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Showing posts with label dairy free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dairy free. Show all posts

Friday, April 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bites

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Almond Chipotle Dip

I thought there was about a zero percent chance this stuff would even be edible. I've tried enough vegan dips, cheeses, condiments, and sauces in my day to know it's rare if those types of products are worth a single provisional purchase, let alone the times when they're actually good and could potentially become a household staple or replace something made with dairy. Here's the one exception I can think of off the top of my head: Trader Joe's Vegan Tzatziki Dip.

I'm equally impressed with this product. I thought it would taste like rancid almond butter with a few spices tossed into the mix. Nope. In fact, the almond butter base doesn't really interfere with the chipotle flavor at all somehow. It's only faintly nutty. The main essence of the dip is a spicy, tangy, zippy chipotle. It's slightly garlicky and smoky, but not over the top on either count. There's a hint of onions and black pepper, but it's mostly just chipotle flavor—in this case coming from a chipotle pepper powder.

Oddly, it's a bit thinner than almond butter. I'd say it's even thinner than most dairy-based chipotle dips I've had, but it still coats quite well. It also works fine that way because it packs quite a punch even if you use very little—it's only moderately spicy yet very flavorful.

We used it in place of cheese with nachos, as a taco sauce, a dip for chips, and a glaze for chicken. It even worked with veggies like carrots and broccoli. I'm surprised how versatile it proved to be.

$3.49 for the tub. Vegan. Would buy again. Four stars from me. Three and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Almond Chipotle Dip.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage

You all know me. I'm a trooper. I'll try just about anything once. There are pumpkin products I love and pumpkin products I dislike, and everything in between. But this right here is pretty gross. I imagine it's about as close as I'll ever get to drinking a pumpkin spice candle.

I mean, we don't even have pumpkin spice cow's milk. Sure, I've had some killer pumpkin pie milkshakes in my day. And there are pumpkin coffee beverages galore, some of which are okay and some of which are not. But there's not really just plain pumpkin milk. So...just maybe the world doesn't need a dairy-free version of pumpkin milk..?

We tried the pumpkin almond beverage a few years back, and it wasn't good. It might have passed as a coffee creamer, but even that was pushing it. This stuff is an even paler shade of unnatural orange—not unlike orange cream milk or an orange creamsicle milkshake. Oh how I wish to God it tasted like an orange creamsicle.

It tastes like the dirty dishwater used to clean out several bowls of plain oatmeal...mixed with potpourri and a dash of pureed squash. The aftertaste is appalling. I just barely managed to down a couple swigs of it for this review. Never again.

Sonia, predictably, isn't nearly as disgusted as I am, although even she says she can't really taste pumpkin spices exactly. She thinks it needs more cinnamon. Yes. Okay. I'll agree with that. It definitely doesn't taste like cinnamon, and the taste of cinnamon is much less vile than the taste of this beverage, ergo, it could use some cinnamon I guess.

Sonia will finish the carton using it as a coffee creamer or to make her own potpourri lattes. $2.99 for the candle. Three out of five stars from the beautiful wifey. One star from me for Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars

Let's kick the new year off right. It's January, and everybody's craving frozen treats, right? No? Well then, let's crank up the heat, put on a tropical island screen saver, and pretend it's the middle of July. Not every review can be seasonally appropriate.

I've honestly been surprised how well oat lends itself to fudge and chocolate flavors. In almost every case, these oats and oat milk-based products would have been a godsend if I were still on my milk-free diet as I was as a child, or for that matter, if I were vegan. I'm thinking these Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars, the recently-reviewed Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, and Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars.

Conversely, in each case, these chocolatey oat desserts fall just shy of my good old dairy-based stand-by treats. Although it's not really my thing these days, I used to love a good Fudgesicle circa junior high and high school. That's basically what these are: vegan fudge popsicles.

They taste fudgey enough for me, although they might fall a hair shy of the originals in terms of rich chocolatey goodness and creaminess. Still, for being oat-based, it's hard to complain, since the differences are negligible.

Texture-wise, they're sorta creamy-ish, I guess, but also almost a tad oily I'd say. Is it the cocoa butter? Sunflower lecithin? Both? It's not really unappetizing, just unique. The mouthfeel of this product is...interesting.

$3.49 for four bars. It seems odd there are only four. Six would be ideal by my estimate. Sonia gives these oaty treats four out of five stars. I give Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars three out of five stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Trader Joe's O' Nog

History repeats itself. After trying Trader Joe's O' Nog for the first time, I think Sonia said verbatim the same thing she said after tasting Trader Joe's Almond Nog.

"I like this better than regular egg nog."

Blasphemy. Culinary heresy, pure and simple. Vegans and lactose intolerants, you guys get a free pass. But the beautiful wifey is neither of those.

I'm just kidding. She's free to think silly things like that. And I'm free to think that traditional egg nog will never be surpassed by anything non-dairy.

But comparing this to full calorie, milk-based, egg-laden nog is unfair in some ways. So let's look at it for what it is: it's an oat-based beverage that very nearly approximates the flavor of traditional egg nog. It got the sweetness level right. It got the spice blend right. And it came very close to getting the creaminess right.

The texture, like the almond nog, is noticeably more watery than the real stuff. And while the almond nog was predictably nutty, this oat beverage is predictably grainy in a similar sense, flavor-wise.

This drink reminds Sonia of atole, or atole blanco, a traditional corn-based Mexican beverage usually served hot. So, logically, Sonia tried Trader Joe's O' Nog warmed up and she absolutely loved it. I must agree it works as a hot beverage, possibly even better than it does when served cold.

I can verify it works well when mixed with bourbon. I'd assume, like egg nog or almond nog, that it would go great with rum, brandy, J├Ągermeister, or any number of alcoholic additives, too.

It's not just dairy-free, but also vegan, soy free, gluten free, and lactose free. The only ingredients not in the "2% or less" category are water, hydrolyzed oats, and cane sugar.

$2.99 for the quart. Sonia will go with four stars again. I'll go with a solid three for the noble effort on Trader Joe's O' Nog Non-Dairy Oat Beverage.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. E-G-B-D-F. Anybody else? It's a mnemonic device to remember the lines on the treble clef. Or, alternatively, Every Good Boy Does Fine. I was terrible at piano even after nine years of lessons. I'm much more of a bass guitar guy. Sorry for the rabbit trail. I could go on for pages and pages, but we have a product to review here.

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies. That's a mouthful and a half for a product title. If nothing else, it's accurate. I mean, the fudge brownies aren't, like, whole brownies or anything. They're not even really chunks. More like bits...or bites. But there's a bunch of 'em, and they're pretty tasty.

Here we have rich, fudgy chocolate oat milk ice cream on top of rich, fudgy chocolate morsels. I have to be in the mood for "chocolate overload" to really enjoy a product like this one. Fortunately, I had one of my infrequent cravings just the other day. It was cold and gloomy, and I needed a pick-me-up. This did the trick in terms of picking me up...but not so much in terms of warming me up.

Well, duh. It is frozen dessert after all.

The oatiness doesn't really detract from the flavor. It's a pretty decent frozen dessert for being vegan. I will say there's something "loamy" about the look and texture. Can I use that word here? It's generally reserved for describing dirt. "This soil is loamy," said the farmer. It means a certain percentage is clay, silt, and sand. Not that it felt sandy in my mouth or anything like that. Clay-ish, perhaps.

Truth be told, I'm not really up to speed on all these newfangled dairy-free options from other brands these days. I've had a few. I think I'm more partial to rice-based ice cream than oat, but I wouldn't complain if you stuck a bowl of this frozen treat in front of me.

Sonia liked it but didn't love it. She'd generally prefer a vanilla-based frozen treat and thinks oat lends itself to less rich flavor combos rather than double chocolate like we have here.

$3.99 for the pint. Don't think I'd pick it up again, but I might if I were lactose intolerant or vegan. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me for Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit


Seems there was a brief moment in time that boba or bubble tea was all the rage, somewhat nestled between my college and not quite married years. Before she would come to be known as such, my lovely bride and I would occasionally go grab one after her work somewhere near the Carnegie Mellon campus. Pretty sure there was a place on Craig Street, probably still is, but it always seemed packed full of college kids happily slurping away on these kinda oddball milky tea drinks with these goofy balls of whatever in them. Whatever, I kinda liked 'em too. 

Must still be a semi-popular thing, as now if the mood hits for a boba, we don't have to deal with a bunch of runty AirPod-wearing jaywalkers half our age. Naw. We just need to hit up our freezer, with the new Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit. 

It's a weird concoction of sorts. Inside the boz there's four indicidual pouches, each with some flavor mix and those famous tapioca pearls, as well as an appropriately sized paper straw. Nuke the pearls and stuff for a minute, add some ice and milk, and voila, it's a boba tea, all right in the home, no real skill or even effort involved. 

That being said, it ain't the best.

For me, maybe it's just the flavor choice. I love brown sugar and all, but when mixed with the milk it just tastes like leftover cereal milk. Which is still kinda delicious, not gonna lie there. But then when paired with the tapioca balls, it must be a mental trick or something as I swear the boba tastes a little molasses-y. That and the pearls aren't as firm, and instead are somewhat rubbery and sticky. It's kinda close to the real deal, and does an admirable job for a freezer DIY concoction, but it still seems a little too nopticeably off.

Maybe that's just me. Sandy loved it. It was late at night when we finally made one to sample. She took one sip and asked if we really had to share. yes, dear, please. After two or three, i had my fill. Just not quite right, or maybe I've left all my crazy boba days behind me as I've just hit 40. Kinda makes me happy to see Sandy enjoy it then, maybe this'll be something all for her. 

Oh well. Maybe a different flavor, something kinda fruity, would've hit me different. Brown sugar just didnt do it for me this time. I'll be nice and toss out a few spoons for it, whereas my lovely bride will ring it up as perfection. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars

There's a lot of power in preconceived notions, right? 

I'm going to use the possibly new Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars as an example. 

See: I grew up not far from Hershey, PA, the self-proclaimed chocolate capital of the world. I've grown to realize their particular brand might not be the absolute best that's out there. Still, their chocolate is fairly ubiquitous, right? It's easily identifiable and serves as an easy standard to which one can easily compare all other chocolates too, , even if only to say how much better whatever the chocolate is compared to Hershey's. There's a reason we often use Hershey's as a comparison in our reviews as our yardstick. small bite of these TJ's oat chocolate bars, and I was ready to toss it and find me a Hershey's.

There's something just "off" about them, on first bite, that I didn't like. It tasted...grainy, and more than perceptibly so. Just off, and not "like what a milk chocolate bar should taste like." I stray more towards dark chocolate, but when going the lighter route, I guess I want the fullness and comfortable richness that regular ol' dairy milk helps afford and things like oats can't quite replicate. 

I ate the rest (I mean, it's chocolate, after all) but that initial impression, formed by years of my own experience, didn't change much. 

Then it kinda hit me: "my own experience." What about others? 

My lovely bride originally bought these as a small snack for herself and a friend who's vegan. It's a three pack, so two for them and one for me. Perfect. Anyways, if someone was vegan or dairy free, whether by choice or by need...I guess the TJ's is a pretty decent "milk" chocolate bar. There is a certain smoothness and even a touch of creaminess that the bar replicates reasonably well. Everyone deserves a chance at a good milk chocolate bar, right? 

In the end, this still won't be my chocolate of choice, but that's okay. I'm glad it's out there as an available option for whoever it would appeal for. Choices are good, and what doesn't work for me will probably work for someone else. It's all good. 

Anyways, I'm not a huge fan, but my wife and her friend were, so I'll lean more on their judgment than mine and say it's worth a shot, especially if traditional milk chocolate just isn't for you, for any reason. Double fours? Sure. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Apparently there's two different types of boba balls out there. Who knew?

The source of this knowledge is my lovely bride, who I trust completely and will try to represent well here. She states there's the type that's usually in bubble teas, of which we very occasionally partake. They're soft and squishy with no chew required and kinda fun, if not a little oddly gelatinous, but firm. So there's the first type, which I knew of.

There's another type, apparently, more common for top-your-own frozen yogurt kinda places, that are more like Fruit Gushers maybe? Like you bite into them and a little jelly plops design. That sounds...challenging to me, to say the least. But if you like 'em, go for 'em!

So which are in the newish Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert?

Thankfully, to me, the ones present here are more alike the first described, from what I can tell. You bite into them and there's no ooze that slips on out. But that's not to say the bite isn't still a bit odd. I've had things like gummi worms and Swedish Fish in ice cream/ice cream-like desserts before, and usually those bits of candy are frozen hard and tacky and honesntly not nearly as enjoyable as I'd wish. These tapioca tidbits are different. Instead, there's a bit of a firm chew to them - still relatively soft by gummy candy standard, but not all jelly like either. It's...odd but definitely a bit satisfying after becoming accustomed to the feel. i can dig it. 

The rest of the coconut-based not-ice-cream scoopable dessert is okay. The coffee flavor seems a bit mild and tame. My wife says she prefers the more laidback taste, but then again she typically like creamier, more sugary coffees than I do. i prefer black coffee, and so i guess based on that I'd want a bolder coffee taste here. Not to say what's here is unpleasant - it's not - but it's a bit meek. Maybe the sweeter, milkier take is a bit of a homage to milky bubble teas, so I can see why that choice was made. 

Everything else is pretty much on point. There's good consistency to the dessert - not too thick and dense, not too light and melty - and anytime a vegan, non dairy treat that can plausibly pass for ice cream is available, we'll give it a go. It's good stuff, not great, but definitely worth a try. The pint was something like $5 (been a few weeks, sorry) which isn't that far off from most desserts of this type. Sandy will give it a solid four, noting that's nothing perfect ever, while I'm not as optimistic in the score as she as as it pertains to this dessert, but just maybe we'll find the perfect one this summer. C'mon TJ's!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Trader Joe's Dairy-Free Cold Brew Almond Macadamia Latte Coffee Beverage

Like most Americans, Sonia and I are hopelessly addicted to caffeine. She's a big coffee drinker and a connoisseur of all things derived from the brewed bean: mocha, latte, cappuccino, you name it. I'm more of an energy drink guy myself. Throughout my misspent youth, I'd drink sodas like Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper for caffeine, and then switched over to energy drinks after the advent of Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster.

At any rate, we both get headaches after just 24 hours without a heavy dose of the common stimulant. If coffee is the only source of caffeine around, I'll drink it. Once in a while I'll get desperate enough to drink regular cola again in the absence of other caffeinated beverages, despite a severe aversion to HFCS these days. This stuff, on the other hand? You'd have to twist my arm pretty hard to get me to take another sip of this drink, let alone a whole bottle.

Right after taking an initial sip, I had Sonia try it, desperately trying to mask my disgust so as to elicit an unbiased reaction from her. She reacted similarly. We decided to check the "best by" date just to be sure it hadn't turned. According to the little stamp on the side of the bottle, we had one day to spare. 

I mean, it's not like we don't enjoy nut milks. The combo of almond and macadamia sounded fairly alluring to both of us, especially to my better half. And you can taste a decent amount of nuttiness underneath an acrid coffee flavor, initially. But immediately after detecting the earthy vegan coffee blend in this beverage, there's a fairly intense bitterness that washes over your palate.

We get it. They were going for a healthy beverage without much in the way of sweetener. But this brew needs a little something. And by "a little something," I mean a LOT of something. It's full of protein and decidedly devoid of bad stuff, but neither of us could really get into the taste. Sonia was good enough to finish the bottle, and she noted that by the end, it wasn't quite as revolting as the first few swigs. I noped out after about a sip and a half. 

$2.99 for the bottle. Two stars from me. Two and a half from Sonia. Not a repeat purchase.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Trader Joe's Strawberry Oat Frozen Dessert

Sonia and I have lived in four different states since the inception of this blog. We traveled the country full-time with our two little doggies in an RV for 21 (non-consecutive) months. We've been to every region of the country in that time period.

During our travels, we've become hyper-aware of the plenitude of Trader Joe's locations in certain regions and the overwhelming dearth of them in others. Cities like New York and L.A. have dozens of Trader Joe's locations to choose from. Smaller cities like Omaha, Boise, and Spokane have exactly one TJ's store. Many big college towns have a single location, as well, such as State College, PA.

Then there are entire states that don't have a Trader Joe's yet. There are exactly six among the contiguous United States: West Virginia, Mississippi, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota. And many of the folks who live in those states are within a two hour drive or so to a Trader Joe's in an adjacent state.

I won't disclose exactly where we're stationed right now, but I will say that we live a little farther from a Trader Joe's than we ever have before, and that makes buying Trader Joe's frozen treats just a bit more complicated. In this case, Sonia in particular was tempted just to consume this pint of "oat cream" in the parking lot outside TJ's rather than risk it melting in the cooler on the ride home. We only consumed about half of it before packing it away, and it made the trip completely intact, despite the hot summer temps.

So yeah, Sonia's crazy about this stuff. I like it, too, but I don't think I'd put it on par with good old fashioned cow's milk ice cream. To me, most of the flavor of this frozen dessert comes from the bits of almond brittle and candied strawberry they've tossed into the mix. The taste of the oat milk cream itself seems a little on the bland side. It's not unpleasant at all, and it does have hints of that natural nuttiness you'll find in oat milk, which we both like.

The texture is near perfect to both of us, very closely approximating that of dairyful selections. It's super smooth except for the above-mentioned almonds and strawberry bits. It's pretty darn refreshing in this August heat, too.

Maybe I'm just used to the taste of cow's milk ice cream, but I probably wouldn't reach for this oat cream again. Nothing against it. I just think the taste of true strawberry ice cream is a bit more pungent and flavorsome. Sonia will probably grab a pint on her next TJ's run and finish it right after her shopping, and will eagerly await more flavors to be released.

$3.99 for the pint. Three stars from me. Four and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Trader Joe's Cheese-Less Cheesecakes

For those of you unfamiliar with our background, Sonia and I aren't vegan. We probably eat less meat than the average American, but dairy is very much a part of our daily diets. Sonia gravitates toward alternative milks like almond and oat, particularly for her cereal, since she occasionally has lactose-intolerance issues, while I very much prefer cow's milk, despite being quite familiar with all its many alternatives since childhood. For something like cheesecake, we'd both reach for the traditional stuff—unless, of course, there's a vegan alternative that can somehow magically compete with "the real deal."

Approaching this cheese-less cheesecake, I am very skeptical. The product itself and packaging look pretty nice, and we all know Trader Joe's has offered impossibly delicious "alternative" foods in the past, but I've also tried a number of lactose-free/vegan offerings that were, in my opinion, less than edible.

Preparation is simple enough. Just plop the cheesecake out of its little cup onto a serving plate, let thaw in the fridge for 2 hours, and voila: ready to eat. I'm not the kind of person that knows what I'm going to be hungry for 5 minutes from now, let alone 2 hours. What am I, Nostradamus? But I went ahead and prepped the cheesecakes anyway, hoping I'd be more or less in the mood for cheesecake for my mid-morning snack, AKA brunch AKA second breakfast.

Well here we are. The moment of truth. First impressions? Really surprisingly, shockingly, good for a vegan product. Not exactly like real cheesecake, but still pretty darn tasty. Sonia's initial reaction: disappointment. We both agree we were expecting the opposite: that Sonia would like it and I would not. Not sure what we can attribute that turn of events to. Maybe my expectations were too low and hers were too high? 

The graham cracker base is pretty much what you'd expect. The "cheese" part is very creamy, although perhaps a tad thinner than regular cheesecake. It's nice and sweet. There's an interesting flavor that's hard to put our fingers on. I'd say it has a bright, almost citrusy element to it. There's definitely a tartness underneath the initial desserty sweetness, but it works quite well in my humble opinion.

Holy goodness! I'm so glad I didn't look at the ingredients before I tried this stuff. This "cheesecake" basically has a lima bean base. Lima beans! Oh gosh that's gross. I mean, lima beans are okay when buttered and salted and served as a side dish. But lima bean cheesecake?? Ugh. That's just weird. Maybe Sonia just subconsciously tasted lima beans and I didn't. Why not red beans like you'd find in all those Asian desserts? Or tapioca? Those would be less...unusual choices. 

Other ingredients are pretty normal. There are lots of different kinds of oils, agave syrup, oats. On down the list you'll see there is in fact lemon juice. I don't know if I'll ever get over that lima bean thing. It's like the yogurt I consumed and enjoyed for many years was ruined once I found out there were thousands of ground up little bugs used for coloring in them. You know, carmine?

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I'll try not to punish this dessert for being made of lima beans, because it does taste oddly good to me. Strangely enough, Sonia's not grossed out by the lima bean thing. But she'll only throw out two and a half stars. She's not impressed. I might have gone with four and a half put me down for four, I guess.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles

Sometimes, there's just the easy choices.

For Career Day at my daughter's school, I could either talk about my fulltime day job - insurance verifications and authorizations for a medical equipment company. It's good enough work, for sure, but, well, kinda talking about it even bores me.

Or....I could talk about this here fine blog you're now reading and win them over with a treat.

Clear choice. Cookies always win.

Of course, since it's kids with any myriad of food allergies or senstivities, and you don't want to leave anyone out, gotta make sure you have something easy, safe and tasty for everyone. On recommendation from Debi, another great member of the crew at the McCandless Crossing / North Hills store, I picked up several boxes of Trader Joe's Soft Baked Snickerdoodles. Look at them...if you're allergic to anything in there, I'm sorry, I can't help you. Easy choice.

And here's yet another one: would you rather have me do a full usual review, which Nathan covered admirably well in our blog's fledgling stage...or hear what all those pretty awesome second graders had to say?

Right, I figured. So here we go, actual student quotes. No names or anything for privacy's sake. But all are accurate. Here we go, with occasional commentary by me.

Me: "Everyone, you know how grownups are always right, right?" Mixed response ensues. "Well, plenty of grownups have told me how good these cookies are, but here's a chance for anyone to say what they did or did not like about these cookies!"

The Good

"They're really good. They taste like they have cinnamon in them."

"I like everything about them, especially the cinnamon."

"It was delicious because of the cinnamon."

"I liked the chewy texture. I liked that it was a chewy cookie."

"I liked that they were soft and squishy. I don't like hard cookies."

"I can taste the pumpkin in it."

Apparently we hit a home run with the cinnamon fans! And no, there's no pumpkins in the cookies, but there is kinda a mild pumpin pie spice vibe to them, so I get where that student was coming from.

The Mixed 

"There's a little bit too much cinnamon" said one student, to which his friend immediately replied "You can never have too much cinnamon!"

"I would say it's a little bit good and a little bad because the only thing I can taste is cinnamon."

"It's a little bit bad because there's too much sweetness."

"I liked it but it tasted kinda sandy."

Fixated on the cinnamon still, apparently. Sweet and sandy? Sounds like my lovely bride!

The Bad

"I don't like them at all. Too much sugar!"

"The cookie made my throat hurt."

The "too much sugar" comment came from a student dressed up as a baker. I'll assume that she knows her stuff. There was no elaboration on the throat comment, but perhaps that was to say they were a bit dry. Agreed, some milk would pair nicely.

Special Bonus Quote from the School Nurse while Reviewing Ingredients for Any Possible Allergens

"Well, if they don't have any of that stuff in there, what is in here? Hmm, dates, flaxseed, sorghum...yeah, these will make ya have to go. Ooh, rosemary too? In a cookie? That's...unusual. But nice. Yeah, these will be fine."

There we have it. Most comments and insights aligned pretty closely to all the good comments, and when asked for Golden Spoon grading, nearly everyone wanted to give them a perfect ten. That's pretty overwhelming. A few wanted to go lower, with the lowest from the future baker who said she'd only give them a four. A four?!?! She must make really good cookies then.

All around winner and a fun day back in second grade.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soft Baked Snickerdoodles: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Special thanks to Debi, Marlin and the entire crew at the McCandless Crossing/North Hills Pittsburgh TJ's location for their kind donation of the cookies. Once again, the best thing at Trader Joe's is absolutely the crew! You all are the reason why we come back. 

Also special thanks to the teachers and administration of my daughter's school for allowing me to come in and have in a great time in the classroom!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative

As a general rule, my lovely bride Sandy and I don't talk about or share pictures of our kids on social media too often, if ever. Yeah, it is kinda fun and occasionally therapeutic to make those kinda posts, but we kinda want a little privacy for them. If my folks were to make a digital diary of everything I ever did as a kid....*shudder*. I mean, even some of the stuff I wore  - fashionable at the time, now cringe worthy. If my grandma were still with us, she'd be sure to read this then find a picture of me in my old super baggy hooded t shirt with the the vertical thick purple and white stripes and matching purple shorts as I looked "so handsome in my purple suit."

But I will share this: *one* of our kiddos who shall remain nameless online has a dairy issue. Too much milk and this particular rugrat has some digestive issues the next day where this kiddo cannot, well, go. It stops 'em up. But of course like any youngyin, this kiddo loves cheese. So whatcha gonna do?

Check out Trader Joy's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative, that's what.

I'll never personally like any alternative cheese product as much as the real thing, but for what they are, these slices aren't too bad. Think Kraft Single, and that's a decent approximation. Is a Kraft Single necessarily good cheese? Nah. Are they good compared to some? Sure.

And does it melt? Like Velveeta.

Interestingly, these soy boys refused to melt atop the burgers I made the other night. Flat out wouldn't. But when Sandy made both grilled cheese and quesadillas with them, they turned into practical pools of oozing yellow.

In any event, the cheez is what it is: mild,a touch salty, soft, cheddar-like enough. Not super high quality but not awful either. Our kids like 'em enough. I will say if packing for a snack or on the go and they get a little warm, these slices do tend to sweat quite a bit and get a little slimy, so there's that.

It is worth it to note that while being 99% lactose free (and therefore neutral to our kiddo's digestive tract), there is casein as an ingredient, so these would be worth avoiding still if an issue for you. And they are not vegan or vegetarian either.

For about $3 it's a fair price and given the needs of our kids, I'm sure we'll buy these often. It is kinda nice to have a dairy/lactose almost-free cheese option that's a veritable slice and not just shreds. In short, these slices suit us just fine. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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