Google Tag

Search This Blog

Showing posts with label lunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lunch. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Egg Salad


Sonia loves eggs. Maybe not every morning, but most mornings, the first things she'll do after getting up is fire up the coffee maker and grab a few eggs from the fridge. Within minutes she's sipping java and making an egg sandwich with cheese or some sort of omelette.

Me? I like eggs, but I kinda have to be in a certain mood. If I force myself to eat eggs when I'm not hungry for them, I get a little nauseous. But every once in a while I get a specific hankering, and in those instances only eggs will hit the spot. I'm weird like that.


It's a similar situation with egg salad and egg salad sandwiches. If we're traveling and we stop for gas at any random convenience store, Sonia will gravitate toward an egg salad sandwich, if available, more often than not. But it's usually pretty low on my list of preferences...unless I've got that craving.

One thing we do agree upon: this egg salad is not very good. It's bland. It lacks richness, creaminess, and flavor. It tastes and feels watery. Things like mayonnaise and mustard are listed in the ingredients, but they simply don't show up in the flavor of the product, so we wound up adding our own. We both tasted something similar to dill in the egg salad, but there's no "dill" mentioned on the packaging. We're perplexed on that one.


This isn't the first sub-par egg salad we've seen from TJ's. The Spicy Ranchero Egg White Salad comes to mind. I thought maybe egg yolks would help but apparently not. They're 0-2 as far as egg salad is concerned.

Now chicken salad, on the other hand, is a different story entirely.

If we lived any closer to a Trader Joe's, I think this might have been a "no-hassle refund" type situation. As it stands, we'll probably just force ourselves to finish this tub. I mean, it's edible, but this is most definitely not a repeat purchase. Sonia's score: 5/10. Nathan's score: 4/10



Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Salmon Burgers


This ain't our first ride at the Trader Joe's brand salmon rodeo. At a quick glance, we've reviewed around 20 salmon items throughout the years, including salmon bacon, salmon pastrami, a salmon poke bowl, not one but TWO kinds of salmon jerky, and even salmon with Everything but the Bagel pre-applied.


You can dig around those old reviews on the blog yourself if you're interested. Some of those salmon offerings were among the very best Trader Joe's products we've ever seen and others were among the very worst. But it's moot point, really. The vast majority of those fishy morsels have gone the way of the dodo as so many of TJ's items do eventually. Oddly, these salmon burgers have been around quite a while and yet we've never taken an official look. Let's change that...now.

$7.49 gets you four frozen fish pucks of boneless, skinless Alaskan salmon. It's good quality fish and the portions are adequate. As per usual, the stove top heating instructions are wildly inaccurate and not even worth reading. I just kept flipping the discs every few minutes until the meat tanned a bit and started darkening in a few spots. I think I had them on medium heat for about 20-25 minutes by the time it was all said and done.

In terms of "fishiness," I feel like it's definitely a stronger flavor than, say, mahi mahi. But for those of us that like the taste of fish, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I made a sauce with mayo, sriracha, lemon juice, and garlic powder that went great with them. I used pretzel bread rolls and feta cheese, too. We were fresh out of greens at the time, otherwise I would have tossed a big stack of arugula on the sandwich to make the ultimate fish burger.

Sonia raved about them served that way. She's down for four and a half stars and a repeat purchase. I think they're worthy of four stars and a thumbs up. If you're one of those folks that doesn't like fishy fish, I'd steer you towards the above-mentioned mahi mahi burgers, but I don't think I've seen those around lately. So...maybe some other kind of white fish would do the trick. But if you don't mind fish that tastes like fish, I think Trader Joe's Premium Salmon Burgers are a great, convenient choice.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People 10th Anniversary Edition

Breaking news! It's back...for a limited time only. Get your 10 Year Anniversary Edition Dog Food...For People while supplies last!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Trader Joe's Corn & Cheese Arepas


Sometimes I just have to rant about Trader Joe's preparation instructions. I recently saw a tweet, or an X post—or whatever the heck we're calling those now—from a similarly frustrated dude, and it read: Man, Trader Joe's really is just guessing at the cook times huh? Truer words were never spoken. How that tweet only got one like, I'm not sure. We can't be the only ones.

Throughout the years, I've had plenty of folks indicate that indeed TJ's heating directions are often way off the mark—usually on the short end of the spectrum. And still others have taken it upon themselves to tell me that Trader Joe's is right and that I'm a blithering idiot. That's fine. I'm no culinary wizard. That's no secret. It could be user error to some degree, for sure.


But in this case, following the stovetop instructions to a T, I wound up with a product that was still frozen solid in the middle. I mean the outer portions of the corn cakes were browning and wanting to stick to the pan and the middle portions were like a cornbread and cheese flavored popsicle. I mean, I didn't eat it that way, of course. I threw it into the oven and tried heating it through on a cookie sheet.

Fortunately, it worked. After a spell in the oven, the griddle cakes were nice and brown and just lightly crispy in a few places, and the cheese in the middle melted beautifully to the point where the cakes wanted to slide off the top a little.

The taste? It's a grilled cheese sandwich made with cornbread instead of wheat or white. We've got a large slab of soft, creamy mozzarella cheese in between two griddle cakes made of corn—not a far cry from American cornbread. It's slightly sweet, dense, and filling. The overall vibe falls somewhere in between home-cooked comfort food and something you'd get from a street vendor.


Why is this not a thing here in the states? It's not even really a thing in Mexico. ¿Por que? This treat comes all the way from South America, Colombia in particular. I love it. I want more.

$3.49 for two big arepas. Gluten free. Would definitely buy again. I recommend either thawing completely before heating on the skillet or using the conventional oven heating method. Apparently there are makeshift air fryer heating instructions floating around in cyberspace. I would have gone that route had I realized it beforehand. Anyhoo, four and a half stars from me. Four stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Corn & Cheese Arepas.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Trader Joe's Chicken Burrito Bowl


Well, this product looks a bit like the recently-reviewed Chicken Shawarma Bowl. It's still a microwavable serving of poultry straight outta the Great White North, but now we've got Mexican-style burrito ingredients instead of Middle Eastern cuisine. Hey, at least we're on the right continent this time around.


And while this isn't the most flavorful burrito con pollo I've ever tried, I'll give it an "A" for effort and a passing grade if you're hungry, on a budget, and/or pressed for time. At $3.49, this product is significantly less expensive than any comparable offering from Chipotle, Qdoba, or Moe's Southwest Grill. It's also not quite as tasty and obviously not fresh, but sometimes those are necessary sacrifices for those of us living life in the fast lane.

Just 4-5 minutes in the microwave yields a piping hot single-serving meal with plenty of chicken, rice, quinoa, and bits of tomato, corn, and pepper. It's not a terrible dish by any means, but it lacks that piquant kick that an authentic burrito provides. We've got some chili powder and chipotle pepper paste in the ingredients, but those flavors are way too faint in the final mixture.

Even if you're not looking for something spicy, you'll want to dress this bowl up if you can with more sour cream and cheese. If you're consuming this product at home like me, it might be prudent to break out some tortillas, lettuce, and salsa and make little tacos with this as the base. You could probably stretch the single bowl to at least two servings that way while greatly improving the taste at the same time.

If I still worked in cubicle-land, I'd consider buying this product once in a while for a work lunch, provided I could slather it with Tapatio, Cholula, or Texas Pete. Let's be nice and say three and a half stars a piece on Trader Joe's Chicken Burrito Bowl.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Trader Joe's Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage


Truth be told, I'm not really a sausage guy. I'll do an all beef sausage on occasion—or like in this case, chicken—but I'm very picky about both the taste and texture. If I can detect any kind of casing or skin on the sausage, I'll nope out pretty quickly.

Fortunately, there's nothing like that here. The ingredients are remarkably short and simple. They're called "breakfast sausages" but Sonia and I found them to be quite versatile. You can see in our picture we used them as a pizza topping.


There's just enough maple flavor that you don't have to guess at all what it is that's making them sweet, but the taste of maple isn't so overwhelming that you can't use the sausage as an ingredient in pizza, pasta, omelettes, or vegetable hash. There's not a lot in the way of traditional sausage seasonings, and that's one of the reasons I like these, although lovers of classic sausage might feel differently.

I mean, they're fine by themselves or as part of a typical breakfast platter. We just didn't consume them that way for the most part. We were surprised how much sausage was actually in the package. They lasted us a good long time. We always sliced them up into little discs before heating rather than having them hot dog style, which I think helped cook the meat more evenly.


$4.69 for a dozen mapley chicken sausages. Hormone and antibiotic free. All natural. Fully cooked. Three and a half stars from Sonia, four stars from me for Trader Joe's Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Trader Joe's Chicken Shawarma Bowl


Since this isn't the first shawarma product we've reviewed from Trader Joe's, I've given my spiel about chicken shawarma already. See: Trader Joe's Shawarma Chicken Thighs and Trader Joe's Shawarma Chicken Flatbread Wrap.

I found both of those products fell just shy of the mark for two completely different reasons, but neither was terrible, either. Roro's set the bar pretty high as my reference point for chicken shawarma. Trader Joe's has yet to offer anything truly outstanding in my book. But if they release 30 shawarma products this year, then you can bet I'll try all 30 and review them right here on this blog.


At any rate, I opted to heat this little bowl in the big bakey box rather than the microwave. It involves 40 minutes in the conventional oven, as compared to just five minutes when nuked. There's an arctic blast in effect as I compose this review, and we can use every Btu of heat we can get in the house right now.

In addition to shawarma chicken, we've got basmati rice, veggies, and a garlic sauce. None of the elements were particularly flavorful, nor did they approximate genuine Middle Eastern cuisine. Real shawarma bursts with the bright taste of yogurt and citrus, while this meat was dull and bland. The creamy garlic sauce was similar to the delightful Trader Joe's Garlic Spread Dip, but it wasn't quite as thick or delicious, and predictably, there wasn't nearly enough of it.

The chicken and rice was fine, texture-wise, though part of the appeal of real shawarma is the very thinly-sliced, nearly shredded format of the chicken, rather than bite-sized cubes. Also, I found the tomato pieces to be too large and squishy. I'm not a huge fan of raw tomato, though I'm usually okay when they're cooked like this. The spinach and peppers were hardly noticeable.

To call this a shawarma "fail" might be too strong a word. I'll call it another "missed opportunity." $3.99 for the single serving meal. Product of Canada..? Interesting. Stick to maple syrup, you Canucks. Two and a half stars from me. Three stars from the beautiful wifey on Trader Joe's Chicken Shawarma Bowl.



Bottom line: 5.5 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 SalvadoreƱos 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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche


Eleven years ago, Sonia and I did our very first video review on Trader Joe's Mexicaine Quiche, a comparable product to this one with similar packaging and preparation instructions. The dish didn't exactly wow us, so for the most part, we've avoided Trader Joe's quiche offerings for the past decade.

Although, I must admit, I had completely forgotten about odd little items like this one, which were similarly underwhelming and unmemorable. But even so, at long last, it is time to give TJ's quiche another whirl. This time, it's the broccoli and cheddar variety.


There's plenty of egg and cheese here. The crust is nice and crumbly. It's slightly buttery and supple. Somehow, I feel this product flaunts a tastier spice blend than some of its predecessors. It certainly isn't spicy per se, but there's a nice overall flavor, which some of the other quiches lacked. There's onion in there, which helps, but as far as actual herbs and spices, all I'm seeing is garlic, salt, and pepper. In my humble opinion, it's enough—although, a few dabs of hot sauce can't hurt, either.

There are large chunks of broccoli here and there, which can be a little stringy. The bites that contained very small bits of broccoli were better texture-wise, and I think more finely-chopped veggies would have helped distribute the greens around the dish more evenly.


$2.99 for the single serving quiche. It's nothing to write home about, but I definitely don't hate it, either. It makes a more interesting breakfast than toaster pastries or cereal, I suppose. I don't know if I'd seek this product out again, but if I found it in the back of my freezer, I'd happily fire up the oven and eat it without complaint. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Quiche.



Bottom line: 7 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.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Squiggly Noodles


It's funny how many Americans don't think of noodles as top-shelf, sought-after dinner fare. I know my personal bias thinks of cheap Maruchan or Top Ramen from the good old college days. They were in the ballpark of 20¢ a pack back then, and most of us that ate them did so out of necessity rather than choice. But considering the cost, the noodles weren't terrible, and the powder packets not only turned a cup of water into a savory flavored broth, but they delivered nearly a whole day's worth of sodium, too. I still eat that stuff from time to time, but as far as noodles go, it's what most of us are familiar with, and sadly, it's the bottom of the barrel.


Asian cultures on the other hand, hold noodle dishes in high esteem. Japan's ramen scene, in particular, is fascinating to Sonia and me. If you don't know what we're talking about, check out The Ramen Girl for your next romantic movie night. We've been to a couple decent ramen restaurants, too, here in the states, which Sonia is a huge fan of.

These noodles are Trader Joe's take on Momofuku and are indeed squiggly, soft, and slightly chewy. I found the texture more palatable when cooked for just a bit longer than the four minutes mentioned in the heating instructions. They contain a significant amount of sodium, as well, boasting 920 mg per serving, probably mostly from the sesame and soy sauce packet.


The sauce is just barely enough to thinly coat the noodles in each pack. When munching on the noodles alone, we both wanted a lot more of the sesame and soy sauce combo. It's pretty much just salty like soy sauce with a faint whisper of sweet from the sesame. If you were going to prepare a big fancy dish with veggies and meat along with these noodles, the sauce could easily be substituted with something else or forgotten about entirely. But as a stand-alone dish, the noodles are fairly dependent upon the sauce for flavor.

As a base for a larger, more elaborate meal, we both think these would be great. As a snack in and of themselves, these packs aren't exactly stellar. The noodles are high-quality enough, but nobody wants to eat plain noodles, and the sauce just doesn't do enough by itself. There's not even a broth for these noodles to bathe in.


$4.99 for four packs of squiggly noodles. We probably wouldn't buy these again unless we had a very specific recipe we were going to follow. As stated above, I'm sure these would make an excellent base for a big Asian meal, but we tend to score things on what they are and not what they could potentially be. Three out of five stars from me. Three and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Squiggly Noodles.



Bottom line: 6.5 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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup


I hadn't had a decent Asian meal in quite a while, so I thought, what the heck? Let's try some Trader Joe's Pho to see what they've done with the classic Vietnamese noodle soup.

It heats in the microwave from frozen in just six minutes, and unless you wanna get fancy, you can just eat it straight from the plastic bowl for a quick lunch. As the product emerged from the microwave, I detected an unusual potpourri-esque smell. Was that cinnamon and nutmeg in there? I haven't had real pho in a hot minute, but I certainly don't remember the soup smelling like a pumpkin spice candle.


The taste of the soup wasn't as strong in terms of the spices. In fact, it was fairly bland, although there was a hint of fennel. The noodles were slightly chewy, stiff, and mostly flavorless. The meat was excessively fatty for my taste. In a way, the veggies were the best part of the soup, but they were far and few between. I wouldn't have minded more bean sprouts and onions in the mix.

Something spicy was in order. Lacking freshly-sliced jalapeƱos as the "serving suggestion" depicts, I opted for sriracha sauce. Can't go wrong there. But even generous dollops of my second-favorite condiment couldn't completely redeem this Asian-inspired soup.

I hadn't remembered at the time of purchase, but we did look at a previous iteration of Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup about 12 years ago. It was packaged differently back then and was likely from a different supplier, as this current cover boasts "Product of Canada" on the box while the previous version did not. We weren't completely bowled over by that last beef pho, but if anything, this rendition is a step in the wrong direction.

Sonia doesn't think this soup is that bad, but then she's never had real pho. She wasn't a fan of the chewy beef either, but she enjoyed the broth and noodles more than I did. Her portion sat around for 5 or 10 minutes longer than mine did, thus causing the rice noodles to soften a bit.

$3.69 for the single serving bowl. I would not buy again. The beautiful wifey is on the fence. Two stars from me for Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

You Might Like: