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Showing posts with label grains breads and cereals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grains breads and cereals. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix

 So listen...yes, it's Halloween in a few days and I hate the seasonal creep as much as anyone else. One holiday at a time. Yes, absolutely, yes. 

But stuffing really shouldn't be relegated to "just Thanksgiving" right? Like, when it's one of the first cold rainy days of the fall, when it's a great day to stay inside, watch some movies, play some games, read some books and snuggle some cats, a little warm stuffing will only do, right?

Such as it was this past weekend, and my lovely bride and I wanted to make one of her mom's classic comfort foods, chicken and stuffing. It's...what it sounds like it is, except with some cream of whatever soup and cheddar cheese all dumped in and mixed up. Not classy, per se, but pretty darn delicious. 

As you guessed by now, we used Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix. 

And you know what? it worked. Everything about the celiac friendly stuffing mix hit all the right buttons. We have no express need to be gluten free so we tend to judge these kinda products a bit closely. Honestly, and I mean this a compliment, I'd have no idea this was sans wheat if I didn't know.

No graininess. No dryness. No weird vibes. Okay, a few bites were a bit granular and sandy, but none so more that can happen with "regular" stuffing. That can be the fault of inadequate mixing more than anything. I'd never think that rice flour were capable of such a thing, but technology these days, I guess, right?

For taste, the stuffing gives off all the right flavors. There's all the savory aspects of chicken broth and celery and pepper and yeah, absolutely, a lot of salt. It's all there. If not making our particular dish, adding some apple slices or raisins like my mom did would have been a nice little touch. 

There's really not much to suggest that the TJ's GF stuffing is all that much different from Stove Top or even a decent homemade variety. It's easy and convenient and delish - all our kiddos gobbled it down and begged for seconds. Winner winner...turkey dinner? Grab some if you see it. $3ish bucks so it's worth it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Stuffing Mix: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, October 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes

Let's can use that oil change. That pile of bills there should probably be looked at. Basement is a mess. That basket of laundry over there isn't gonna take care of itself. Neither will that one...or that one...or that one...


Okay, fine. Sometimes I have a hard time getting around to getting stuff done, alright? Jeez Louise, leave me alone. 

But still that doesn't explain why it took so long for us to get around to giving Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes. 

There's no reason for procrastination here. None. Don't know what a poffertje is? No problem! As the package clarifies right off the bat for you, it's a mini pancake puff! Don't know what to do with them? No issue either! Look at how tasty they look on the package - now that's a serving suggestion if I've ever seen one. Maple flavored anything is a win in our house, and selling our kiddos on the idea of eating little baby pancakes isn't exactly twisting their arm one bit. 

The TJ's-offered poffertjes (say that 5 times fast) are really as about as straightforward as they come. It's a cheap ($3ish?) box full of frozen mini pancake bites. Bake them for less than 10 minutes, or zap them for a minute, and you got a breakfast snacky. My lovely bride and I opted for the oven approach which yielded mounds of warm, crispy outside/floofy inside pancakes just right for one of the last not-too-cold Saturday morning porch breakfasts of the year. 

There's a small little touch of maple. Not much, and it's a bit understated. i actually kind of appreciate that. nutritionally speaking, these are already a bit much of a cluster, no reason to amp it up even more. That little bit of maple sugar in the batter does stand out a smidge. If you'd like, a little more maple syrup atop, or some powdered sugar and berries as suggested, or something else wouldn't be the worst of moves, but eating them as is isn't a bad experience. We like them fair and square. 

As a quick conspiratorial sidenote: they call them puffs and notice the number of calories per serving. Coincidence? Don't think so. Take two and pass. 

Are the poffertjes truly authentic to the real Dutch deal? Don't know for sure, but it's a reasonable tribute at least. Maybe one of these days I'll find out...til then we'll double 4's them. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maple Flavored Poffertjes: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, October 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps

This product has the "nutty, fruity glass shard" effect going on like we've seen once or twice before in Trader Joe's products. And like those other ultra-crunchy, shatters-in-your-mouth kinetic assault snacks, you could theoretically bite sharp angles around the edge of these crisps and use them in the manner of shuriken, kunei or other throwable ninja weapons. Or you can slather them in thick and creamy cheeses to mitigate potential tooth enamel wreckage and bleeding tongue carnage. While the former is conceivably more fun, the latter is distinctively more delicious. But I suppose you're here to find out what they taste like.

Not to be confused with pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, reviewed 8 years ago this month, here we have non-pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin powder, rather than cranberries and pepitas. The pumpkin powder blends with turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a fancy, unique spice profile. The product is fairly spice-forward by my reckoning, particularly when consumed without cheese or dip. There's also a nutty, wheaty blend in the background, complete with golden flax and sunflower seeds. Bright notes of cranberry top the whole thing off for a surprisingly flavorful and interesting snack crisp.

Honestly, as far as taste is concerned, I think these little cracker-esque bites could stand alone without any cheese or condiments of any kind. The problem is they NEED the cheese to help the texture. If they could make a soft version, I'd inhale these things by the handful. 

The flavor, though pleasant and unique, isn't very intense or strong, so even mild cheese has a tendency to overshadow everything going on in the crisp. We tried them with goat chevre and run-of-the-mill unsophisticated cream cheese. Both yielded more or less the same result: a tasty, creamy snack with a faint pumpkin cranberry whisper in the background. There's still a significant crunch-factor, but it's not intolerably intense thanks to the cheese.

Sonia's teeth must be stronger than mine because she plowed through her share pretty quickly. She gives the product four and a half stars. I want to like them that much, but I can't completely get past the rigid texture. So three out of five from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix

A day without learning something is a day wasted, right?

Today, courtesy of Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix, I learned of jollof the dish.

Here's a tl;dr: jollof is a common West African dish with many variations. At its core are three ingredients: rice, stewed tomatoes, and seasonings. Simple...yet a a mainly blank canvas for all sorts of variations and seasonings and spices to tailer to different tastes. A summary Google search refers to jollof as being a "unifying" dish across different cultures - well, why not? Good food will always bring people together, right?

Is the TJ's take authentic? Nah, probably not. I mean, it's a convenience product first and foremost: boil water, add some butter and salt if you're feeling randy, dump in package contents, stir and simmer. There are some little tomatolicious bitey-bites tossed in for good measure so yeah, not quite "stewed" but it gives a similar enough effect.

Really the only big (and real) "complaint" here is a lack of robust flavor. Really, the whole mdish seems understated. Rice with garlic and onions and pepper and whatever else should have a little bit of a vibe to it, but honestly, not so much here. For the most part, the flavor is rather tame. Granted, there's a small, slight spice that kicks in, but it's super mild in the grand scheme. The word "spicy" seems much of an overstatement in both flavor and heat. I'm kinda tempted to add a spalsh of hot sauce to be honest. 

That being said, the jollof isn't's not just overwhelmingly great either. I'd eat it happily enough, both the leftovers we have and any repeat purchase at the $2ish this set us back. But yeah, if I were ever in the position to get real, actual, authentic jollof, I'd be pumped for it, with less hesitation due to lack of familiarity thanks to TJ's here. 

Pick it up for a side dish or even a main course. Each package gives four pretty ample servings. Won't change your world but might help broaden your horizon ever so slightly. Double threes here. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Jollof Seasoned Rice Mix: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, September 20, 2021

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bites

Oatmeal is a hearty, nutritious breakfast and all, but I don't usually think of it as a treat. I mean, sure, oatmeal cookies have been a go-to semi-sweet snack for ages. I guess I want to look at these apple cinnamon oatmeal bites as spherical oatmeal cookies. 
They're kinda like the aebelskivers of the snackable oatmeal world. If you can turn pancakes into spheres, why not oatmeal? Or any other breakfast food for that matter?

Resealable bag? Check. Air fryer instructions? Check. Nine frozen oatmeal balls? Check. Like planet earth, these oatmeal bites are not perfect spheres, but might qualify as "oblate spheroids."

After a spell in the Ninja, the bites are crispy and crusty on the outside and wet and gooey on the inside. The dueling textures make them fun and unique, significantly more interesting than traditional oatmeal.

They have a rich, hearty, grainy taste like regular bowl-bound oatmeal, and there's a pretty decent amount of apple and cinnamon flavor. It's not a desserty flavor by my estimation, though. The flavor is on par with a regular non-spherical apple cinnamon oatmeal. They're not as cookie-esque as I might have hoped. They're more breakfasty in terms of sugary decadence—or rather, a decided lack thereof. That's fine. I kinda wish they were just a taaad sweeter. Would you think me a monster if I added maple syrup or whipped cream or something?

The convenience level is significant, and there's a definite novelty factor here. $3.99 for 3 servings. I think we're looking at about three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Strawberry & Jalapeño Crisps

Good ol' Jim Gaffigan once had a small bit about eating an entire package of something, only to discover not liking how it tasted, so needing to eat a bunch of something else to get the taste out of your mouth. 

It's a little slice of life I can identify with, and while not 100% applicable to the new Trader Joe's Strawberry & Jalapeño Crisps, it kinda came to mind anyways. 

Let's get this out of the way first: these are kinda weird. The dried strawberry bits are very strawberry like, as the dried jalapeños are very jalapeño-like with a little extra jalapeño powder in the mix. The result? A little typical snacky toasty crisp that starts off  sweet and pleasant, before getting pretty hot and spicy on the relative scale for being what it is. Would admit, could use a drink after a few. I think one of my kids licked one and then noped her way right out of it. 

It's a good enough of a bite between the crispy crisp and the dried fruit and pepper. Don't let them get stale or in our case, leave the bag too open for too long in a humid, non-AC'd house, because then they take on somewhat of a sponge feel. 

But, and this is where the Gaffigan gag comes in, there's a bit of a disconnect between the sweet and spicy that the crisp can't bridge by itself, and so as a result I think they're a bit disappointing when consumed solo. The taste and experience is enough to warrant more bites to try and get a handle on it, but not enough to truly enjoy by its lonesome. You need something else to make it work, and in this case I'd say something creamy - goat cheese, some brie, heck maybe even just some regular cream cheese. It's a crisp made for something else after all, so get on it. We happened to somehow have none around the house to really test this theory for ourselves, but I don't see how it could possibly ever fail. 

Good crackers, need a snacking buddy. Something creamy to bridge the gap between sweet and spicy, and something to maybe cool the heat a touch. Otherwise, not bad. For the $4 for a box, I'd give 'em another try as would my lovely bride. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Strawberry & Jalapeño Crisps: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones

This week marks the official astronomical start of summer, and that means it's ice cream season. Admittedly, Sonia is more of the cone aficionado, or "conehead," in our household. I'll usually opt to shovel the confectionery dairy right out of the pint container and into my mouth like a true ice cream glutton, although even I like to give it the cone treatment once in a while.

Eating frozen dessert from a cone feels more like you're at the fair or an amusement park—except you don't have to deal with crowds and wonder if someone will bump into you hard enough to knock the ice cream off the cone and onto the ground. It's a real bummer when that happens. Better to just eat the ice cream cone in your own home where there's fewer people. It's less expensive that way, too. There are also not as many roller coasters, which is unfortunate, because I like roller coasters. But I digress.

The cones are the perfect combination of structural integrity and brittle crispness. That is, they won't snap when you're pressing down a scoop of ice cream onto the top, but they crunch and break away nicely when bitten from an angle. They're pleasantly thick, but not to the point where they're difficult to eat.

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones are lightly sweet, with "organic dark brown sugar" as the primary sweetening ingredient. There's an appetizing wheaty breadiness to them and notes of vanilla in the background. They have just enough flavor of their own that they could honestly be a stand-alone snack food, but they're also understated enough that they won't get in the way of your tasty ice cream, no matter the variety.

$2.29 for a product like this is a pretty decent bargain, considering you'll find non-organic cones in other grocery stores for upwards of $3. We wish they were somehow resealable, although they do throw you a bone and wrap them in two columns rather than one, so if you're not going to eat all 12 cones in one sitting, at least half the dozen of them won't go stale right away.

Apparently, these are seasonal, so pick some up before they disappear if you're interested. They have a fairly long shelf life, so you could probably stock up enough to last until next summer if you're a year-round ice cream consumer.

Looks like four stars a piece again for these organic sugar cones. 

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins

It doesn't seem all that long ago that being relegated to a gluten-free diet for any reason seemed to be a sentence for dry, weird, sawdusty, oddly starchy, or otherwise unpleasant substitutes for usual carby goodies like cakes and breads and whatnot. Seems to me I've tried a lot of them and ugh. For a guy who has no reason other than personal choice to avoid wheat, man, it was something I'd rather not do. 

Fortunately, for all the ways in which the world has not progressed over the years, there's some other ways in which they have. Overall quality of gluten free goodies is absolutely one of them, and I can think of no better example right now than Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins. 

My goodness. Admittedly, I'm not usually much of a muffin-munchin' man, but I know a good one when I taste one, and these are absolutely on point. They're soft and crumbly, a little springy and moist, with an almost melt in your mouth feel. Must be all the fats like sour cream and buttermilk...I mean, seriously, don't look at the nutritional label. Shoot, you looked. No, these are absolutely not health food. Just move along. 

Moving along - and the taste! Getting a good cinnamon cake taste profile down isn't exactly rocket science - brown sugar and cinnamon make such an easy dynamic duo - but there's still much to be appreciated when done well, and that's what we got goin' on here. There's these little cinnamon bits floating around all over the place, which when when tasted give this little extra cinnamony spark, with ample molasses-y brown sugar to back it all up. Deeelish. Combined with the super soft moist texture, these muffins are a real treat. 

Only drawback I can think of is the lack of much topping. I'd love a little crumb topping, or instead of that, having something like apple added in. I mean, these muffins are perfectly tasty alongside a steaming warm cup of coffee as one would imagine, or a cup of cool milk if you're like one of my kiddos, but just a little added extra element would really put them over the top. 

Regardless, kudos to TJ's for finding an incredibly good muffin. It's not just a good gluten-free muffin, it's a great muffin, period, with bonus points for being gluten free. There's always extra credit given to inclusion. Love 'em and for $4 might be tough to beat. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers

Well, here's yet another installment in our somewhat occasional series which I casually call "Oh-Crud-It's-Late-and-I-Need-To-Write-Something-But-We've-Had-Nothing-New-or-Exciting-Recently-That-Hasn't-Been-Reviewed-And-I'm-Too-Tired-And/or-Full-To-Go-to-TJ's-And-I-Could-Do-That-Hot-Truffle-Sauce-Except-I-Never-Want-To-Touch-It-Again-Except-To-Pitch-It-and-That's-Not-It's-Fault-It-Makes-Me-Ill-I'm-Sure-It's-Actually-Quite-Good-But-Not-For-Me-Thanks-Body-What-Else-Do-I-Have-OOOOOOO-Pantry-Staples-FTW."

Clearly it's still a work in progress. 

I'm not particularly amped to write up a review of Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers. I mean...multigrain crackers. Appreciably, they're without hyphen between multi and grain, unlike my intro there. But what is there to really say?

Well, here goes. With a bunch of young kids cramped up in the house, gotta feed them, continually, except not after midnight, like gremlins. They all love what we call "snacky lunch" which is basically deli meat, sliced cheese, crackers, milk, and fruit/veggies. They DEVOUR that. And sometimes that's just our dinner option too for low effort/everyone happy nights. And of course, snacks all day long. Our youngest one munches her way from alarm clock turning green to night night tuck in. other words, we eat a lot of crackers around here, and always need a box on call. 

Is it always TJ"s multigrain crackers? Likely nah, but to be honest I couldn't tell you for sure. I feel like we always have them around, though, ready to go. So maybe? 

And if not maybe we should. I just had a few, actually trying to taste them and not just take them for granted. And (un)surprisingly, they're actually pretty good! There's a lot of earthy grainy goodness, with a touch of onion and salt, sweetened a smidge with added sugar (could do without that), all wrapped up in a light, crispy, crunchy, perfectly snacky cracker. I can see why my kids like them by the handful, and why we're always pairing with some cheddar or dip or even some peanut butter. It's a pretty delicious, vaguely healthyish little disc that serves enough purpose on its own but will happy be a vehicle for whatever else you want to cram on in. 

Couldn't tell you the precise price but I doubt it's more than $3. Inexpensive, high quality, healthyish and tasty - yeah there's no little "Trader Joe's-y" twist to them, but those mentioned values are always at the top of TJ's priorities, and my family's as well when it comes to noshing. So, good work once again, TJ's. The crackers aren't world changing, but keep a box around as we do. You should never take a classic for granted. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Muesli

I must have been about seven or eight years old at the time, but I remember seeing this random cereal commercial that captivated me for some reason. Most advertisements aimed at my age group employed colorful cartoon animals, goofy music, and dippy, childish tag lines, but this TV ad was different. There were European-looking people walking through old villages, misty vineyards and farm fields, and a gravelly-voiced narrator talking about wholesome foods and centuries old traditions.

As Sonia and I chomped away on this Trader Joe's Muesli for breakfast the other day, I tried to describe the commercial to her. I remembered it was "mueslix" with an "x" at the end but wasn't sure of the brand. Sonia didn't remember any such commercial from that era, so I set out to find it on the web so I could not only show it to her, but test the accuracy of my memory from 30+ years ago.

I found it in a matter of seconds. Here it is. Kellogg's Mueslix—which, apparently, they still make. Do any of you remember that commercial? It piqued my curiosity about "mueslix" or "muesli" and stuck with me for decades. It's almost exactly as I'd recalled it.

I'm fairly certain I've had Kellogg's Mueslix a few times in my life, as well as at least one other brand. This Trader Joe's version is pretty much on par with all the other mueslis, with perhaps a few changes and unique aspects. I like the use of "caramelized pear juice concentrate" as a sweetener. It's used subtly here. This cereal is not overly sweet at all. In fact, I wouldn't mind just a hint more of that pear juice as well as larger and more plentiful dried apple pieces. The raisins are represented adequately, however. I feel like dried apple pieces are a little bit more exciting than raisins, though, but I won't really complain.

I like pumpkin seeds okay, but wasn't thrilled to find them in this mix here. Sliced almonds were welcome but too scarce in my opinion. There's honestly just too much of the plain old oats. I mean, oats are great and all, but they need a little something to make them more exciting. We're not horses here, Trader Joe's. Also, I'm not sure coconut shavings belong in muesli. They seem a bit too exotic and out of place for something old-timey European folks could just grab out of a barrel and throw into their breakfast melange.

This muesli works as a plain cold cereal with milk or you can add it to yogurt and whatever to create some decent overnight oats. I'm sure it would be okay mixed with oat milk and heated in the manner of traditional oatmeal, too, although we declined to try it that way. If it's not quite sweet enough for you, it would mix well with a spoonful of honey or two.

It cost in the ballpark of four dollars if memory serves correctly. Can't find the receipt at the moment. The wifey liked it significantly more than I did. Three stars from me. Four from her.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Italian Panettone

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't supposed to be born into a big Italian family. I'd never even heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes until a couple days ago, after watching the 2018 indie film by the same name. Seven types of fish and seafood all on the same day? Yes, please. I like the way you Italians roll.

Likewise, I'm becoming more and more fond of the panettone each year, thanks mostly to Trader Joe's. This is the fifth type of panettone product we've reviewed on this blog, and I don't think I've disliked any of them. They're tasty, festive, and Christmassy. Look, you can even hang this one on your tree. It's an ornament and a snack all in one.

Like the other panettones I've tried, this one is made with soft, supple, lightly sweet, slightly buttery bread. But this one's gluten-free! Goodness. I'm almost always stating that Trader Joe's gf products taste great but have a weird texture. Not this one. The texture here is amazeballs. I probably wouldn't have even guessed it was gluten-free if I hadn't known any better.

There's a good bit of packaging around the product. Maybe it's overkill, but it keeps the bread remarkably fresh. There's the decorative outer cardboard box, then there's a cellophane wrapper within, and finally, there's a cupcake-esque muffin liner on the bottom and sides of the panettone.

The product is spongy and pleasantly moist. The bread alone would make a great little treat, but there are "golden raisins" and teensy bits of candied orange peel scattered throughout the loaf to make it even more interesting. The sweetness level is probably on par with a breakfast muffin, rather than a dessert like cake or cupcakes. In fact I had my panettone for my breakfast yesterday, and it was the perfect size and density to serve as a morning meal.

At $1.99, it's plenty affordable. If you've got anybody with a gluten-free diet on your Christmas list, this product has Sonia's seal of approval and mine as well. The original glutenful version is still available, but the taste and texture of this one doesn't suffer much if at all for want of wheat or gluten. Four Christmas stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Bread

Versatility. Adaptability. Flexibility. 

If nothing else, 2020 has shown us that we need to be able to change along with challenging times. Case in point: what the NHL did with the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. Two "bubble" cities, Toronto and Edmonton, hosted the eastern and western conference playoff games, respectively. All team players, coaches, support staff, and arena employees were isolated from the public at large and stayed within a "bubble" connected to the arena which included living quarters, training facilities, and of course, the hockey rinks where they played.

Two southern cities, Tampa and Dallas, made it to the finals—another sign of changing times, with the Lightning taking home the Stanley Cup this past Monday night. Along with other major sports, it's a little strange seeing very few or no fans at all in the arena's seats. Furthermore, the finals took place in September this year, whereas they almost always take place in June. So kudos to my favorite sports league for their amazing ability to adapt.

Something else that's versatile and adaptable? This bread. 

It's great as a stand-alone product. I was perfectly fine eating it with nothing but a thin glaze of butter. In fact, I think that's how I ate most of the pieces.

If you want to turn it into something desserty, just give it the cinnamon toast treatment. It's already just a little sweet and it has some cinnamon and other spices, but if you add a bit of your own cinnamon and sugar, it instantly becomes a confectionary treat. Also try pumpkin butter or pumpkin cream cheese for sweeter options.

It also works great for sandwiches. There's nothing so "pumpkin pie" about it that it would clash with any basic sandwich combos. It just adds a good bit in the texture department.

In fact, Sonia and I both think that's this bread's strongest feature—the texture. There are pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds baked right into the loaf. Also, there are "cinnamon bits." I'm not sure exactly what those are or if they're adding any detectable crunch to the mixture, but the mouthfeel of this bread is extremely unique. 

The flavor is nutty, lightly sweet from honey and sugar, and there's just a whisper of pumpkin spices—most prominently cinnamon—in the background. There's also real pumpkin puree, although I don't think it affects the flavor in any big way. The ingredients are organic and the nutrition info looks pretty solid, too.

Whereas some pumpkin products straddle the line between "pumpkin pie" and "harvest pumpkin squash" and get lost somewhere in the middle in our opinions, we found this product, at least potentially, to flaunt the best of both worlds.

$3.99 for the loaf. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread

Over these past few crazy months, I've come to realize that a quality metric I use to judge how my day is going is how much I play Candy Crush on my phone. That's kinda my default "bored, don't feel motivated, nothing else going on" thing to do, so needless to say, the more Candy Crush I play on a given day, the usually more kinda blah day it is. And i won't say what level I'm on, but there's four digits and the first one is kinda curvy. So yeah, not so great these past few months. 

My lovely bride also plays a fair amount of Candy Crush, but apparently also likes some other game called Kitchen Craze or something along those lines. I'm not sure of the point of the game - seems even more arbitrary than matching three same colored candies to make stuff go boom - but when playing she'll tap to cook stuff, serve customers, do dishes, deal with crappy tips. I guess you try not to burn stuff and run some sort of functional restaurant and serve all sorts of food, including some Brazilian-inspired cheese rolls which I had no other frame of reference for until picking up Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread.

There's more involved to prepping them than just tapping your smartphone screen. Of course, we'll see how that comment ages over the next decade or so... but anyways. A frozen dozen comes boxed up and ready to plop on a baking sheet, just heat at 350 degrees for a few minutes, and done. You can even crush some candies while doing so if you want. 

Oddly, I'm in the minority of my family for the TJ's Brazilian cheese bread. Everyone else loves them, Both Sandy and our verifiable troop of kiddos gobbled them down for lunch the other day, yumming and oohing and aahing. Our five year old also made her own PB&J's with them, which strikes me as fairly weird but she was happy. But me? Ehhhhhhh....

There's just this odd taste to them that develops about midway thru your third bite. I'm not sure how to explain it. But it's kinda funky and bitter and dour and not exactly gag inducing, but is kinda unwelcome. Sandy posits it has something to do with how the tapioca flour and Parmesan interplay. Maybe, but I side with it being more towards eggs and white pepper that seem off. Maybe it's all four of them, maybe just three, maybe she's just right (as usual)...but still. It's just when I would expect the flavor to start going towards warmy carby cheesy comfort, I instead get a mouthful of questions. 

It's kinda a shame. Otherwise these are some pretty tasty treats. The first few bites, before that funk comes into play, are on point with its doughy Parmesan taste. If every bite tasted like the first few, I could probably nosh on these all day. Each piece is roughly golf ball sized, and when baked have a slightly crispy, not greasy exterior that quickly gives way to a soft, chewy inside. There's so much Parmesan around too that's impossible to get a bite without any, even if you tried. These are some excellent bites in that regard, I just wish they stayed that way. Maybe if I had some sauce to dip them in, I'd like 'em better. 

Since everyone else loved them and they're at a reasonable price ($3 to $4) I'm thinking it'll be a likely repurchase despite my misgivings. I mean, whatever works these days, right? Even if I won't be the one crushing them. Meh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Trader Joe's Ginger Turmeric Granola

"It is frequently asserted that somewhere between 75 and 95 % of what we commonly think of as taste actually comes from the sense of smell. However, empirical evidence in support of such a precise-sounding quantitative claim is rarely, if ever, cited."

So says no less an authority than the Flavour Journal. They sound pretty legit, or legit enough to be the top result if you Google something like "how much is smell a part of taste," so you know what? I'm just gonna roll with it. Makes sense - if I'm a little stuffed up, food doesn't seem to have the same flavor as it usually does, but that's not to say that smell is the only, or sometimes even the most reliable, indicator of taste. 

Mentioning all of this because of Trader Joe's Ginger Turmeric Granola, in the slight offchance you haven't gotten that figured out by now. In my legitimately faulty memory, I'm not sure if I've even been taken aback so much by the initial aroma of a product when first opening the package, just because of it being so unexpected. This granola smells strong and pungent and, well, super-de-duper gingery. Add in some wafts of turmeric (it's palpable) and it's almost more like a curry-type smell. There's no other option for it to smack the ol' olfactories, which is really kinda bizarre to say for a granola, of all things.

Yet...that's not exactly how the taste plays out.

Both the ginger and the turmeric seem to be held in check by the earthy crunch of the rolled oats, and the respective sweetnesses of the brown rice syrup and coconut pieces balance it all out pretty well. That's not to say that some ginger burn doesn't sneak thru here or there, because it does, but not as much as I presumed from initial impression. The turmeric adds more of a warmth than a flavor punch as well. 

As proof it can't be strongly spicy or harsh or anything, my youngest kiddo likes it. She's the first to blush at anything remotely spicy. If she can handle it, so can you. 

As it's getting cooler finally and summer fades into fall, I kinda see this being a seasonal kinda treat. It tastes autumnal without going the pumpkin spice or maple route. Splash in some milk, add some banana, sprinkle in some know, however you usually do yogurt and it'll likely work just fine. I'd recommend giving it a try for the $4ish bucks it set back, and hopefully you'll find it up to snuff as well. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ginger Turmeric Granola: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins

Cauliflower thins...cauliflower thins....cauliflower thins...need to get the cauliflower thins....TJ's didn't have the cauilflower thins...cauliflower thins....

Despite my lovely bride's insistence that I don't listen all the time, that's something I kept hearing the past few weeks. Need to try the Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins. I will admit I never looked them up either, so I kinda presumed they were a like a cracker-type deal. We've had cauliflower-based snackers like those before, and our kids love 'em and we don't mind them, so it was plausible to me.

Nah. Cauiflower thins are "a delicious & versatile bread substitute," so it's something along the lines of cauliflower crust pizza, except in smaller form.

One thing to get outta the way: I strongly dislike the the word thins as a plural. To me, the word "thin" will always be more of an adjective than a noun. If I ever slip a -g on the end, and my admittedly lazy editing process doesn't catch it, I apologize in advance.

Anyways, as far as these non-carb breadlike discs go, the thins are okay. The ingredients state, in order, that they're mainly comprised of cauliflower, eggs and Parmesan cheese, yet somehow the cauli-coasters don't taste like any of them, really. Granted, cauliflower doesn't really taste like anything, and the other two may be more binding agents than anything, I guess...? Instead, its vaguely bread-like matter that seems a bit dense but kinda doughy, and pretty vaguely flavored. Nutritious, though. In some ways, I kinda imagine that this is what manna would be like. I'd get sick of it within 40 days, for sure, much less 40 years. Hard to describe. They're...there, but not much else can easily be described.

As far as versatility goes, I'd imagine there would be some. Sandy and I toasted ours up for an egg sandwich, and instead of breaking, the thins happily bent and curved like a taco. It'd be hard to imagine them getting crispy, but then again, anything's possible. See: 2020.

I'd love more time to experiment, but alas, an issue: Out of the four pack, even though we were several days before the best by date, two of them got slightly moldy, so into the trash. Not happy about that, but it happens, and something to watch for. On the bright side, that gives you, our reader, plenty of opportunity to chime in with how you've enjoyed yours. Hit us up.

There ya have it. TJ's cauli-thinny-things. I'm sure if we were going keto or back to paleo they may be higher on the list, but as a guy who generally prefers to drink and not eat his carbs, I can have a little appreciation for what they are. Somewhere around a three from both of us sounds right.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins: 6 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.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Trader Joe's Some Enchanted Cracker

Whenever I hear the word "enchanted," no, I don't think of the 2007 Disney musical starring Amy Adams—I think of The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. You know, the one from Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox has to get his parents to hook up so he'll eventually be born in the future so then later he can go back to the past and, you know, get his parents to hook up? And that, in turn, makes me think of one of the funniest stand-up bits I've seen in a long time. There are some swears, so I guess it's NSFW, although now that everybody works from home, we don't have our bosses standing over our shoulder judging us for whatever we're watching online, right? If you're working on company equipment, however, you can better bet they're monitoring every keystroke, every time-wasting YouTube video, and every unsolicited Zoom call or Hangouts convo or whatever nonsense you do to waste time when you're supposed to be working. If you're reading this blog, for example, you can be darn sure they know about it. Big Brother and all that—which is where society at large is heading anyway these days.

Wow. That's some aimless rabbit-trailing right there. Where was I? Ah yes, The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. That makes me think of tuna fish. Tuna's something enchanting from under the sea, right? And tuna salad goes excellent with these enchanting crackers. There. I think that's the connection I was trying to make.

Know what else goes with these crackers? Lotsa stuff. Just about any cheese you might have on hand, cream cheese spreads, smoked salmon, chicken salad, cold cuts, veggies, name it.

The crackers are super versatile and highly snackable. They're flavorful enough to eat on their own, but the flavors are fairly neutral, so they don't clash with any particular type of flavor you might want to add to them. The dominant taste of the crackers is nutty and wheaty. There are three types of seeds present: flax, sesame, and also poppy—so, you know, don't eat them right before a drug test. They're lightly sweet and moderately salty.

Trader Joe's Some Enchanted Cracker multigrain crackers are larger than, say, your typical Ritz type butter cracker, and they're even more crumbly. The larger size is nice for stacking multiple toppings and creating top-shelf, gourmet-looking appetizers. Or you can easily create the cracker equivalent of a Dagwood sandwich.

I'd never ever use the word "enchanted" to describe something as mundane as a cracker. But as hors d'oeuvres go, I guess this is about as enchanting as it gets. Apparently, these crackers were available at Trader Joe's at least six years ago, and they may have been discontinued and reinstated once or twice. They were available on our last TJ's run, and honestly, this is the very first time we've had them. Might be a repeat purchase. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 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

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