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Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts

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.

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.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Farm Raised Smoked Trout Fillets


Other than a few tiny sunnies, I think the only fish I ever caught was a trout. It was many years ago, so I don't remember with much accuracy, but I'm sure it was just barely over the minimum length requirement, whatever that was. I might have helped descale it, but I'm sure all the gutting and other preparations were done by someone older with a lot more fishing experience.

But I remember eating the trout I caught right there on the banks of the Juniata River, fresh off my cousin's grill. I was quite proud of myself, and I might have even received a few accolades from my dad and uncle for catching the fish, and that made the moment just a bit sweeter. But honestly, I don't remember the fish tasting very good at all.


Since then, I've had trout dishes from a few restaurants and can't say any of them have been memorable. So forgive me for being skeptical about Trader Joe's Smoked Trout Fillets. I mean, their tinned fish has been hit or miss in my book. Most recently, we looked at the Wild Caught Mackerel and were very pleasantly surprised, just as we received word that the product had already been discontinued as of the time we posted the review.

Fortunately, this product is still available and it, too, is shockingly good considering it's canned, shelf-stable for over three and a half years, and is trout, rather than something more expensive and exotic. It doesn't taste fishy in the least. The smoky flavor is perfect. It's not overbearing, nor does it taste fake like liquid smoke. It honestly tastes like this fish was cooked over a campfire.


$3.99 for a very reasonable amount of high-quality tinned fish. Packed in oil. No skin. No bones. Ready to eat right out of the container. We had it plain, on crackers, in a salad, and even mixed with cream cheese on a bagel in lieu of lox. I will absolutely purchase this product again. Perfect five stars from me for Trader Joe's Farm Raised Smoked Trout Fillets. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey.



Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Trader Joe's Multigrain Pita Bite Crackers


Crackers are one of those foods that can feel so super fancy and upscale, or they can feel cheap, boring, and sad. Some of the most expensive, high-profile events I've ever been to have featured crackers with toppings as hors d'oeuvres. Likewise, some of the sorriest penny-pinching meals I've ever consumed were crackers topped with peanut butter and jelly, in lieu of real bread.


Granted, the latter event no doubt involved cheap store brand saltines and the former most likely featured something more akin to these multigrain whole wheat and flax seed-laden pita crackers. But my point stands that crackers are indeed ubiquitous and versatile, and in most cases, they largely depend upon some auxiliary flavors and textures to make them stand out as a memorable snack or appetizer.

On their own, Trader Joe's Multigrain Pita Bite Crackers aren't bad at all. Texture-wise, they're crispy, crunchy, and rigid, but not too hard. The flavor is wheaty, for sure, but it's immediately apparent that there's much more complexity underneath the basic grainy taste. There are at least six grains present, flax and sunflower seeds, olive oil, molasses, and honey. While the sweeter elements don't really shine through in any meaningful way by themselves, they temper the earthier flavors and make for a highly noshable snack cracker, particularly when paired with a suitable array of toppings.

We tried ours with multiple types of cheese, hummus, bean salad, tuna salad, grape leaves and quinoa, and they worked beautifully in every case. They paired surprisingly well with cream cheese. I even tried adding some fruit spread to the cream cheese and made some surprisingly palatable dessert crackers with these. I just used the term "dessert crackers" twice in one week. I'm weird like that.

$2.99 for the 6 oz box. I'd buy again. The beautiful wifey likes them even more than I do. Three and a half stars from me. Four stars from Sonia on Trader Joe's Multigrain Pita Bite Crackers.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel


I'm not sure why mackerel isn't more popular. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I've ever had it. Every grocery store in America has a section for canned tuna and most have a row or two of canned salmon. Mackerel? I'm not saying it's not there, I'm just saying I've never taken note of it before.

And even though fresh, expertly-prepared salmon is among my favorite foods on earth, canned salmon is a sad substitute for it. Even Trader Joe's Canned Salmon fell short of my expectations.

So Sonia and I went into this purchase with low confidence but were both pleasantly surprised. Trader Joe's Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil didn't exactly look like a delicacy when I first peeled back the lid of the tin can, with both light and dark meat sections visible, all of it swimming in a tiny sea of sunflower oil.


There were two long, thin fillets of the meat. They forked apart easily enough. The texture was similar to tuna but decidedly firmer. Again, these were actual slabs of natural fish rather than minced into a mush like canned tuna.

The taste was very similar to tuna as well, but slightly less fishy. It was almost like tuna but a step in the direction of canned chicken. The plain unadulterated fish straight from the can definitely received a thumbs up from both Sonia and me. It was even better when served in a salad.

Finally, we chopped up some dolmas, added spinach, mackerel, and balsamic dressing and put it all on water crackers, as seen in the pic above. They turned out messy but surprisingly scrumptious. If we'd added feta, they would have been even more outstanding.


We'll absolutely buy Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel again and we'll be on the lookout for other brands of mackerel in other grocery stores. This product had a "best by" date a good three years and some change into the future. I think we found a new pantry staple.

$2.99 for the 6 ounce can. Product of Tunisia. Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Seeds & Grains Crispbread


Not sure what made me pick this one up. I guess I was jonesin' for some "maximum cracker satisfaction." At least that's what it says on the label. What did you just call me, Trader Joe?

Anyway, these sound interesting enough. Sunflower, sesame, rye, oats, flax all in one crispy bite can't be bad. I hadn't remembered, but we looked at a gluten free version of these on the blog some time ago.

One thing I hate about crackers is crumbs. We have ants in the house around this time every year and we don't need to give them one more reason to wander into our kitchen. Guess I'll be enjoying these crackers over a bowl.

First thoughts: it's a nice balance of flavors here. The sesame seeds might be a tad overrepresented for my taste, but all in all Trader Joe's Crispbread is earthy, seedy, super crispy, and lightly peppery. I was fine eating the crackers plain. Yes, it's a bit weird, but when I'm stressed, as I have been lately, sometimes all I want is something very stark and basic.


I did try the crackers with plain cream cheese, which was pretty tasty. That's Sonia's favorite way to eat them. They paired quite nicely with peanut butter, too, if you ask me. There are all sorts of elaborate ideas on the interzones about how to serve crispbread involving fruits, eggs, exotic cheeses, hummus, pesto...basically anything you can think of. Alas, we did not get that fancy with the crispbread as of the time of this post's composition.

$2.99 for ten large whole grain crackers. Would buy again. Looks like three and a half stars a piece once again from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Seeds & Grains Crispbread Norwegian Crackers.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks


Not sure what happened here. Did we get a bad batch? Did our local Trader Joe's manager go around changing freshness dates like Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart?

Sonia and I both thought these were bland, dry, and way too hard. We followed the heating instructions exactly. We consumed them before their "sell by" date. We tried them plain, with soup, and with various other dips.

There was no discernible garlic flavor in Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks. The cheese was wanting both in quantity and taste. Even the bread itself fell utterly short of the delightfully soft and fluffy Cheddar Jalapeño Pull Apart Bread we looked at last week. The breadsticks were slightly more palatable when we first pulled them from the oven, but now that they need reheated a second time, there's simply no redeeming them.

There was no greasy residue on these sticks. Maybe that's what they needed. To both Sonia and me, they seemed like nothing more than unsalted cylindrical crackers. We're struggling to finish them. If you want breadsticks without jalapeños, we recommend buying the pull apart bread and simply removing the jalapeños, because Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks simply aren't worth the $3.49 we paid for them.

Two stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Cheddar Jalapeño Pull Apart Bread


Ahhh, the delicious jalapeño. It's like the gateway drug to the world of spicy foods. I remember thoroughly enjoying a plate of nachos during my college years. It was heaping with jalapeño pepper slices, and one of my instructors happened to walk by my work-study job as I had my lunch. "You don't strike me as a jalapeño kind of guy, Nate," he mused.

"Well there's more to me than meets the eye, Professor," I responded.

And I've been eating jalapeños ever since. The beautiful wifey introduced me to pickled jalapeño slices from brands like La Morena and La Costeña. They often come canned with carrot slices, too. The carrots soak up the jalapeño juice and become spicy just like the peppers. I love it. Perfect for tacos, nachos, or even burgers and other fusion meals.


But what about cheesy bread? I don't see why it wouldn't work. The only thing stacked against Trader Joe's Cheddar Jalapeño Pull Apart Bread is that it's not exactly fresh-baked. Heating instructions specify preparation in the oven only. Lazy bums like me that want to reheat everything in the microwave will have to put on our big boy pants. What about the air fryer? Why wouldn't that work? Meh. I'll just be good and follow the instructions for now.

Before even baking the pull-apart loaf, a visible layer of grease can be seen on the cardboard and paper part of the packaging. When you're talking breadsticks or pizza or pull-apart bread, grease almost always equals deliciousness.

And yes, the bread itself is extremely soft and nearly melt-in-your-mouth delicious after heating 12 minutes in the oven. The cheese coating is somewhat firmer than that. The jalapeños aren't exactly pristine, but then again I guess they've already been baked once.

The flavor could use both more cheddar cheese and jalapeño pepper. The bread itself is very tasty, but I think most of us came here for the cheddar jalapeño. I think if you ate this bread by itself, you'd be slightly underwhelmed, but served with tomato soup or some other kind of dip, it's pretty palatable. Sonia tried it with some queso blanco to boost the cheesiness, and she reported back with positive sentiments.

Five bucks for supposedly 6 servings. It's more like 2 servings in reality. And for the folks who like to remind me it's not Trader Joe's determining how many servings there are in these products, but rather the FDA or some other agency, I'd like to point out that I'm not aiming this criticism at any particular entity. I'm simply pointing out the fact that two people will demolish this thing in a single sitting, easily. That's just my take on the matter. Some may disagree, including those with the authority to declare that there are 6 servings when clearly there are not.

Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four out of five stars from me for Trader Joe's Cheddar Jalapeño Pull Apart Bread.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Chevre with Honey


I learned to appreciate goat cheese at a very young age, but for many, many years I saw it only as a savory, salty kind of food and couldn't see pairing it with anything dessert-esque or adding anything sweet to it.

Trader Joe's changed all that with their affordable line of exotic cheeses including Blueberry Chevre and Cranberry Chevre. I get it now. Chevre, in particular, does lend itself to sweet ingredients. Fruits, or in this case honey, can balance out the tartness of the rich, creamy cheese and add a satisfying lusciousness to it. Sweet chevre and crackers have become one of my favorite hors d'oeuvres in recent years.

Some of you might recall Trader Joe's Jalapeño and Honey Chevre. I think that one's still my favorite, but if you're not into jalapeños or not craving anything spicy at the moment, this is a great sweet-tart cheese to reach for. It's best with water crackers or brioche toast so the flavors of the honey and cheese can shine without any competition from the bread.


I'm sure there's a bunch of other stuff you could do with this cheese: add it to a berry salad, have it with fruit, or maybe just pair it with a nice Sauvignon Blanc. For $2.99, it's a great way to jazz up any get together or party with high class appetizers that won't break the bank.

Sonia gives Trader Joe's Chevre with Honey Goat's Milk Cheese four and a half out of five stars. I give it four out of five.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Fig & Olive Crisps


The box claims that figs and olives have been served together for millennia. Welp, golly. Don't I feel behind the times by a few thousand years. This is the first I've heard of it.

I guess it makes sense. You've got the sweet with the figs and the salty with the olives. Throw in some grains and seeds and you've got the beginnings of a top-shelf hors d'oeuvre right here.


We've seen Trader Joe's do this before. They combine two fascinating ingredients that seem like they'd be at odds with one another and throw them into a crunchy "crisp" format. I'm thinking summer's Strawberry & Jalapeño Crisps as well as the very autumnal Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps. The general verdict: they're good, but they need to be served with a dip, spread, or cheese.

Trader Joe's Fig & Olive Crisps are no different. Both flavor-wise and texture-wise, these crisps can only be fully redeemed with creamy cheeses. The sweet Christmassy figginess does clash with the briny olive flavor in a way when the crisps are consumed sans condiments. But there's just something about a good chevre or even low-brow cream cheese that balances out the flavors just right and tempers the über-crunchiness to a tolerable level. The box also recommends brie, cheddar, or manchego cheese, as well as sliced olives and figs.

I know there are folks out there that love these just the way they are. Sonia and I don't fall into that category 100% but we can see where those folks are coming from. Also, figs are super apropos during Yuletide, so we'll try to be fair and balanced. 

$3.99 for the box. The beautiful wifey gives Trader Joe's Fig & Olive Crisps three and a half stars. I'll throw out three.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Farm Raised Lightly Smoked Salmon


It may seem counterintuitive, but over the long haul, boring old pantry staples and culinary essentials actually account for the majority of clicks on this blog these days. For example, the two most popular posts here over the past 12 months have been Greek chickpeas and gluten free pizza dough. They may not be as fun or exciting as some of the other stuff Trader Joe's puts out, but for whatever reason, people keep reading those reviews many months and years after their debuts.

I was hoping that's what we had on our hands here: a new under-the-radar classic. I love salmon, and having it available in a shelf-stable version that can last for a couple years is super convenient. I also love that it's skinless and boneless: ready to eat right out of the tin. I'm not thrilled, however, that it's packed in oil. I always prefer canned fish in water.


There's just one big fillet of salmon in the can, although it's extremely soft and forks apart easily. I wasn't super impressed with the taste of the fish right from the get-go. It wasn't "fishy" per se, but it was just kind of lackluster and slightly metallic. There wasn't much in the way of smokiness either. It's definitely not the best salmon I've ever had, and unfortunately, it's not even the best canned salmon.

Heating it on the skillet yielded something a bit more palatable. I added some lemon juice and paprika which helped cover over the blandness of the fish. The cooking process also seemed to wake up the smoky flavor a tad. Sonia liked it more than I did but wasn't completely won over.


With 21 grams of protein and plenty of good fat, canned salmon isn't a bad thing to have on hand to supplement the fresh stuff, but I doubt we'll purchase this version again. Product of Chile. $3.69 for the 5 oz can. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two and a half from me on Trader Joe's Farm Raised Lightly Smoked Salmon.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives

Olives! C'mon, who doesn't love a good olive, seriously? Snackable, grabbable, fun to eat, cool, refreshing, a surprising variety, versatile, savory...what's there not to like? Really, anytime is perfect for olives, but especially late summer like right now, after a few days vacation, when you accidentally forgot to write anything for your blog before you left, didn't have a laptop to write while you were gone, so had to wait an entire week almost to publish anything...that anyone else or just me?

Anyways, I definitely had time to read up on the new Trader Joes Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives while taking an inadvertent break. There's everything to love here. Garlic! Jalapeños! Ampersands! Some pretty choice looking olives! Sounds perfect!

Indeed, in some ways, these olives really are. They're big and fleshy and firm, with plenty of bite to them. Sure, green olives are kinda basic in the olive world, but they're just such a crisp, clean classic that they're really hard to argue with. They're delicious, through and through. 

Inside each olive there's a decent sliver of brined garlic and a little chunk of deseeded jalapeño as well. I mention the no seeds because that's key on a couple levels. First, there's no unwelcomed seedy texture. And two, if concerned about the spicy level of these olives, don't be. It's the faintest smooch of spice. No seeds means most of the flame throwing capacity of jalapeños is largely extinguished. On a scale of 0 to 10, it's maybe a 1. It's almost not worth writing about. If anything, there's more garlic, and plenty of olive to balance it out.

Which reminds me: sure, they're shelf stable 'til opened, but do yourself a favor and chill these olives before tasting. Warm, eh, not a lot of flavor. Ice 'em down a touch and the flavors really seem to be out and about more. 


Whatever you do with olives, do 'em with these. They won't be the highlight of an olive mix or a charcuterie board, but they will be far from unwelcome. Nothing wrong with a small twist on an olive and that's what we got here. And at $2.99 for the jar, it ain't a bad price either. 

My lovely bride is odd and only likes black olives, not green, and so is sitting this out. Just me for this round of olive munching, so if this score is irresponsible you'll know why. Personally I'd like a touch more heat, but that's my only real complaint. I'll be enjoying these very much as is.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic & Jalapeño Stuffed Olives: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Chive Cheddar Cheese

Chive. Cheddar. Cheese. Cha cha cha.

That allium family is at it again. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and...you guessed it: chives. I don't know that I've ever even had a proper chive outside of, say, sour cream and chive dip. But I know I like the flavor of chives, just like I like the flavor of garlic, shallots, scallions, and leeks. They have that savory, oniony, herby, planty flavor. Yum.

And it's here in this tasty block of Irish cheddar. To my taste buds, this cheese falls somewhere in the middle as far as the sharp vs mild spectrum goes. It's tangy, smooth, and creamy. High quality cheddar is never cheap—in this case, about five bucks for 6 ounces. But it's definitely worth splurging for once in a while.

There are little green flecks of chives all over the rind of this cheese. One side of it is nearly completely covered in chive bits. Through the rest of the chunk of cheese, the chives are somewhat scarce. 

That's Sonia's biggest complaint. She wants more chives and more chive flavor, distributed evenly throughout the product. I see where she's coming from, but I'm fine with a few super chivey bites followed by a few not-so-chivey bites since the cheddar is impressive all on its own.

I could probably eat this whole wedge of cheese in one sitting, just snacking on it by itself or with complementary crackers. We've also tried it in an omelette made with spinach and eggs. Delicious. It melts well and it's got such a nice milky taste and texture, I'm sure there are a thousand other things we could do with it, but it probably won't last that long.

Put me down for a solid four stars and the desire to purchase it again. Put the beautiful wifey down for three and a half, as in she liked it but she'll probably want to try something new next time we splurge for cheese at Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips


 It's July...time to spice it up with your summer snackin', don't you think?

Chips and salsa are a classic staple, but if the heat's making you too lazy to dip (been there), but you still want all the flavor, look no further than Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips.

Seriously, these chips. Amazing. Imagine all the good, vibrant flavors of a good salsa verde. A little onion, a little garlic, some fresh tomatillo, a good dose of lime, a little heat of pepper...if that doesn't make your math water, there's something wrong with you. But instead of a chip and salsa, it's just a chip. Nothing more, nothing less. 

That's exactly how these new salsafied tortilla chips are. Super firm, a little thick, incredibly crunchy, and oiberally coated every square micrometer with salsa verde in dusty form, these chips pack a snack punch that I haven't had in quite some time. It's almost transcendent. I love them, and as any good flavored chip, the more you eat, the more the flavor intensifies. I don't think I've ever had a chip that's held any more flavor, ever, of any kind, than these. Chip technology is being pushed to the cutting edge, it seems. 


Really, I have no real complaints, at all, except that maybe there's a splash too much vinegar here that amps up the sour acidity just a wee bit much. A lime can really do that on its own, or at least not seem as forced. It's not overly distracting, but it does stray towards a bit much. As do i here by trying to find a fault. 

Delicious chips. We bought them less than 24 hours ago and they're nearly gone. The flavor intensity is just so inviting and delicious, and not offputting at all - heck, my kids who are normally kinda wusses when it comes to these kinda things can chow them down like a boss. 

No dips needed to enjoy - that honestly may distract from the real flavor here. But you could convince me to try a little sour cream or guacamole here. If you really want tastebud overload, pair a handful of these chippies with a glassful of the mango jalapeno lemonade. That'll get your knees knocking. 

Love 'em, no complaints from anyone here. Absolute repeat buy. Can't stop til I get enough. Perfect fives. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Trader Joe's Artichoke Timbales


Never had a timbale before. Even after doing some internet research, I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. I got at least three different versions. My natural inclination would be to pronounce it the Spanish way: teem-BALL-ey. The one thing every source agreed upon was that timbales are named after a type of drum, although which type of drum was yet another point of contention. It's either a timpani, a kettledrum, or a tom-tom.

But I suppose that since we're just talking about a general shape, all of the above could be applicable at least somewhat. At any rate, that's probably enough blabbering on about the name and shape of this food. How does it taste?

Well, honestly...it's nothing to write home about. I mean, there are obviously artichoke hearts in there, and I like artichoke hearts. But even the hearts aren't bursting with flavor. They're more salty than anything else. The quiche-like base doesn't add a whole lot to the flavor, either.


Sonia commented, "there's an earthy, planty taste about them." I totally agree with that assessment, although she apparently meant it as praise. I'd say the conglomeration is a little too planty. There's almost a bitterness about the whole thing. The two cheeses, mozzarella and grana padano, don't provide enough flavor to save the dish. There's a significant presence of olive oil—like you can actually taste the olive oil, which isn't necessarily something I look for in an appetizer. Although there was no broccoli mentioned in the ingredients, the beautiful wifey and I both tasted something decidedly broccoli-ish.

A more impressive, more complementary, or more potent spice blend might have gone a long way with this hors d'oeuvre, but it's just not there. I tried numerous additives, but nothing redeemed it completely. I guess I should give an honorable mention to the Italian Style Sprinkle, but even that failed to completely exonerate these pseudo-souffles.

There's nothing to complain about as far as the texture is concerned. It's slightly crispy on the top and softer toward the middle and bottom. The artichoke hearts floating throughout the mixture aren't chewy or stringy at all, so that's a plus. The overall texture is not unlike that of a quiche or souffle as mentioned above, although there are very different ingredients used here. Looks like the body is made of potato starch, rice starch, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable bouillon, among other things.

Once again Trader Joe's introduces us to an exotic, foreign appetizer for a mere five bucks or so, brought to us all the way from Italy. I can't fault them for that, but I wouldn't buy these apps again. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two stars from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki


 Here's another periodic reminder that I am a complete amatuer foodie-hack, not overly familiar with many great dishes and treats from around the globe, but always willing to try. 

So, Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki...can't say I've ever even heard of them before they plopped into my grocery cart. Thank goodness for the 'murican-'splained "Korean spicy stir-fried rice cakes" in the banner, because that, I can hold a concept of. 

These are, at first bite, interesting. There's a few ways to make them, I opted for what purported to be the crispiest option by inserting these oversized frozen rice poogs into the airfryer, while seperately simmering the almost glowing red sauce. I'm not sure if crispy is the right word, because there's still plenty of soft mochi-like chewiness to each bite, but the outside layer  did have a faint crispness, so there you go I guess. It's an unusual to my palate yet pretty fun bite. 


That sauce though...it never really thickened up the way I hoped it would despite following the instructions, far as I know. That being said, I almost didn't mind. It's vibrant and rich with plenty of red pepper and garlic kick. Man, if sold separately, I'd pour it over any number of things. Delicious stuff, and highly recommended as long as you can take some spice. 

Here's one of the times that TJ's really succeeds if looked at from a certain vantage point. Sure, I'm far from a tteok bok ki expert, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and wager that the TJ's version isn't the best in the world. Heck, how authentic it really is (or isn't) is above my pay grade here. But...now I know I'd stand a pretty excellent chance at enjoying the real deal, so if ever granted the opportunity, I'm gonna go for it without hesitation. That somewhat harkens back to the OG TJ's business plan of introducing new tastes and experiences to their customers. For me, it succeeds here. 

A good sized bag, enough for a big side dish or appetizer for two or more, was only around $3 or $4. Absolutely worthwhile in my opinion. If you got a more expert take than I do, fire away. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Camembert Cheese and Cranberry Sauce Fillo Bites

Oh boy! Here's an ostensibly brand new product for March 2022. I think it's supposed to be a St. Patrick's Day hor d'oeuvre or maybe a meat-free Friday Lent snack, right? It's definitely not like we found it at the back of our freezer that we were in the process of clearing out since spring cleaning is right around the corner.

I'm sure it's not been sitting there for months, like it was intended as a Thanksgiving side or Christmas appetizer or Valentine's Day treat...unless maybe it was. Fact-checkers, feel free to disregard all assertions made in these first two paragraphs of this review. Or feel free to fact-check us and cause some controversy. No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

The point is that this product probably isn't brand new, or even in season, or even available at Trader Joe's right now. In fact, a quick "Search This Blog" inquiry would suggest that it was available at Trader Joe's stores in November/December 2015.


If that upsets you, please bookmark this review and return circa late November or December 2022 when these thoughts may or may not be more relevant than they seem to be right now.

Just FYI, the "best by" date on these was April 2023, so it's not like it's been in our freezer for centuries. We're still preparing the product more than a year before it expires, so freshness shouldn't be an issue. However, the Camembert cheese might be. I'm just sensitive to all mold cheeses like Brie, Roquefort, and Stilton. But I'll taste just about anything once. So I did. And all I could taste was mold. So I decided to let Sonia score these all on her own.

She loved the phyllo dough. It was nice and crispy and flaky like it usually is with similar Trader Joe's appetizers. The sweet and tart cranberry sauce was a nice touch, but it could have been more prevalent. She doesn't think there was enough of it to offset the bitterness of the Camembert.

In the end, I guess she's not really a mold cheese gal, either. She wanted to like these crispy, cheesy little apps, but they're not really her thing. Some bites had a "chewiness" that turned her off, in addition to the grassy, planty flavor that she detected. We both wanted these to be dessert-like, but the prevalent flavor was that of a cheese that's apparently just too sophisticated for either of our palates. At a quick glance, there are plenty of dissenting opinions out there in cyberspace, but this probably isn't a repeat purchase for Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Trader Joe's Beer Bread Mix

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese


 Now, cheese bread is an easy enough concept to understand. That's bread with cheese in it. But...bread cheese?

No, it's not cheese with bread in it, as the name may initially suggest. That'd be kinda odd but fun. Instead, it's cheese that's apparently baked in some sort of process that carmelizes the sugars and makes a bread like crust. No actual bread involved. Well hmm. Technology these days...

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese, to my knowledge, is my first go around with bread cheese. Cookable cheese isn't a new concept to me - halloumi, anyone? - but still it feels a bit weird to cube up some cheese to saute. No EVOO or anything needed, it's got it's own grease, for sure. 

If eaten as is, not heated, the bread cheese is kinda firm, with a curdlike squeaky feel to it. No bad, but not my favorite. Once warmed up, though, everything softens, and it's kinda hard to not imagine eating an actual slice of pizza. Sure, there's not the saucy vibrancy of an actual quality pie, but the seasonings, with tomato flakes and onion and garlic and whatnot do a surprisingly okay job of mimicing it. And perhaps I was trying to hard but...there actually kinda almost tasted like there was some sort of crust, too. Just a bit, like the outer layer of crust without any doughiness or crisp or anything to really fill it out. 


And the cheese itself? Deeeelish. it gets all soft and melty, and is really pretty mild - not as much as a mozzarella, but close, with a little more edge to it. The whole flavor and feel, with some of that aformentioned grease, make the whole illusion pretty complete. 

It's a fun cheese. Fun to cook, fun to eat, fun to pass around the dinner table. We got us a whole family thumbs up here. And it's all at a pretty good price - maybe $4 for the half pound chunk? Good stuff, and no complaints. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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