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Showing posts with label breakfast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breakfast. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Trader Joe's Protein Muffins

Mornings can be tough, especially these past few months. Wake up after another hot summer night to a hot summer day, doing the same thing all over again because what else can you do? There's no end in sight to it either, like it's some sort of strange bizarro Groundhog Day realm we're stuck in.

It doesn't help that both Sandy and I are dabbling with intermittent fasting, as it seems the trendy thing to do these days, although with somewhat mixed results. And our kids have taken on the habit of not eating all that much dinner most nights, so needless to say, when it's time for my lovely bride and I to start eating for the day around 10:30am, we're hungry, and the kids are clamoring for an early elevensies after second breakfast wore off, and sometimes a little mix up is nice. You know, to keep it lively....or something.

I guess that's why we've been giving Trader Joe's Protein Muffins the ol' college try. As you can see, at present there are two varieties, Dark Chocolate and Maple. They're both similar in concept and ingredients - cassava and almond flour base, some coconut flour tossed in, milk protein isolate (as appetizing as that sounds), egg powder (very appetizing) and a few more things to round it all out. It's a powder in the cup, add a little water, stir like mad, nuke for a minute, and voila! It's a warm spongy muffinesque thing in a cup ! Now that sounds most appetizing of all!

Truth be told, I'm surprised by how decent both varieties are. There's nothing too "weird" about either one, and neither put off overwhelmingly healthy vibes. I can tell this is true by how my kids were fighting over the last couple teeny bites - if there was anything "off" about them in the slightest, they'd detect it.

The dark chocolate, also surprisingly, was the winner in our house, for kids and grownups. The chocolate isn't that  dark, but offers a respectable richness without being overly sweet. The real winning bit is there's a small handful of chocolate chips sprinkles in that got a little melty but still have some bite - you get one of those, you've won! It's really, and again pretty surprisingly, good. i'd eat 'em again for sure.

As for the maple, think of a pancake that absorbed a bunch of maple syrup. That's how this muffins feels and tastes. Good? Absolutely! But for a muffin, it's missing something, like it needs one more ingredient. Personally I'd love a few pecans in there, that'd make them killer. The chocolate version had the chips to bite into, the maple one has....nothing. Good maple, though, which is always a winner in my book so I judge not too harshly lest I be judged. Maybe I'll supply my own nuts next time.

Make out of the nutritionals what you will. As is par for the course, both have a lot of fat, a surprisingly high amount of sodium, a large chunk of your daily cholesterol. Gluten free, if that's a plus for you. Sandy said the protein muffins were better than giving our kids a straight up sugar bomb to eat...likely true, but yeah, there's a lot of that too. On the plus side they certainly quelled our hunger for a couple hours, and they go well with a cup of coffee. I'm hoping the muffins will stick around for a while into the fall and winter where they could be a good warm yo'self treat then too.

$1.99 each. Maybe that's a good price? Sorry, not in the microwavable single use cup protein muffin market much these days aside from TJ's. Will likely buy 'em again...and again...and again...just like everything else this summer. Again.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Protein Muffins: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Trader Joe's Maple Protein Muffins: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Chip Scones

I'm not sure how or when it came up, but I just recently realized that Brits pronounce "scones" like "skonz." We Yanks, of course, say it with a long "o" sound. But really, outside of urban coffee shops and a few unique stores like Trader Joe's, scones aren't even really a big part of American culture. I don't think I even knew what a scone was until I moved away from Pennsyltucky in my early twenties. It seems odd we'd find a way to mispronounce the name of something that in my mind is so uniquely British. Why wouldn't we just adopt their way of saying the name? I guess unless there's a limey bloke standing there in the Starbucks teaching all us dumb 'Muricans how to say the name of the pastry, that we're all just going to assume it's pronounced the way it looks.

Regardless of how you say the name, most scones I've tried are pretty tasty. The carbivore in me always loved the dense, crusty wheatiness, and there's usually some kind of fruit and/or confection to satisfy my sweet tooth. They seem a little more sophisticated and alluring than a boring donut or toaster pastry.

These breakfast treats are no different. They've got that amazing flaky texture, and Sonia and I were both very impressed with the taste. I've heard of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and even caramel chips...but cinnamon chips? I suppose it makes sense that you could make just about anything into a chip. The cinnamon chips within the scones taste nice and cinnamony, but also sweet. There's more than enough cinnamon flavor to taste the spice on your palate, but it's not over the top. It's kind of a creamy, sweet cinnamon taste, and it blends very nicely with the dense bread.

Most scones taste great with coffee, but this flavor in particular is outstanding with a cup of java. I'm not even a coffee guy, but I'd pour myself a small cuppa just to have it with these cinnamony biscuits. Sonia downs about a gallon of Joe a day, so she had no trouble polishing her share of the scones off in a matter of hours. The scones dunk pretty well, or if you prefer them dry, they're delicious that way, too.

If you like thick desserty bread, cinnamon, and sugar, these cinnamon chip scones are a great find. Three scones in the pack for $3.99.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. An even four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Trader Joe's Ube Mochi Pancake & Waffle Mix

When I was about 10 years old or so, my mother made our family waffles for breakfast one morning. They were delicious, but there were, by some miracle, a few left over. As a parent of a seven year old and a five year old who decided between them to eat an entire pound of blackberries before my wife or I even woke up the other day, I'm soon realizing that anything delicious and left over is a rare feat in a multi-child household.

Back to my story. The leftover were likely placed in a baggie, and a day or two later, I decided I wanted to have a snack while sorting through all my Ken Griffey Jr and Cal Ripken baseball cards or something like that, so I went down to the fridge to obtain said baggie, went upstairs to my room, ate maybe one or two, then instead of placing back in the fridge or throwing out, proceded to shove them underneath my bad where they stayed for the next three to six months and they turned all sorts of interesting colors, which I thought looked kinda mother was not so impressed.

Somehow this story has turned into family lore - "Rusty eats moldy waffles!" - so much to the point that anytime I see a not beige/tan/whatever color a "normal" waffle is, I'm reminded of it yet again by the resident voices in my head.

So here's Trader Joe's Ube Mochi Pancake & Waffle Mix! The only mold related to this new mix is the one they break.

They're purple! That much should be expected because of the ube, or "purple yam" as TJ's refers to it on the box. Gotta love ube, and if you haven't tried it yet, what are ya waiting for? It's got this magical property of being light and a little sweet but so grounded and earthy. They're even more mild than a sweet potato. Ube makes really such a natural choice for a pancake or waffle that I'm surprised this is the first time I've become aware of a commercial mix for it. It's almost too obvious for me to have come up with myself.

And...they're a bit chewy! Not overly, but still, thanks to mochi being in the mix. The little rice granules or whatever the mochi would be technically classified as do make the batter a bit grainy looking, which caused a little initial hesitation during waffle prep. When cooked, they're still visible if you choose to dissect your breakfast, but other than your waffle or pancake being a little bit more springy than usual, they're not that noticeable. Really, it's a nice little bite that's a bit different but I'd doubt that would cause much textural issues, unless you insist on crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle breakfast grains.

Add a little maple syrup, and boom. That's a heckuva good waffle. The ube mochi waffles might be able to go more of the savory route as well - I could see chicken and waffles working with these being an interesting take. Or however you enjoy waffles would likely work, because these are pretty dang good.

Really, everyone in our little family loved the ube mochi waffles Sandy mixed up while I busied myself with bacon as I do almost every Saturday. It's little traditions like bacon and waffles that I hope will stick with the kids for most of their lives....and hopefully not stories like moldy waffles. We all loved these waffles and while they're not gonna be our new replacement every week waffles, they will absolutely be in the permanent family rotation as a new classic. That's right...the score was unanimous.

Trader  Joe's Ube Mochi Pancake & Waffle Mix: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, April 20, 2020

Trader Joe's Just the Clusters Chocolate Almond Granola Cereal

I used to get on really big cereal kicks where I'd eat the stuff every morning for breakfast. I mean, sometimes for years on end, I was just into cereal. Then for a while I'd move on to something else like donuts, or oatmeal, or yogurt. I've even been that guy that would eat Doritos and Mountain Dew at seven o'clock in the morning on occasion. And yes, if it was the weekend, or if I called in sick to work, I'd spend the morning playing video games. There's not much else you can legitimately do if you choose Mountain Dew and Doritos for breakfast. 

I can't handle the HFCS anymore, so I haven't done that in a while. But also, oddly, I haven't been on any major cereal kicks lately. I feel like ever since I've been married to Sonia, for some reason, every time I've felt like cereal, we either have none on hand, or we don't have any milk in the fridge. Once a month or so, all the stars will align and I'll actually feel like eating cereal and we'll have all the necessary elements to prepare a bowl. Such an alignment occurred just yesterday.

Opening the bag of Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola Cereal, there's a pleasant whiff of chocolatey goodness. It's reminiscent of Cocoa Pebbles, but not quite as ricey or sweet, and perhaps a tad richer. 

The granola chunks are the perfect size for a cereal—not too big, not too small. There's a fair amount of almond slivers, too, although I don't think a significant boost in that department would have been outrageous. Even doubling the presence of the almonds couldn't have hurt in my humble opinion. Fortunately, the granola is pretty decent on its own.

Like the smell, the flavor is chocolatey and sweet. It's not over the top sugary, though. The chocolate is satisfying and errs on the side of rich cocoa rather than chocolate candy. It's just strong enough to taste like a flavorful treat without completely overshadowing the nuttiness of the almonds. The granola and nuts are both crunchy, even after a prolonged period of submersion. 

The granola dyes the milk nice and brown by the end of the bowl and yields wonderfully chuggable chocolate milk. In a way, I think I enjoy the residual liquid in the bowl more than the cereal itself, although I'm thinking I'll reach for this box again tomorrow. If by some chance we wind up having this stuff on hand regularly, as well as some cold milk, I just might wind back up on a lengthy cereal kick.

$3.49 for the box. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Trader Joe's Brioche French Toast

Sonia and I have been working remotely since before our full-time travel days, and long before the covid-19 craziness. In fact, we've both worked from home since late 2016, in my case significantly longer than that.

We learned quickly that the whole "stay in your pajamas all day because you can" philosophy has a few distinct weaknesses attached to it, number one being weight gain. It's just too easy to think, "Ah my sweatpants fit me the same as they did yesterday. I'm not putting on any pounds." Throw on some jeans or khakis, and they'll tell you a different story. "Hmm. I must have left these in the dryer too long. And my belt...has obviously shrunk due to an excessive amount of humidity in the air. Yeah, that's it."

So obviously when you're not getting out as much, it's much easier to become... "pleasantly plump" shall we say? What to do? Exercise as often as you can whatever way you can. And watch what you eat. I'm no poster child for fitness these days, but I'm not letting myself go, either. I'm standing my ground in the battle of the bulge. Maybe some food shortages will do us all a bit of good. Or maybe we'll all starve to death. Time will tell.

All that to say that Sonia and I each ate two of these brioche French toast pieces for breakfast yesterday. They're filling enough, so one each might have sufficed, but we were both unusually hungry. And to put it in perspective, two of these incredibly indulgent carb-o-riffic breakfast breads contain fewer calories than a single package of two Pop-Tarts. And which of us has never eaten two Pop-Tarts in one sitting? Let him cast the first stone.

At any rate, Trader Joe's Brioche French Toast is delicious. It's sweet even before you put any syrup on it. There's a distinct eggy flavor, and lots and lots of fluffy white bread.

We made our first two toasts in the oven. They didn't come out as crispy as I thought they might, but not in a bad way. There was a firmness and density to the outer crusty layers of French toast, while the inner layers were super soft and light. The microwave yielded just slightly less delectable textures, with everything winding up just a tad in the direction of "chewy," but still scrumptious. Also, the microwave is 15 minutes faster than the oven, and that's not counting pre-heating time. In each instance, we ate them with butter and maple syrup, and they were amazing.

$3.49 for four thick pieces of scrumptious toast. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Acai Bowl

I've rambled on before about how I'm a fan of acai and I used to down multiple acai smoothies every week. The smoothie joints I frequented sold acai bowls, too, but I always stuck to smoothies for a number of reasons, most notably that the bowls were a little pricier—in the ballpark of $7 a pop.

So at $3.99, this selection was a bargain. It had a good mix of the acai base, berries, and granola topping. Fruit-wise, there were lots of big strawberry slices, nice plump whole blueberries, but I didn't notice as many banana slices in my bowl. They were far and few between, and I wouldn't have minded a good bit more of them. There was, however, plenty of granola for my taste—just enough to make things crunchy. The coconut slivers added a bit of...well, coconuttiness, I guess, and it all blended together pretty well with the lightly sweetened, rich acai berry flavor.

The most frustrating aspect of this product was preparing it. I wish I'd thought ahead and used the refrigerator method of defrosting: just take out of the freezer and let thaw in fridge overnight. The preparation instructions for procrastinators like me involved popping the product in and out of the microwave numerous times, stirring it the first time, and then checking to see whether it's thawed or not on each subsequent occasion. It specifies to heat "in 15 second intervals" after an initial period of 45 seconds. I felt like I was walking a thin line between an ice cold solid block of frozen fruits and a piping hot bowl of acai soup. But I did manage to end the process somewhere in the middle, although the acai base was much more thawed than the fruit chunks. Throw room-temperature granola into the mix, and you've got three distinct climates in one tiny bowl. A lot of stirring seemed to abate that issue, for the most part anyway.

There aren't many breakfast foods I can think of that would pack more nutrition and energy into a single serving than Trader Joe's Organic Acai Bowl. It's extremely filling for so relatively few calories. Obviously fruits and granola are great for sustained energy and nutrition, and acai is known to be high in fiber and it contains a natural stimulant that provides energy without the typical "caffeine crash." All things considered, I'm a fan.

Sonia sat this one out. She would have liked it if I had saved any for her.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Trader Joe's Vanilla Overnight Oats

As I sit here in the early morning hours of New Years Eve 2019, eating some Trader Joe's Vanilla Overnight Oats, I can't help but think about life a little bit.

It's kinda like oatmeal, isn't it?

Sometimes it's pretty good, other times it can be a lot better. You gotta take your lumps and move on. Sometimes it's better to stir it up a little, other times it's best to let it be and wait.

And to relate a little further to these new(ish) overnight's definitely a little nutty, but overall sweet. It's perishable, so take proper care. And sometimes there's no shame in taking the easy, convenient route to get through whatever lies ahead of you, as long as you're prepared ahead of time.

Okay, enough of the life's not like I'm some Ralph Marston-esque guru. I'm just a 37 year old dude who ate some oatmeal, dangit, and I stayed in my own bed last night, not at a Holiday Express. Let's talk oatmeal.

This particular overnight oats seems really heavy on the almond flavor, coming from the almond milk/beverage the oats were soaked in. If you're not an almond fan, keep away...but at least it's good almond flavor. If I had some actual nuts to sprinkle in, I would just to mix it up a bit. There's also a decent amount of vanilla to really sweeten up everything, too. No added sugar needed, and that comes from a sugar junkie. There is a bit of a sticky sweet aftertaste that lingers on, which abates quickly with a little coffee or fruit.

It was surprising to see dates on the ingredient list, because they're imperceptible in pretty much every way. I don't taste them and I don't feel them. Of course, as in real life, dates can be really sneaky...let's move on, please.

As one would expect, the TJ overnight oats are a bit cold and somewhat lumpy but not in a gross way. I'm not smart enough to know if it's okay to heat them up, as the package gave no microwave instructions. I don't see why not except for maybe moving the oats to a microwave safe dish.

Not bad for $1.99. The oats are decent enough quality and there's a lot of convenience here, which always comes at a premium. I'm not sure I'd stock up on them personally, but for my lovely bride and I, it probably wouldn't be bad to have a couple around for one of our trademark crazy mornings on the run. That's just life, all rolled up and ready to go, and it's not bad.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vanilla Overnight Oats: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Bagels

Apparently, you can't find gluten-free pumpkin spice bagels on every street corner. Just Google the name of this product, and you'll see countless blogs and websites from the gluten-free, celiac, and Crohn's communities absolutely rejoicing that FINALLY there's a gluten-free version of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Bagels.

Honestly, I feel like pumpkin spice is on its way out, and the poor gluten-free folk are a little late to the party, by no fault of their own, of course. But if this product floats your boat, I definitely don't want to rain on your parade. These aren't a bad purchase at all. But our job as folks who aren't on a strict gluten-free diet is still to give it to everyone straight: what we think is working here and what we think isn't. So here goes...

Flavor-wise, they're virtually identical to regular glutenful bagels. Sonia was a little dismayed that "there wasn't enough pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavor." I'll admit, they aren't bursting with either real pumpkin taste, despite displaying a few visible specks of pumpkin puree throughout, or pumpkin spice flavor, despite smelling of it quite a bit. But my reaction was more along the lines of, "That's good they didn't overdo the pumpkin spice thing." If you're really craving pumpkin spice, you might be disappointed, but thankfully, there's a remedy: pumpkin cream cheese.

Texture-wise, they do that gluten-free thing, where they want to be chewed like regular bread, but there's something just ever so slightly off-putting about the mouthfeel. It's just a tad chewier, rubberier, and stiffer than what we're used to. For people who are strictly gluten-free, you'll likely be just fine with it. It's not a deal-breaker even for me. Sonia and I often do gluten-free because we are both gluten-sensitive, while neither of us is totally gluten-intolerant.

Not that I'll be craving pumpkin spice bagels any time soon, but if I do, I'd just as likely reach for these puppies again, rather than the forgettable non-gluten-free pumpkin bagels from TJ's—which have mysteriously never been reviewed on this blog. Neither version is a real show-stopper in our opinions, but at least these are appropriate for a group of people with significant dietary restrictions, and they can feel like there's one less gimmicky, pop-culture food they're missing out on, for whatever that's worth.

Me? I give 'em three out of five stars. Sonia will go with three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread

Pumpkin spice? Where we're going, we don't need pumpkin spice.

*flips down sunglasses*

Yes, yes, I's that time of year. As sure as the turning of leaves and late summer into early fall, here come all the social media posts about pumpkin spice this and that and everything else conceivable. I see them all over the TJ's fan pages. I don't blame you...but I just can't join you. Not that huge a fan.

Give me maple all day every day instead. And if you can, give it to me as the new Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread. 

Oh. Mah. Goodness.

Let's not deceive ourselves here. There's nothing healthy about this. Even I cringed a bit looking at the nutritional stats the first time, and I'm no prude. Nor is maple truly an autumnal flavoring - mapling season runs late winter into early spring.

But still. Everything about this maple bread evokes fall. Warm up a slice and taste for yourself. Warm gooey maple ribbons, brown sugar swirls, maple glaze with buttery streusel around the perimeter, densely decadent dough with a hint of mild maple...oh man. Sensory overload. It's like every slice is a syrup-logged piece of French toast, except of being soggy and limp, it's dry bread. It's amazing.

And so, so rich. The first slice was so amazing I had to go back for more. About halfway thru the second, I questioned my judgement. Literally, this stuff sits like a brick in your gut. For a quick and easy breakfast-y kinda deal, I truly appreciate that to keep me going. Pick it up and you'll feel it - the loaf feels way more chunky than it looks.

I mentioned French toast. This streusel bread would probably also make awesome French toast, but man, it tastes so good as is I didn't try that yet. But I will. Ohhhhh I will.

No complaints from me. None. There's almost even a homemade quality to it that I'd love to try and pass off as my own. Your unscrupulous Aunt Millie just might. Sandy loved it as well, though she noted she wished it had even more maple. She's a mapleholic though on the level of Buddy the Elf.

It's $3.99 a loaf which strikes me as a very fair deal. And like squirrels readying themselves for winter, you better bet we'll be stocking up for a long winter ahead. Y'all stick to your pumpkin spice, we'll be quite happy, thank ya.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trader Joe's Blueberry Muffins

Remember that Seinfeld episode about muffin tops? I scarcely do. It's been a while since I've sat down and watched any TV, let alone any '90s reruns. But I recall there being one about muffin tops...something about Elaine having a bakery that only sold the tops and had a hard time unloading the bottoms or "stumps". Like not even a homeless shelter wanted them. Does that sound about right? The whole point being, of course, that muffins tops are the best part of the muffin. Like most Seinfeld plots, of course it's a fairly preposterous scenario...while still somewhat rooted in a bit of reality 

This vague recollection sprung into my head while munching on a Trader Joe's Blueberry Muffin. Apparently I'm on a muffin kick this matter. Gotta indulge every once in a while.

Definitely, the muffin top here is far superior to the muffin stump. It's probably for no other reason than the little sprinkling of crunchy sugar crystals encrusted up on top. There's not a whole lot of it, not nearly enough to make your teeth hurt, but just enough to help sweeten the whole thing up.

Add in the slightly crispier exterior bite, and maybe a touch extra of lemon zest, and there it is. This is one good muffin top.

The rest? Eh. It's sort of an ordinary blueberry muffin. Which isn't exactly a complaint. I'd be perfectly happy buying a muffin like this at a bakery or coffee shop, or making one of them at home that tasted just like this one. So I like them. But there's not anything too terribly special that puts them apart and above and beyond the competition. I mean, it's just...a muffin. Meh.

And unlike the recently reviewed almond muffins, there's not enough here to keep me full and going for a while, either. It's not an empty 360 calories per serving, but they're not exactly efficient either. I ate one alongside a cup of coffee and was hungry again within two hours.

Average muffins. That's about all. If only the whole thing was as good as the top...oh well. Maybe that Seinfeld episode had a bit more truth than usual to it. Double threes from my lovely bride and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Blueberry Muffins: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, August 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffins

Tried as I have, I'm still not a morning person. Never have been, might never be.

It doesn't matter that for over a year now I've worked an odd schedule at the day jorb that involves me waking up well before the rest of the world. I've somehow never been late for it, and usually show up even earlier. Just because I can do it doesn't mean I like it. And the days I'm off...well, I know this isn't the most conducive to a healthy sleep schedule, what with supposed to be waking up at the same time every day and all, but my body seemingly can't help but feel it needs to catch up so it can "sleep in" til I need to get on the move with the rest of the family.

So pretty much, every morning I'm pretty busy and on-the-go, whether it's rolling towards work half-sleepily or shuffling off wife and kids to whatever the day holds in store, just a little less sleepily.

So pretty much, any morning is a good morning for a Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffin.

Quick to grab, quick to eat. So very portable. I mean, duh, it's a muffin. They're popular for this very reason. You don't need me to tell you that.

What set's the TJ's almond muffins apart though is their quality. Ever eat a muffin and still feel kinda hungry after? You won't with one of these guys. "Hearty" is an understatement. So much in here - almond meal, walnuts, eggs, carrots, zucchini, berries, oats. So many calories and so much fiber and protein. Yeah, it'll keep you going for a morning.

And thankfully, all together the muffins taste pretty great! As one would imagine, they're earthy, nutty, a little moist and dense with a little bite variant from the aforementioned fruits, nuts, and veggies. All the flavors blend well with one another, with some maple and agave helping to sweeten the whole deal. I don't think there's an ingredient I would add or subtract from this whole mix, except maybe a touch more cinnamon.

One point of contention, and I hope one of you can help clear this up since I've discarded the package without doublechecking - are these gluten free? There's no ingredients on the label that proclaim gluten to me, but I don't recall them being labelled as such. Help?

At about four bucks for the package, these muffins are an absolute steal. One of these with a coffee and an apple can be a breakfast mainstay for me for sure, no matter what kinda morning it is. Double fours from the Mrs and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Almond Meal Muffins: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Trader Joe's Egg Frittata

Our travels have taken us to numerous large casino facilities throughout the American West over the past 6 months. We've probably stayed at a dozen or more since they generally offer free RV parking for a night or two. Many have hotels, restaurants, clubs, gas stations, and convenience stores all owned and operated by the same group of people, often a nation or tribe of Native American Indians. 

These complexes apparently generate a great deal of money, because even the convenience stores are huge, occasionally boasting vaulted ceilings and elaborate decor surrounding typical mini-mart fare like toaster pastries and bags of roasted peanuts.

Prior to purchasing this frittata product at Trader Joe's, but not long ago at all, Sonia wandered into just such a convenience store to discover a display full of fresh-baked pastries, quiches, and frittatas. The frittatas were actually frittata-bread hybrids, with the egg and cheese baked right into a buttery croissant. Anyway, the wifey picked up a couple of them, and we had them for breakfast a few weeks ago. They were absolutely scrumptious. A tad on the greasy side, they were full of flavor and left us both in comfort food heaven.

I might have had frittatas one or two other times in my life. I can't remember any of them vividly. But those Indian casino convenience store frittatas will linger in my memory for years to come. These Trader Joe's frittatas, not so much.

No, it's not fair to compare frozen, microwavable frittatas to fresh-baked ones—even ones baked in a glorified Quickie Mart. But I'm going to do that anyway, since that's my reference point. 

Honestly, the convenience factor here isn't bad. They come frozen, and after a few minutes in the microwave, voila, you've got a couple of frittatas for breakfast or whatever meal you're supposed to eat frittatas. Our major complaint is that they're a little on the bland side. They need some help. Hot sauce is in order here—or some kind of extra seasoning if you're not into hot and spicy foods for breakfast. There's nothing particularly unpleasant about the taste at all, but nothing particularly memorable, either.

The texture is fine. They seemed a bit more bready than just eggs alone usually do, probably due to the whey protein and cornstarch. They're soft and cheesy, but not overly so. I feel like they were in want of a bolder cheese, too. I like swiss okay, but this product might have worked a little better with cheddar. 

$2.99 for two frittatas, which the packaging even admits is only a single serving. There's a lot of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium for a product that doesn't really deliver in the flavor department. Probably not a repeat purchase for us, but a decent offering as far as uniqueness and ease of preparation are concerned. 

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Oat & Greek Yogurt Sandwich Cookies

Blah. More cookies. I think three out of my past five reviews have been of cookies. I mean, all in all, they haven't been bad cookies. In general, Trader Joe's does cookies better than others. But I'm all cookied out right now. 

So why review these cookies today? There are far more fascinating new items on the shelves of Trader Joe's currently.

Allow me to explain...

As I mentioned last week, I have a nasty spring cold that I contracted from my lovely wife—and I can't taste anything at the moment. These cookies were the last thing I remember eating before getting the cold. Also, they're review-worthy, if only for the Greek yogurt gimmick they've got going on.

They vaguely resemble Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, but lighter in color, a little fatter, with a slightly smaller diameter. They were soft when I first opened the box—maybe not quite as soft or as oily as a classic oatmeal creme pie, but pliable enough that one would call them "chewy" before he'd call them crispy, crunchy, or even crumbly. Those first couple cookies were excellent. It was warm out at the time, so the filling, too, was super soft and creamy—gooey almost.

Now this was back a week ago. Daytime highs were hitting near 90 degrees in southern Idaho, the sun was out, and even with air conditioning on, a class C RV can get pretty toasty in no time flat. So I made the mistake of putting the cookies in the refrigerator. I thought, hey, we don't want the Greek yogurt to get all rancid in the heat, right? I asked Sonia if that made sense to her, and she informed me that the cookies were most definitely NOT refrigerated in TJ's. I still felt like the heat wouldn't do them any favors.

But since that time, they haven't tasted or felt nearly as fresh. The filling is much better when it's kinda viscous. When it's firm—like straight outta the fridge—it's meh. The cookie part, too, just tastes better at room temperature. though the difference isn't as noticeable. Don't get me wrong, they're still edible. 

Fresh or not, the flavor is sweet, tart, and tangy. There's almost a hint of lemony essence by virtue of the yogurt's tartness, but it doesn't look like there are any lemon ingredients. The cookie parts are moderately sweet, oaty, and satisfying enough. There are notes of honey and vanilla in the mixture, and they work pretty well.

Sonia's taste came back some time between the last review and this one. She likes these cookies at least as much as I do and thinks I'm exaggerating the difference between when the box was first opened and after it emerged from the fridge. Had it been up to her, they would have stayed in the pantry, but she thinks they're tasty either way. 

Even being thoroughly saturated with cookies lately, we still can't hate on these unique Greek imports. Three and a half stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter

Back in my bachelor days, it'd be pretty common to completely wing dinner as I cooked it based on whatever ingredients I could scrounge up. Usually, somehow, I'd end up chopping up an onion, some pepper, maybe another veggie, and putting it in some kind of sauce with some kind of spices and putting it over something. Most times, it worked. Other times, well, it worked with a little more hot sauce. Obviously I didn't starve, so it all went alright enough.

Get married...have to eat "real food"... I got out of the habit of doing that. We had to follow "actual recipes" said the wife. What? Well, okay, yes dear. Still haven't starved.

But one day, beaming widely and happily, Sandy brings home a couple packages of the new Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter, exclaiming "I can't wait to have this for breakfast!"

Kinda odd...normally she hates tomatoes and most tomato-heavy products...Well, okay, yes dear.

I'll admit I know nothing about real actual authentic shakshuka. It's a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cusine, means literally a "mixture." Which says to me there must be a thousand different variants, but this TJ's version just so happened to be the first officially labelled shakshuka I've ever had....though the concept is pretty similar to what I used to do all the time...

It's pretty good. This particular shakshuka is pretty thick and chunky with tomato bits and onions and peppers - it's definitely towards the thicker definition of stew. It's simply and naturally flavored with the usual suspects - onion, garlic, cilantro, a little pepper, a little cumin, etc - which are spicy not in a hot hot heat way but more in an herbal manner. It's all pretty well balanced and non-offensive...I'd even say pretty downright pleasant with no need for anything added.

Except the eggs, of course. Gotta add your own eggs and kinda cook it in a little "pocket" in the stew. This is the key step, though, especially if you're like Sandy and me and don't really enjoy poached/sunnyside up style eggs. That runnyness? No thanks. Sandy was wise enough to keep the yolk out of her eggs, leaving only egg white for her. As a result, her eggs were just about perfect and meshed nicely with everything else. My eggs, though? I kept it in and...ugh. Yolk got all gross and rubbery. That of course is not a knock against the actual TJ's product, but I did enjoy the meal less than I could have, so take not: Runny yolk or no yolk at all.

Anyways, the shakshuka is good and fun. Fun to make, fun to eat, fun to say...I kinda felt like Buddy the Elf saying "Fransisco." And it's cheap - only maybe like $2 for the package. Good value too then. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Shakshuka Starter: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal

Just as in childhood, there are subtle yet unmistakable steps of maturation in adulthood, right? Or at least, definite benchmarks of getting old. Like...

...realizing your bald spot is, in fact, pretty bald.

...waking up and being sore for no apparent reason.

...turning down the volume while blasting '90s music alone in your car because it's "too loud."

...realizing the only reason why you're listening to Pearl Jam is because only God knows what the kids are listening to these days but my goodness it sounds like garbage. Drake? Post Malone? Cardi B? Who are these people?  Are they people? Or robots? Because robots make music these days. Crazy.

And most pertinent to this review: realizing that some cereal tastes much better without any added sugar.

Such is the case with Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal.

That's a lot of natural goodness here. The inherent earthy graininess of the flakes. Tasty toasty almond slivers. Light coconut flavor all abound. If anything there's a lack of chia seed clusters, at least in the top half of the box thus far...maybe them little buggers worked all their way down.

Listen to me. Complaing about not enough chia seeds in my cereal. I do sound old.

It's tasty, tasty cereal for sure. And I'm not usually a cereal person. The flakes are solid and crunchy enough to be fully submerged in milk and still maintain a high factor of munchitude. Probably, if you're a yogurt and cereal person, this would work. And even adding some banana wouldn't be the worst idea.

My one small complaint, though: When I added milk, some of the bites tasted almost vaguely buttery. I'm wondering if it was the wetness unleashed/embellished some of the coconut and oil a little bit. It's not noticeable when dry, and I didn't taste it as much the second time around...but it was a little weird.

All those grains...and proteins...and fiber...and calories...this is hearty, filling cereal for sure! A few small handfuls killed my hunger for quite some time.

Anyways I mentioned the "tastes worse when sugar added" thing to Sandy, and she gave me one of those "well duh" looks before stating many cereals taste that way. It's worth noting she's almost exactly two years older than me and females mature quicker than males and all I'm catching up, love. But yeah, extra sugar kinda kills off half the good stuff about this cerea. Which is a shame because it's pretty darn good in fact. 4.5 from me, 3.5 from the older, maturer missus.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Monday, March 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Greek Yogurt Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cakes

It's well-documented that couples begin to look alike after being married for many years. They tend to mimic one another's facial expressions and develop lines in similar locations on the face. Many couples have similar diets and exercise habits, rendering similar body types. They also begin to think alike and develop similar affinities and dislikes, as far as entertainment, leisure activities, and foods.

Nine and a half years of marriage have begun to produce such results in Sonia and I. I think they've manifested themselves on this blog in the form of matching scores over and over and over again. "Double fours," for example, has been an extremely common result from this nomadic couple, as well as our Pittsburghian counterparts. I think more often than not, Sonia and I have been within half a star of one another, particularly in the past year or so.

Not so with these muffins.

This is the biggest disagreement we've had on a Trader Joe's food item in quite a while. I mean, it's not like it's a thang, like it might have been in years past. We're very happy to agree to disagree here. Quite frankly, it's a breath of fresh air to be reminded of our individuality once in a while. But I'll just say Sonia loves these muffins, and I find them highly forgettable.

I immediately compared them to the Greek Yogurt Lemon Muffins, reviewed three years back, and found the apple cinnamon variety slightly wanting. I just feel like lemon lends itself to the tanginess of Greek yogurt more than apple cinnamon. 

I did complain that I wanted even more lemon flavor in those other muffins, but there's an even greater dearth of appliciousness here in my opinion. There are indeed apple bits in these muffins, and we both enjoyed those quite a bit—I would just request a great lot more of them. Sonia wouldn't have minded more, but is happy with them the way they are. There's some cinnamon flavor present, too, in the manner of a traditional coffee cake. Again, I would have preferred a great deal more cinnamon, though. There's a nice bready flavor, and of course some Greek yogurt tang, but I feel like all the flavors don't enhance each other very much.

The muffins are nice and soft, with a crumbly coffee cake crown. They never felt or tasted stale, but I don't think they surpassed a run-of-the-mill bakery in that department, either. Sonia thought the texture was on point, by virtue of the yogurt, and said she'd choose these over a typical coffee shop pastry any day of the week. Also—and this may have been the ultimate deciding factor—they do pair well with coffee. Although I'm learning to appreciate coffee more and more, it's still not my beverage of choice in the mornings, so the fact they go well with java won't entirely redeem them for me. The dunk-factor will solidify these as a big thumbs up from Sonia and a big "meh" from me. 

Four and a half stars from the wife, but only three from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch Cereal

I must admit, I'm not much of a cereal guy anymore. Those Saturday mornings I spent straddling the piano bench in my parents' living room, bowl after bowl of milk and sugary grains sitting in front of me, watching everything from Smurfs to Saved by the Bell well into the afternoon, are nothing but distant memories. 

But every once in a while, I'll have a bowl of delicious cereal that's so good, so tasty, that it'll take me back to those days when I only took pause from shoveling a series of spoonfuls into my face to sing along to the Muppet Babies theme song...

This is not one of those cereals.

This is like a cereal from a sad parallel reality where bowls of spherical chocolate aren't sweet treats, but are, rather, disciplinary tools employed by overzealous parents. "That's it young man, it's a bowl of Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch for you, and then a time-out in your room to think about what you've done!" 

It's potentially a version of Cocoa Puffs for the gluten-free, wheat-free crowd, I suppose. But even gluten status aside, there are quite a few key differences between this offering and classic Cocoa Puffs. The pieces here are slightly smaller, not quite as rigid, and in my opinion, not nearly as chocolatey. 

Personally, I'll take Cocoa Pebbles over Cocoa Puffs any day of the week. I just like the texture better, and I feel like they yield a nicer flavor of milk at the end of the bowl. Also, Cocoa Pebbles are completely gluten free and always have been. I know you Cocoa Puffs fans—my wife included, cuckoos that you are, will fight me tooth and nail on that assertion, but I think, for once, we can set our differences aside and agree on one thing: this Trader Joe's cocoa cereal is vastly inferior to either Post's or General Mills' classic offerings.

The taste of rice, sorghum, and corn all challenge the slight cocoa flavor for dominance. It's barely sweet. It would have been better to simply avoid cocoa or chocolate taste altogether and market this product as a healthy, multigrain cereal. It might not have been any more exciting, but at least it wouldn't have been so disappointing.

Both Sonia and I are leaning toward returning this one and taking TJ's up on their no-questions-asked refund policy once again. We don't do it often, but if a product just doesn't work for us, we won't force ourselves to eat it...and we certainly won't just throw it out. 

I can imagine somebody out there likes it—somebody who wants a grainy cereal with a very subtle chocolate taste, but two and a half stars a piece is as generous as Sonia and I will be on this one.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Croissant Loaf

If you love loaves of cinnamon bread and you have an affinity for soft, fresh croissants...

then reach for a piece of Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky!

LOL! That wouldn't make any sense, now would it? Besides, watermelon jerky isn't real...

What I meant to say is: "then reach for Trader Joe's Cinnamon Croissant Loaf!" 

It's apparently the illegitimate lovechild of one stupid, steamy night between a loaf of frisky cinnamon bread and a sultry croissant. I don't want to get into the logistics of that whole thing, nor do I want to be too judgy...but just suffice it to say that it's a beautiful mistake—a happy accident, if you will.

On its own, the bread is nothing to write home about. It's croissant-ish, but wants to be warmed up even more than a traditional croissant. There's some cinnamon flavor, but it's not overbearing, and it's not really sweet, either. Also, it's just not quite flaky enough straight out of the bag. 

Toasted with butter, on the other hand, this product is simply scrumptious. It's all the deliciousness of a croissant with all the convenience of sliced bread. The melt-in-your-mouth factor increases exponentially when toasted or warmed, as well. It's still not really sweet on its own, so just sprinkle a little extra sugar on top for killer cinnamon toast.

We read online that people were making French toast from this stuff. I twisted Sonia's arm into making some for me since French toast is above my pay-grade as far as culinary endeavors are concerned. It was worth every ounce of effort Sonia put into it. Simply delish with some nice sweet syrup. Hey, I did my part, too. I made sure the dogs didn't eat any when the wifey put the finished product on the table. 

Let's see: they've done cinnamon croissant bread and pancake bread so far. What's next? Waffle bread? Bacon and eggs bread? Cereal bread? Those zany product developers always keep us on our toes.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal

The word "neapolitan" means to be "of the city of Naples". Simple enough. Though to be honest, I always that it was neopolitan, not neapolitan...did this change at some point of time without any of us knowing? Is this another Berenstein/Berenstain Bears glimpse into a parallel universe? I'm pretty sure it is.

How this word also came to mean "chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream altogether" is, of course, purely American. Three flavored desserts like spumoni became popular in the good ol' U S of A back in the 1800's, and since those three flavors just so happened to be also the 'merican tastes of choice, well, it became nearly synonymous.

So, a little confusing, and of arguably two origins? Sounds about right for the new Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal. Let me explain.

First - this is supposed to be fun cereal, right? It's three flavors of puffs! Words fall short of how excited my girls were to see the box when this definitely looked like more like a treat than an actual breakfast to them, bless their hearts. And it is fun. Out of the three, only really the vanilla kinda falls flat flavorwise, which is to be expected. High quality vanilla taste isn't really expected to be conveyed well via breakfast cereal. The chocolate and strawberry, though somewhat muted, still come across pretty well in a not-too-super-sugary kinda way.

So we could identify this is as a junk or special treat cereal, maybe kinda like Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms.

But then - look at the ingredients! Beans and rice! No corn! No wheat! None of those regular ol' breakfast grains. Rice isn't that odd - Rice Chex and Rice Krispies, amirite? - but beans? For breakfast? Odd, weird. It gives the cereal a kinda a healthyish vibe - I mean, look at all that fiber! And naturally then this is also gluten-free which is a plus.

So could this be a healthy cereal?

Maybe both?

Two origins, and kinda confusing. I'm kinda stuck on that beans thing.

No matter. This is a good, munchy cereal. There's a slightly shiny shellacky coating that seems to really help the neapolitan puffs maintain a good crunch even after sitting around in milk for quite a while. That's a big plus. Plus, all that fiber - usually, I avoid breakfast cereal in the morning as I feel that somehow it only makes me hungrier. Not here - a bowl kept me reasonably filled til lunch!

Plus, as an added bonus, the pinkish/brownish milk it leaves behind is pretty decent. My kids loved having "chocolate milk" in their cereal. Again, bless their hearts.

I don't do cereal often, and I'm not sure I'd really go for these tri-flavored puffs over and over again, but they do make a nice little pick up. For a gluten-free fun cereal, why not? The box runs $3.99 which is a little high on the TJ's scale, so there's another slight knock. If it were up to our kids, these would be a surefire pantheon pick, but to us more reasonable adults, some matching threes will do.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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