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Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts

Monday, February 26, 2024

Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Pizza


Aside from plain cheese, I think barbecue chicken might be my favorite pizza flavor of all time. I'm not really a pepperoni guy. Neither veggie lovers nor meat lovers appeals to me much, although I've had a decent beef brisket pizza or two in my day. I find the concept of breakfast pizza intriguing, but the execution usually leaves me wishing I'd gotten something safer.

Something safer...like barbecue chicken. Yum. Throw a couple different cheeses and some onions on there and it's an easy crowd pleaser. It's always interesting when Trader Joe's does something simple and classic like this. They often try to Trader Joe's-ify it somehow—like those cheeseburgers from last year. I think they're the best frozen cheeseburgers I've ever had, but more than half the people I talked to about them disagreed.


My take on this pizza? It's adequate, but not much more than that. I wish they would have Trader Joe's-ified it. Like why wouldn't they have used one of their own top-notch barbecue sauces on this product? It lacks that je ne sais quoi that TJ's products often deliver. No wonder they didn't do anything fancy with the packaging. This is typical grocery store fare all the way—not terrible, but not what I'm looking for at Trader Joe's.

In its defense, there's plenty of chicken, though it wasn't distributed very evenly around the pizza. That's easy enough to remedy. The quality of the meat is fine, too. The crust, the sauce, and even the onions just aren't doing anything particularly memorable. This pizza is very similar to, though not quite as good as, the California Pizza Kitchen brand frozen bbq chicken pizza.


At $5.49, this item is a little cheaper than most frozen pizzas I've purchased lately, but it's also a good bit smaller. Probably would not buy again. Two and a half stars from me. Sonia is much more positive about the pizza than I am, though she admittedly is extremely hungry AND she slathered hers with about half a bottle of Jack Daniel's brand barbecue sauce. Three and a half stars from her for Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Pizza.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Red Lentil Sedanini


One comment/question/criticism about this blog that we've seen a few times throughout the years is: Why do you spend so much time on products that are somewhat lackluster or mediocre? Just come out and tell us what's GOOD at Trader Joe's. It is the name of the blog, after all.

It's a fair point to make. And to the folks that ask it, I generally just refer them to the "Pantheon" and "really darn good" links in the right side bar of the blog. Those are the links that answer the question: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?" at least in our humble opinions. And the "blahhh" and "not so great" links answer another frequently asked question: "What's NOT Good at Trader Joe's?" Again, in our minds, anyway. Your mileage may vary.


There are now over TWO THOUSAND reviews posted on this blog, many of which cover more than just a single TJ's product, so logically a lot of those items are going to fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. It's just the nature of the beast. We try to cover products objectively and accurately enough so that even if we don't love something our readers might get a hunch if they would like it, or vice versa.

All that to say that this is yet another fine product and should be a hit with folks who do the organic thing or the gluten free thing, but it's pretty much middle-of-the-road pasta in other respects. Three bucks gets you six servings of red lentil pasta imported from Italy. It's easy to make and goes fairly well with basic marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. I'm sure you could serve this sedanini any way you'd serve regular pasta.

It tastes very similar to Trader Joe's Risoni, also made with red lentils. It's an earthy, legumey flavor. Texture-wise, it's not quite a dead ringer for wheat-based pasta, but it's close. It might be a little firmer and less stretchy, if that makes sense.

Probably wouldn't buy again unless we were entertaining guests with dietary restrictions, but then again, it might be a nice break from regular glutenful pasta once in a blue moon. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Organic Red Lentil Sedanini.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Italian Artisan Gigli Pasta


When I see the word "Gigli," all I can think of is that 2003 masterpiece starring Ben Affleck and J. Lo. Man, that was the golden age of cinema, I tell ya. They don't make rom-coms like that anymore.

Likewise, this pasta is similarly memorable. They're shaped like little flowers. I guess "gigli" is the Italian word for "lilies." How cute. They're pretty and dainty, but there's enough dough there that you've got something to sink your teeth into. It's a fun yet practical shape for pasta. Also known as "campanelle," the shape resembles bells as well as horns or trumpets, or "trompetti."


The product is organic and kosher, but it won't break the bank at about three bucks for nine servings. We've had it tossed with extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, and Italian Style Sprinkle. We've tried it with marinara sauce and ground beef. We made some pasta salad with veggies and Italian dressing. And it's absolutely delightful with the Limone Alfredo Sauce.


The "best by" date on this bag was marked as September of 2026. That's quite a long shelf life. We'll be keeping some in the back of the pantry for sure. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes and you've got the base for a tasty meal. Imported from Italy.

Three and a half stars from me, four stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Organic Italian Artisan Gigli Pasta.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Trader Joe's Beef Bulgogi


It's been a minute, but we've seen bulgogi beef on this blog before. And even that wasn't my first bulgogi rodeo. Although this is a step in the right direction, my beef with this beef is similar to my beef with the last beef.

But let's start off with some positives first. For one, the flavor of this meat is utterly superb. The sauce is amazing. It's sweet, savory, and succulent—made with soy sauce and onion, and there's even a few fruit juices and purees in the mixture: apple, pear, and pineapple. The meat itself is rich and delicious. No complaints in the taste department whatsoever.


Thirteen bucks might seem steep for this type of frozen product, but there's a full pound of beef here. You could easily feed a family of five or six with this single product, provided you had rice or veggies to supplement the meal. So the price and quantity of this item seems reasonable to me, too.

The only thing preventing me from giving this product a perfect score is the chewiness and gristle present in some of the bites. I'm super picky about the texture of meat for some reason. Always have been. The bulgogi I had from Korean restaurants was melt-in-your-mouth perfect in every way. This just isn't. Overall, it's extremely tender like bulgogi is supposed to be, but just about every other bite—particularly in the larger slices of meat—there'd be gristle I not only felt in my mouth...but could hear when I chewed it. Ugh. Such a shame. I really wanted to love this stuff.


As it is, I'll throw out three and a half stars for the overall flavor and non-gristly bites. Sonia was similarly impressed with the flavor and displeased with the texture, so three and a half stars from her as well on Trader Joe's Beef Bulgogi.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Trader Joe's Portuguese Bacalhau Tartelettes


These aren't the first Portuguese tarts we've tried from TJ's. We had some desserty, breakfasty custard tarts a few years back. I thought these might be similar. And in some ways they are, of course, but these are actually fishy, dinner-ish tarts, rather than dessert ones.

If you didn't know that "bacalhau" was the Portuguese word for "salted cod," well you're not alone. I guess Trader Joe expects us to be multilingual now. I've nearly worn out my Duolingo app with a 1,365 day streak going on, which I'm very proud of. But I'm learning español and brushing up on Deutsch, but alas, not Português.


It does say "cod" on the box, too, to be fair. But some of us have attention deficit issues here, TJ's. Sometimes your product names are lame and boring, and other times I wish you'd just stick with English. "Cod tarts" would have worked here. But I digress.

Air fryer instructions? Check. Eight tiny frozen fish apps, each with its own little pie tin? Check. Twenty minutes later, it's time for our mid-day meal.

Butter, eggs, potato, and salted fish never tasted so good. Sonia and I demolished the whole pack in a matter of minutes. The tartelettes smelled and tasted similar to New England clam chowder to me, but with a buttery, flaky croissant thrown into the mix instead of crackers or croutons. I never had cod that approximated the taste or texture of clams before, but that's what I got for ya. Fortunately, I love almost all seafood including clams.


The mixture is approximately 50% crispy, flaky, bready shell and 50% soupy, chowdery, fish filling. I was tempted to try to eat mine with my bare hands, but I wound up using a fork. They can be a tad messy.

$4.99 for the pack. Product of Portugal. Another exotic, restaurant-quality appetizer from Trader Joe's. Would buy again. These made a great stand-alone meal for us, but I bet they'd be even better as an appetizer. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Portuguese Bacalhau Tartelettes.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Trader Joe's Italian Artisan Heart Shaped Pasta


Well wouldn't you know it? Trader Joe's Heart Shaped Pasta is back just in time for V.D. season! What's V.D. season, you ask? Valentine's Day, of course. What were you thinking? Get your mind out of the gutter.

Anyhoo, it's real Italian artisan pasta that's shaped like little hearts. Apparently, it's fairly difficult to find heart-shaped pasta for under three bucks..? I don't know, personally. It's not like I was seeking it out. It was just there on the shelf at Trader Joe's screaming, "Review me! Review me!" So here we are...


I mean, the pasta is decent. If boiled correctly, it comes out tender but firm, you know—al dente if you wanna get all authentically Italian and stuff. Of course, you'll need some sauce and maybe some grated parmesan to make it a meal. If you want to go the whole nine yards, you might throw in some meatballs or garlic bread and maybe a nice bottle of cabernet. Whatever floats your boat. I'm sure this isn't the first time you've made pasta for dinner.

I don't find this product to be head and shoulders better than any other ordinary pasta. I mean, it's pretty normal in the flavor department if you ask me. The colors are kind of pinkish and off-white. They're not particularly vivid, especially after cooking them. But if we wanted neon pink and red food, we'd be shopping somewhere other than Trader Joe's and buying stuff with chemical dyes, right? This stuff is colored with tomato and beet powder.


It's cute I guess. Pick up a pack, gentlemen, if you want to keep your ladies happy for the Hallmark holiday. Or if you're single, make some for yourself. Your tears of loneliness can salt the boiling water.

$2.49 for a pound of V.D. pasta. Product of Italy. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Italian Artisan Heart Shaped Pasta.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Empanadas de Ropa Vieja


So...I speak a little Spanish, but I'm not so confident to be 100% sure I'm translating everything I read or hear correctly. Glancing at the title of this product, I thought it meant something along the lines of "hand pies made of old clothes." Well that's obviously wrong, I thought. So I asked my wife, fluent in español, where I'd gone wrong. "No, that's correct," she explained.

She'd heard of the dish before but didn't grow up eating it. Apparently, it's more of a Caribbean and Central American thing than a Mexican thing. Her Cuban co-worker, very familiar with the traditional meal, explained that there's a legend that an old homeless man with no food began tearing up his own clothes in lieu of meat and heating them on the stove and they magically turned into beef—hence the name. Thanks, Julio, for that anecdote.


But enough about the name. How does this offering from Trader Joe's taste? Shoot. It's REALLY good. I'm surprised I haven't heard more buzz about this product. Both the wifey and I found it muy delicioso.

Nine minutes in the air fryer had these puppies piping hot and crispy golden brown on the outside. Pretty sure the traditional dish is made with actual bread rather than cassava—a root vegetable—but this product didn't suffer at all for the substitution. It's not the first empanada with cassava crust we've seen from TJ's. It lends a faintly nutty flavor to the "breading" part of the empanada.

The filling is soft, flavorful shredded beef with tomato, onion, and bell pepper. It just melts in your mouth. There's a spice blend including garlic, salt, oregano, and coriander that rounds out the taste perfectly.


I could have sworn there was a layer of mashed potatoes just inside the crust, but I think it was just more cassava. It made the meat pie feel even more like comfort food. So, so good.

The beautiful wifey and I plowed through the pack in a single sitting for lunch. We'd absolutely buy it again. About $6 for eight mini empanadas. Restaurant-quality appetizers. Four and a half stars a piece for Trader Joe's Empanadas de Ropa Vieja.



Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Trader Joe's No Boil Noodles


Ah, here we have deliciously convenient No Boil Noodles. Let's make some for lunch today, shall we? I bet they're crazy easy to prepare. That's nice to not have to boil them. Let's see the heating instructions. <flips package>​ First, "Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil." Wait. What? <Rubs eyes> "Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Drain and serve." <flips package again> Reads product name: "Trader Joe's No Boil Noodles." <shakes head> For being "no boil" noodles, there's more boiling involved than I would have assumed.

Okay, okay. To be fair, that's only one of the recommended heating methods. The other simply involves stir frying the noodles with whatever sauce you want and does not involve boiling. But still...


No heating method seemed to give these noodles the perfect texture. They weren't hard per se, but they never got truly soft either. Cheap ramen has a better mouthfeel than these guys.

The noodles come in super-tangled nests. Only after heating them for a good long time do they start to unravel. Like most noodles, these are quite boring by themselves and are completely dependent upon sauces and additives to make them flavorful. We added onions, peppers, broccoli, and teriyaki sauce for a makeshift stir fry and found it palatable enough.

Sonia is pretty picky about her noodles and has tried many, many Asian noodle-based dishes. She's not exactly a connoisseur, but she knows what she likes and doesn't like. She's not hating on this particular product, but she definitely likes the Momofuku style squiggly noodles better than these.

$2.49 for 8.8 oz isn't a bad price. Product of Italy. We polished off the bag in short order but wouldn't buy these again. There are plenty of other cheap noodles out there that we like better than Trader Joe's No Boil Noodles. Three stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Trader Joe's Chicken, Cheese & Green Chile Pupusas


In my experience, pupusas were always the staple food for folks from El Salvador. Those Salvadoreños would seize any opportunity to introduce us gringos to their favorite pupusa joint, often just a hole in the wall or some unsuspecting apartment in a random neighborhood. They'd come out with lots of little clear plastic bags tied at the top with rubber bands. It might have looked like a shady narcotics deal if not for the fact the bags were obviously filled with veggies, sauces, and shredded cheese.

The base element for those pupusas was always a puffy pancake-esque cake similar to the one we have here, although those were generally much lighter. Some weren't filled at all, and all the flavor came from whatever you put on top—usually some pickled cabbage, a thin salsa, and jack cheese—possibly shredded chicken or other meat. Others had a thin layer of beans or maybe cheese baked into the middle of the disc.


Lacking the cabbage topping and unique salsa, I was skeptical of this offering from Trader Joe's. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with them, and their filling is quite a bit more interesting than the street style pupusas I've had in the past. There's no detectable chicken pieces. It's just a whirled mush of chicken and cheese with a few flecks of green chiles scattered throughout.

Using the air fryer method, the breading part of the cake gets slightly crispy. It's a good quality corn masa—authentic enough for me. The overall flavor is salty and savory and there's enough chicken and cheese flavor to be satisfying. The chile pieces add a bit of a kick, but salsa of any kind is in order if you're craving something truly picante.


We added onions to ours in lieu of Salvadoran slaw and experimented with a few different types of hot sauces and salsas. Nothing quite replicated what we'd had from restaurants but we were happy enough to finish the meal, one pupusa each, and contemplated heating the third one immediately and splitting it between the two of us, although in the end, we opted to save it for later.

I think the moral of the story here is to buy or make some Salvadoran cabbage relish, or "curtido," and have it on standby when you eat these. While any tomato-based salsa will do in a pinch, looking up an authentic recipe online might be worth it in this instance, too. Either way, it's not a bad product and it's a simple way to introduce yourself to the world of pupusas.

$4.79 for three servings. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Chicken, Cheese & Green Chile Pupusas.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Burrata Ravioloni


Apparently "ravioloni" is just a larger version of ravioli. They just made the word longer so you'd know the pasta is bigger. Although, "ravioletti" is the smallest version of all, so...never mind. At first glance inside the packaging, they don't appear to be any larger than normal ravioli, but I must admit they about doubled in size while boiling in water.

These reminded me quite a bit of the recently-reviewed Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli, and they were similarly, you know, not bad-ish. I think the flavor of these square pasta pieces was a tad tastier than their round vegan counterparts, thanks to the presence of real burrata cheese.


There were sort of off-yellow colored pieces and orange colored pieces, representing the limoncello and mango flavors, respectively. Just kidding about the fruit flavors. They're just pasta flavored. Once again, tomato is pretty dominant, but cheese rounds out the dish nicely, especially if you add a touch of parmesan to the finished product.

There still wasn't a ton of filling in these oversized raviolis, and the pasta itself was on the thin side, but it's a step in the right direction from those Bolognese fellows. There are only about a dozen pieces of pasta in the whole package, too, which is a bit stingy if you ask me, but I guess four bucks isn't exactly breaking the bank, either. The package is supposedly three servings, which would amount to about four pieces of pasta each. Sonia and I did six for her, six for me, and it worked out nicely for a moderately-filling lunch.


The wifey says she'd buy again. I'm on the fence. Something like four stars from Sonia and three from me once again for Trader Joe's Italian Tomato & Burrata Ravioloni.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Trader Joe's Shrimp & Garlic Flatbread


I love shrimp. It's a blessing and a curse for Trader Joe's shrimp dishes because I get my hopes up so high each time I try a new one that it's difficult for some products to live up to my expectations. Throw the word "garlic" in the title and I start salivating like Pavlov's dog.

One thing I didn't notice when purchasing this product: it has mushrooms. I have a mild allergy to mushrooms and I really don't like them at all. It's not like I'll die if I eat them, though. I just get mild heart palpitations and increased pulse for a few minutes. Yes, my allergies are weird. I'd get into all that, but let's save that disturbing discussion for another review and dive right into this appetizer.


The flatbread comes in what appears to be a vacuum-sealed garbage bag that's black on one side and see-through on the other. Interesting. Haven't seen packaging quite like that before.

The heating instructions read "DO NOT MICROWAVE" bolded in all caps. Yikes. Okay, I mean I wasn't going to in this case, but I'll be a good boy and follow the instructions exactly this time. Just stop yelling at me. 375° for 20 minutes and we're ready to chow down.


Certain bites contained more cheese than others. The cheesiest sections delivered a generous blast of parmesan while other bites were simply toasty bread and garlic bechamel sauce. I'm certainly not complaining about the sauce, but by itself, it wasn't particularly memorable and only faintly garlicky.

There were only ten shrimp specimens on our entire flatbread. For six bucks, that's not super generous. The small quantity that was there, however, was quite tasty. They weren't rubbery or chewy at all—good quality, cooked to perfection. The mushrooms, though noticeable, were not abundant enough to bother me at all.


In the end, the flavor of this flatbread just wasn't special enough to win over either Sonia or me completely. The shrimp, though enjoyable, were not plenteous enough to save the dish entirely. Probably wouldn't buy again.

Three stars from me. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Shrimp & Garlic Flatbread.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli


For those of you unfamiliar, bolognese sauce originates from Bologna, Italy and is traditionally made with beef or sometimes pork, and it's rich and hearty and commonly served on pasta. Some versions contain red wine, while most contain herbs and spices like rosemary, fennel, and/or oregano.

Here we have Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli. Seems pretty straightforward: little round ravioli pasta pieces filled with that vegan bolognese sauce that we reviewed a few years ago? We liked that sauce okay, so filling ravioli with it will probably make a passable meal. Let's just dive right in.


The ravioli is very dainty here. Like each piece is simply two paper thin layers of pasta with a spoonful of a relatively thin tomato and lentil-based sauce inside. It has a pleasant, though not particularly pungent, array of spices. Tomato is far and away the dominant flavor.

Sonia wishes there were more of the sauce within each pasta round. I don't disagree, but I'd rather have a thicker, more robust sauce. It doesn't need to have meat, but even the lentils and tomatoes are crushed into oblivion and feel nearly liquefied. There's very little to chew on in this dish.


We actually wound up finishing the package by dumping Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Spicy Pasta Sauce on the remainder. That stuff completely drown out the comparatively subtle flavors of the bolognese sauce and made the pasta much more flavorful. Everything's more exciting with that sauce on it.

There's nothing unpleasant about this pasta product, but it could be improved with greater quantities of the bolognese sauce and/or making it thicker, and even bulkier pasta on the ravioli would help.

$3.99 for the package, which Sonia and I easily finished in a single sitting. Three out of five stars from yours truly. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Lasagna


Of the "big three" fall foods—pumpkin, apple, and maple—at least one isn't really a fall food at all, at least not in terms of its peak harvest season. I'm talking of course about maple syrup. It's easiest to acquire in February and March, so some argue it should be a late winter flavor rather than an early autumn one.

And I mean, don't get me started about apples. Even though apples are harvested in September around these parts, apples are pretty much available all year round to us spoiled Americans. Apple pie on the Fourth of July? Yes, please.

So really, butternut squash is much more autumnal than some of these other "fall flavors," and it rarely gets its due. We saw some pretty decent butternut squash macaroni and cheese not too long ago, which I believe is still available seasonally at TJ's, but unfortunately I have not seen that butternut squash parmigiana in quite some time.


Ah, well. Let's make do with what we have. As far as I know, this is a brand new product. Never saw it around TJ's before this year. How bad could it be? I never met a lasagna I didn't like.

Actually, that's not true. The very first post on this blog, written over 13 years ago, was a review of a lasagna I didn't like. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself...

After 45 minutes at 400°F I can wholeheartedly assure you, history did not repeat itself in this instance. From first bite, this pasta dish delivers. It's creamy and cheesy inside, crispy and crusty on the outside, and it's got a nice cozy Italian vibe without being over-the-top heavy or rich.


Butternut squash is a fairly subtle flavor, and here, it's balanced expertly with the cheeses, herbs, spices, and layers of egg pasta. The crunchy bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds on the top just sealed the deal for me.

I can't vouch for this product shining quite so brightly if heated in the microwave. It does include nuking instructions on the box, so I guess Trader Joe's thinks it's legit.

If you're expecting a super bold flavor or traditional tomato-laden lasagna or anything remotely resembling pumpkin spice, then I guess it's conceivable you might be disappointed or unpleasantly surprised. We've got a smoky bechamel sauce in this instance, rather than typical marinara or spaghetti sauce. I liked it. It think it worked.

$4.49 for 2 servings. Sonia enjoyed it as well. Put her down for four stars. That sounds about right. Would buy Trader Joe's Italian Butternut Squash Lasagna again.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas


Mexicans and Mexican-Americans like my wife eat some unusual fare from time to time. They eat cow tongue (lengua) and cow stomach soup (menudo). They eat grasshoppers (chapulines) and cactus (nopal) among other things.

I've tried lengua tacos. Not a fan. It's a texture thing. While I've had more than one stomach dish in my day, I've never had proper menudo. I'd try it, although I haven't enjoyed eating any kind of stomach ever. Not that they're my snack of choice or anything, but grasshoppers fried in oil and dusted with chili powder are not nearly as disgusting as one might think. You vill eat ze bugs and be happy!

Nopales, on the other hand, I enjoy eating fairly regularly. Sonia makes a dish with eggs, nopales, onions, and hot sauce that's really yummy. So we were excited to see nopal cactus as an ingredient in Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas.


The dish is quite mushy—almost soupy. I wouldn't mind more veggie chunks in the mix. More corn, more nopales, more zucchini, more onions, more of almost everything.

Taste-wise, I'm fine with the cheese and sauce blend. It's tangy and tomatoey, with just a hint of spice. I would prefer significantly more heat.

Sonia actually thinks these are quite bland. She thinks Trader Joe's is replacing the classic black bean and corn enchiladas with these veggie and cheese ones, and she's not very happy about it. She wants more spice, more onion, and more garlic flavor here.


While I'm not blown away, I'm not super disappointed either. I'd prefer a bit more kick and a little something to sink my teeth into, but I can see why some people are digging these enchiladas. Sonia...not so much. She thinks the flavor is a flop and would have preferred a tangier Mexican cheese like cotija.

$2.99 for two enchiladas. Two and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. I'll throw out three and a half for Trader Joe's Vegetable & Cheese Enchiladas.



Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets


As a lover of real fish, I'm coming into this one shaking my head, bracing myself for disappointment. A glance at the ingredients reveals this product is jackfruit-based. How can one fruit mimic barbecue pulled pork and fish fillets? It just doesn't seem possible.

There's air fryer heating instructions on the box. We'll go with that one. The air fryer seems to make everything taste better. 10 minutes at 400°F and we're in business.

The smell? Surprisingly, my nose doesn't detect much of anything after heating, in stark contrast to real fish fillets from the air fryer. I guess there's a hint of something akin to hot cooking oil, but that's about it.


Despite my instincts to slather Trader Joe's Plant-Based Fish Fillets with tartar sauce and slap them in between slices of bread and cheese, I think I'll just try them plain first to play it safe. First impressions? Surprisingly edible.

Using a fork to cut the fillets apart, the texture is somewhere between a normal fish fillet and a fried banana. The crispy coating is really nice. It's not very thick, but it does the job. Sonia likes that part the best.

Flavor-wise, they're not fishy at all, and I mean that in a good way. But at the same time, if you had to guess what meat they were trying to imitate, you'd all understand they were going for fish. Sonia said they vaguely reminded her of chicken empanadas. I can see that, too. You can faintly taste the king oyster mushrooms mentioned in the ingredients, and there's a nice savory blend of subtle spices.

I was really worried we had another meatless ground type situation on our hands, but that's not the case here. Not saying there aren't some folks out there who might find this product a little off-putting, but Sonia and I will easily polish off this box.

If you're vegan, gluten-free, or just looking to try something new, these aren't a bad option. $4.99 for three fake fish fillets. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets.




Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers


Since it's almost 300 miles to the nearest White Castle, once in a blue moon, Sonia and I will pick up those frozen White Castle sliders that can be found in most grocery stores and dollar stores in our area. White Castle burgers aren't the best to begin with, but there's a novelty and uniqueness about them that's hard to replicate. And of course the frozen, non-restaurant sliders are just a little less delicious than the originals, but as far as cheap and easy comfort food goes, they aren't bad once in a great while.

I was wondering if Trader Joe's was going for a White Castle vibe with these Mini Cheeseburgers—if the popularity of White Castle's frozen offerings inspired TJ's to offer a similar product. After tasting these for the first time, I'd have to say "NO." Trader Joe's went top shelf in terms of quality meat, cheese, and bread. These burgers are larger than your typical frozen sliders and there's more meat, and everything is a notch higher in terms of quality.


The bread is actually sweet Hawaiian Aloha rolls. There's a small amount of ketchup and relish in a "sauce" mentioned in the ingredients. It's subtle. At first I couldn't even tell there was anything on the burger other than cheese, but the flavors all seemed balanced pretty well. I'm glad I didn't put on any extra condiments before trying the cheeseburger as is, because it honestly didn't need anything. Everything from the seasoning on the meat to the creaminess of the cheese was beyond my expectations.


$4.49 for three small burgers seemed kinda steep at first, but now that I see they're really not that tiny, I think it's a pretty decent value. I can't imagine even the biggest appetites not being satisfied by all three cheeseburgers. Would buy again.

Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers.

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.

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