, doughy exterior layer, but that's just the outer shell.

It would be more accurate to call these "Thai coconut cream pies" in my opinion, because the main attraction here is the sweet, smooth pudding-like filling in the middle of the little dome-shaped treats. It's über-coconutty and utterly superb.

The packaging says they're a good "balance of salty and sweet." Yeah, no. I'm not saying there's no salt in them, but you wouldn't reach for these if you wanted something salty. You'd reach for these when you want a blast of dessert-o-riffic silky coconut perfection—like a coconut cream pie, but better.

There's not much in the way of actual coconut texture. If you're one of those folks that doesn't like the feel of coconut shavings, you're in luck. The custard filling is fairly thick but extremely smooth. The beautiful wifey likened the creamy filling to the coconut version of sweetened condensed milk.

$3.29 for nine kanom krok, which are about two bites a piece. I really wish they sold a larger pack because it took Sonia and I about 90 seconds to demolish this entire box. If you enjoy the taste of coconut, these things are amazing. Incidentally, this was the item my Trader Joe's cashier chose for her obligatory "compliment one of the customer's choices" on my last TJ's run. No wonder. Four and a half stars a piece from the two of us for Trader Joe's Kanom Krok Thai Coconut Pancakes.



Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Trader Joe's Chicken Burrito Bowl


Well, this product looks a bit like the recently-reviewed Chicken Shawarma Bowl. It's still a microwavable serving of poultry straight outta the Great White North, but now we've got Mexican-style burrito ingredients instead of Middle Eastern cuisine. Hey, at least we're on the right continent this time around.


And while this isn't the most flavorful burrito con pollo I've ever tried, I'll give it an "A" for effort and a passing grade if you're hungry, on a budget, and/or pressed for time. At $3.49, this product is significantly less expensive than any comparable offering from Chipotle, Qdoba, or Moe's Southwest Grill. It's also not quite as tasty and obviously not fresh, but sometimes those are necessary sacrifices for those of us living life in the fast lane.

Just 4-5 minutes in the microwave yields a piping hot single-serving meal with plenty of chicken, rice, quinoa, and bits of tomato, corn, and pepper. It's not a terrible dish by any means, but it lacks that piquant kick that an authentic burrito provides. We've got some chili powder and chipotle pepper paste in the ingredients, but those flavors are way too faint in the final mixture.

Even if you're not looking for something spicy, you'll want to dress this bowl up if you can with more sour cream and cheese. If you're consuming this product at home like me, it might be prudent to break out some tortillas, lettuce, and salsa and make little tacos with this as the base. You could probably stretch the single bowl to at least two servings that way while greatly improving the taste at the same time.

If I still worked in cubicle-land, I'd consider buying this product once in a while for a work lunch, provided I could slather it with Tapatio, Cholula, or Texas Pete. Let's be nice and say three and a half stars a piece on Trader Joe's Chicken Burrito Bowl.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Trader Joe's Figo! Bars


Never heard of "figo" before, pronounced like "fee-go." Apparently it's an Italian word that means "cool" or, according to Google Translate, "sounds cool." I guess the idea is kinda cool: two desserts in one. One half of the treat is like a Dove bar or what have you with vanilla ice cream and a thin chocolate coating and the other half is an ice cream sandwich.


I'll tell you right now I like the chocolate coated half better. It's definitely chocolate-forward. That coating is rich and full of cocoa flavor. The ice cream is decent, but it could be more vanillatastic...you know with vanilla beans and a heavy marshmallow vibe. It tastes sweet but any actual vanilla taste is overshadowed by that chocolate. That's fine. It still works.

The vanilla ice cream is the same in the sandwich half, but there's something off-putting about the texture of the "chocolate wafers" to me. It's like oddly starchy—almost chalky. Like it makes me want to cough. Even the flavor is slightly bland in the wafers.

If you space out your bites strategically, you can have a couple mouthfuls that contain both chocolate wafer and chocolate coating. The chocolate coating continues to steal the show in these instances. However, you'll still be left with a few bites of nothing but chocolate wafer and ice cream at the end. And I don't know why, but it just feels a bit like fancy Italian sawdust to me.

Sonia entered the room just as she was getting to the second half of her bar. "I really like these cookies!" she exclaimed, in reference to the items I just likened to the byproduct of a high school wood shop class.

"Well, now that we agree on that..." I said.

Despite their shortcomings, the wafers didn't completely ruin my enjoyment of these imported desserts. But would I buy them again? I dunno. I'm on the fence, but the beautiful wifey sure would.

$4.49 for six bars, found in the frozen section. Three and a half stars from me, four and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Figo! Half Dipped Chocolate & Vanilla Flavored Sandwich Bars.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey


I've only been to Tennessee once, and I didn't get to spend much time there. I saw a bit of Memphis and the surrounding area, but everything from Nashville to Smoky Mountains NP is pretty high on our list of places to visit when we hit the road again. I've known some folks from the state, and every single one of them seemed like good salt-of-the-earth types.

Other than that, I don't know much about Tennessee, and I certainly don't know much about whiskey. So all I can offer you is an honest opinion, not an expert one. If you want a connoisseur's take on this product, they're out there for sure. Hint: they HATE this stuff.

I will say this: Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey is a little sweeter than most other whiskeys I've tried, which isn't really a big deal either way in my book. It looks, smells, and tastes a bit like caramel to me. It has a thin consistency, and it's a bit oaky.

Sonia says it reminds her of Old Forester, which is a Kentucky bourbon. Kentucky and Tennessee share a lengthy border on the map, so their whiskeys are probably similar, right? She enjoyed this beverage neat as well as with ginger beer and lime juice.

Me? I'll stick to gin. I like this stuff as much as any other cheap whiskey, but in the end, it's just not my thing. $14.99 for the fifth. Three out of five stars from me. Four out of five from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Trader Joe's Mini Mochi Rice Nuggets


So many Japanese food products can be called "mochi," things can get a bit confusing. The first mochi I learned about were spherical ice cream treats with a soft, stretchy rice shell. Then I discovered sweet, chewy little rice bits called mochi served as toppings at all those frozen yogurt places. Then I became aware of appetizers with mushrooms inside also known as mochi. And we've seen at least two iterations of these crunchy mochi from Trader Joe's, one with a rock band theme and another with a spicy fire motif on the packaging. What do they all have in common? Well, rice, I suppose. Other than that, there's quite a gamut of Asian snacks, desserts, and appetizers all bestowed with the moniker "mochi."


But what's in a name, right? Are these little guys any good? Well, they're very much like, though not identical to, the above-mentioned rock band-themed mochi rice nuggets. The most obvious difference: these ones are smaller. You might have guessed that from the word "mini" in the product title. They are miniature indeed. They are essentially dime-sized, as seen in the photo.

The only other differences are alternate types of oils and lecithins used in the ingredients. Both contain rice and sea salt. They're crispy, crunchy, and very mild in terms of flavor.

I don't particularly care for them as stand-alone snacks, but Sonia likes them that way. They turned out to be great additives for soups and salads. You don't even necessarily need an Asian salad for them to work, either. Their taste is neutral enough that I loved them thrown into my typical spring mix with spinach, chickpeas, mozzarella, and Italian dressing.

Soup-wise, they work with everything from tomato to ramen to vegetable. If you're craving a crunch in your soup, these are basically just rice-based croutons. Other suggestions I've read about but not yet tried include: adding them to eggs, casseroles, or noodles, or even smashing them up and using them as gluten-free breading or crust. All of those sound tasty.

At $2 for the resealable bag, it's hard to complain about the value either. While I can't really feature myself ever craving these crispy crunchy croutons by themselves, I would totally purchase them again for their versatility as an additive to other foods. Sonia likes them both ways. Four stars from her. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Mini Mochi Rice Nuggets.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Red Onion Focaccia


"Focaccia" sounds so much fancier than "pizza," right? Pizza is what kids eat at Chuck E. Cheese. Even "flatbread" sounds kinda lame and boring if you think about it. All bread is pretty much flat. Why would I want to eat bread thats most noteworthy feature is its flatness?


Fortunately, the bread in this product is quite delicious. It's puffy, rich, and doughy with both wheat and rice flours. It's gourmet quality all the way...and it's by far the best part of the product.

The toppings? Well, the quality is there in my humble opinion...but the quantity? That's a problem. We need more of everything. We need a sauce. We need some cheese. We need about ten times the onions and at least double the tomatoes. Sonia agrees. The few toppings that were there were all crammed in the middle, too. The outer portions were completely bare.

We need big slabs of buffalo mozzarella or some pecorino romano here. We need calabrian chili sauce or some top-shelf marinara. I dunno. It just needs...more. I know, I know, I can dress it up myself, but the packaging makes it look like a standalone appetizer if not a standalone meal.

Three bucks for a decent slab of focaccia bread isn't a terrible deal, but we both just expected better from the fixins. Probably wouldn't buy again. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Three out of five stars from me for Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Red Onion Focaccia.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bites


Well, this is pretty much your average chocolate chip granola bar rolled into tiny balls. There are five little bags of balls with about eight balls in each bag. Appropriately, each ball is a single bite...hence the name, "bites." It's not one of those products where they call them "bites" but they wind up being two or three bites each. These balls are indeed "bite-sized."

Okay, I've said the word "balls" enough to last me a while. I'll try to refrain from using it for the rest of this review.


The bites are sweet, oaty, and filling. Since the product is dairy-free, the chocolate bits have cocoa and sugar, but no milk. They balance out the grainy flavors pretty well. There's agave syrup and dried apple in there, too, but somehow the bites aren't overly sugary.

We like the artwork on the packaging both for being unique and clever, but also for being appropriate. These snacks are perfect for road trips and on-the-go snacking. Just one bag can curb the munchies pretty effectively and keep your blood sugar up for quite a while.


$2.99 for the box. Organic. Vegan. Gluten free. Would buy again. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bites.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Trader Joe's Korean Gochujang Sauce

Let me explain something about myself. I love condiments. I love sauces. When I eat French fries, I'm an absolute ketchup fiend. I like mustard, mayo, relish, onions, chili, and cheese sauces on my 'Murican stuff. On my foreign foods, I like
sriracha, sweet Thai chili, garlic spread, tzatziki, zhoug, chutney...you name it.

I think places like Chick-fil-a are outstanding not because they have the best chicken, although theirs is definitely up there, but because they have the best dipping sauces. Freaking Polynesian sauce? Come on, man. You can't beat that. The only reason I ever patronize Subway anymore is to get my chicken teriyaki sandwich absolutely drowned in that sweet onion sauce. Why they took away the red wine vinaigrette, I'll never know.

I'm on record stating ketchup is my favorite condiment of all time, followed closely by sriracha. I'll stand by that. Like sriracha, this sauce is made with fermented red chilis, but it hails from Korea rather than Thailand. A purchase was inevitable.

We've seen Gochujang Paste from Trader Joe's before. That's more like the unadulterated source material while this product is truly a sauce ready for application and implementation. It's not quite as potent, spice-wise, since it's mixed with rice vinegar and soy sauce. While that previous product was a thick paste, this condiment is thin and smooth like ketchup or sriracha.


Heat-wise, it's right in the middle of the spectrum. It provides a kick, for sure, but you don't have to worry about wasabi-like sinus-clearing pain, even if you use a bit too much. As far as flavor goes, it tastes more fermented than sriracha to me. It's almost like a kimchi made with red peppers. Also, the vinegar flavor is much stronger in this particular sauce and it's not nearly as sweet. For those reasons, sriracha will easily maintain its position as the second best condiment in existence for me.


Sonia? She likes this stuff better. She's a bigger fan of kimchi than I am and of fermented flavors in general. She also enjoys vinegary stuff more than I do. She thinks of it like an Asian version of Tapatio or Cholula. I'll admit it does go well with tacos and sour cream. Mexican-Korean fusion for the win. We also mixed it with mayo and tried it on a cheeseburger. Not bad, not bad. Sonia also LOVES this product with eggs.

$3.49 for the 9.17 oz bottle. Would buy again. I'll throw out three and a half stars. Put the beautiful wifey down for four and a half on Trader Joe's Korean Gochujang Sauce.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Trader Joe's Raspberry Mousse Cakes


There's a whole series of these little mousse cakes that TJ's does. Usually, they're chocolate. You know, they have Chocolate Mousse Eggs for Easter season, pumpkins for Halloween, and presents for Christmas. Also there's a larger single cake for Valentine's, which might still be around. They'll all run you about four bucks and have pretty much the same flavor.

Finally, they tried something a little different, and I'm glad they didn't try cramming chocolate of any kind into this product. They're tiny white cakes with raspberry buttercream on top and a candy coating all around. They're soft, sweet, and satisfying.


The cake portion has a nice vanilla flavor. It's not too heavy or rich at all. I like it just fine, but the raspberry buttercream steals the show. They used actual raspberries and real butter. It's thick, smooth, and very tasty. The outer coating just kinda holds the whole thing together. It's very similar to the coating on those other mousse cakes mentioned above.

We were tempted to eat the whole package in one sitting, but we managed to space it out to two. No real complaints other than we wish there were more in the pack, and I think they could cram some more of that delectable raspberry buttercream into each cake, but hey, they're pretty darn good as they are.


$3.99 for six small but scrumptious raspberry cakes, found with the baked goods. Four and a half stars from Sonia, who states "This is the kind of stuff Marie Antoinette would eat at parties." Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Raspberry Mousse Cakes.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

You Might Like: