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Showing posts with label not bad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not bad. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2024

Trader Giotto's Family Style Meat Lasagna


"This tastes just like Stouffer's lasagna, back when Stouffer's was actually good," remarked Sonia. And although I can't remember if I ever had Stouffer's frozen lasagna in the 80s or 90s, I can kinda guess what the beautiful wifey's talking about. This tastes like really good institutional type lasagna. Think: top-notch college dining commons or expensive prep school cafeteria or maybe even all-you-can-eat Vegas casino buffet on a day when the new line cook who really cares about his job is running the show back in the kitchen.


The only thing better is homemade. Or maybe like a decent mom and pop's Italian restaurant could outdo this Trader Joe's selection, but I mean, it's not really fair to compare this with something some super Italian grandma makes for her loved ones. Not that we're experts, but we'd both probably say it's among the best frozen lasagna we've ever had.


I wish there were more ricotta cheese and more garlic flavor. But there's plenty of pasta sheets and tomato sauce. A lot of folks might say there's not enough meat in this product, but Sonia and I were fine with the amount in the sauce. We wish it were only beef rather than beef and pork, but that's probably not an issue for most folks unless they're kosher or halal.

$6.99 for a huge amount of tasty lasagna. Would possibly buy again, and would definitely try an all-beef version. Product of Canada. Shout out to Trader Guido...I mean Trader Giotto. We've missed you. Nathan's score: 7/10. Sonia's score: 8/10.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Boba Mochi


I like my women like I like my boba mochi: brown and petite, soft and sweet.

But seriously though, the texture of these little mochi balls is on point. Sonia calls them "pillowy," and she's not wrong. They're just so super soft and squishy in the best way possible. They have a typical flexible rice-based shell dusted with a starchy powder, then the filling is like a creamy goo—slightly stiffer than, say, red bean paste, but still velvety and mushy. In the center is a gelatinous tapioca-based ball like you'd find at the bottom of a cup of boba tea. Texture-wise, these treats are near-perfect.


As far as flavor is concerned, they're not bad, but they're not the flavor explosion I was hoping they'd be. There's definitely some brown sugar sweetness in there, but I was hoping the filling would be just a little richer. Boba balls generally don't pack a lot of punch as far as taste is concerned. They just provide a fun texture to whatever beverage they find themselves in, with said beverage providing most of the flavor.

Without going overboard, I think these snacks might have benefited from a layer of caramel or some kind of sugary syrup to enhance the brown sugar taste. Sonia thinks a spicy chai flavor would have worked here. I agree.


There's a lot of packaging involved. They come in a non-resealable bag with an oxygen absorber/desiccant, but each mochi is individually wrapped. That must be how the texture stays so amazing.

$2.99 for about a dozen small mochi snacks. Gluten free. Product of Taiwan. Would possibly buy again. Sonia's score: 8/10. Nathan's score: 7/10.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Japchae Stir Fry


Sweet potato noodles sounded tasty, so I decided to check these out. They're sweet potato glass noodles, in fact. I'm assuming the name came from the appearance since they're translucent and do indeed look like thin shards of orange-tinted glass.

Never had japchae before. Apparently, it's a Korean dish, and it's actually pronounced like "chap-chay." It's often served with meat, which I could have added, but in the end I decided to just stick with the included veggies: spinach, onions, carrots, and red and green bell peppers.


It took 10 minutes on the stove top with medium-high heat instead of the prescribed three. Surprise, surprise. The dish is perfectly edible all by itself but I did have most of my portion with a bit of soy sauce. The sodium content is already significant...so I probably should have just gone without.

The noodles were soft, stretchy, and chewy, yet somewhat delicate, too. They were quite thin and very easy to eat with chopsticks. The veggies were all crisp and felt fairly fresh despite having been recently frozen. The only exception might have been a leaf or two of spinach that had extremely tough stems, which I simply removed.


$3.49 for the 2 serving package. Sonia and I both liked the taste and texture of the noodles quite a bit, though they're not particularly filling. Some folks who know the dish claim it's kinda sorta authentic, others say not so much. Sonia would definitely buy this item again. I think I might, too. Four stars from the beautiful wifey, three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Japchae Korean Sweet Potato Glass Noodles & Vegetable Stir Fry.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Sandwiches


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

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


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

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


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



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo


The first five years of my life or so were spent in Hershey, just blocks from Hersheypark, Chocolate World, and the old chocolate factory. My family kept in touch with a few folks in the town for many years after, so we'd find ourselves there quite often even after having moved away. You'd frequently smell cocoa wafting through the air of the affluent Pennsylvania neighborhood, and of course much of the local economy revolved around the chocolate industry.

Even in a town about an hour away, it was hard to escape the influence of Hershey and their world-famous chocolate brand. Thanks to some food sensitivities, I wasn't allowed much, if any, chocolate in my early years. Nevertheless, as I was treated for and grew out of said intolerances, I was heavily exposed to Hershey's chocolate and Hershey's syrup as I grew up and they naturally became my reference points for all things chocolatey.


We've frequently been criticized for comparing Trader Joe's chocolate products to Hershey's since, in the opinion of many chocolate snobs, Hershey's isn't that great compared to, say, European chocolate. In fact, foreign chocolate connoisseurs are often inclined to say that Hershey's tastes like literal vomit. But I digress. All that to say I'll be comparing this syrup primarily to Hershey's because I'm not all that familiar with any other brands.

Let's start with the ingredients. Hershey's kicks things off with high fructose corn syrup. It could still be those childhood food allergies lingering around, but my body hates HFCS. Trader Joe's syrup uses organic cane sugar. Good stuff. From there, the ingredients in Hershey's get even more unpronounceable and artificial, while Trader Joe's sticks with organics and basics.

Still, I think I like the taste of Hershey's a little better than this Trader Joe's chocolate syrup. It's sad, but I think my palate is just used to consuming chemicals, dyes, and fake stuff. Hershey's is a bit sweeter and thinner, both of which make it just a tad more chuggable. Trader Joe's syrup is a "darker" cocoa and it has a heavier consistency, which makes it harder to dissolve in milk. It's much more optimized for topping vanilla ice cream or other desserts in my humble opinion.

TL;DR—Trader Joe's Midnight Moo uses much higher quality ingredients than Hershey's but there's still something familiar about the old standby that makes it taste slightly better to me.

$3.99 for the squeeze bottle. Apparently this product was around years ago, got discontinued, and then came back again somewhat recently. Would I buy again? Maybe. I think it's growing on me. Four stars from Sonia, three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Texas Vodka

Based in Austin, Texas, Tito's Vodka has become the gold standard for cheap American vodka in recent years. It's far more drinkable and mixable than other inexpensive vodkas in our opinion, and if we have an occasion to buy vodka—which is relatively rare—Tito's is generally our go-to. Also Sonia and I are dog people and Tito's runs a charity called
Vodka for Dog People, which we love.

So, naturally, others have tried to imitate the relatively smooth, sweet, gluten-free corn profile of Tito's affordable vodka, and it was only a matter of time before Trader Joe's hopped on that bandwagon. Trader Joe's Texas Vodka is similar in appearance and smell to Tito's, it too hails from the great state of Texas, and it's even more affordable at just ten bucks per 750 mL bottle. Which part of Texas is it from, you ask? Well, traderjoes.com says it's from Houston, but my bottle says "Dallas." Not sure about the discrepancy, to be honest.

Quality and taste-wise, it's pretty close to its name brand counterpart. There's a strong ethyl alcohol component to the smell and on the front end of the palate, which is dampened by the corn essence. The finish might be just a tad harsher than Tito's, but that can be remedied by mixing it with any number of juices, sodas, or soft drinks.

For the value, it's hard to beat. I like it just a wee bit less than Tito's, and I'd say it falls just shy of the Small Batch Vodka we looked at last year, too. Again, all of the vodkas mentioned in this review would fall under the category of "cheap vodka" and our opinions lack expertise—but you can't say we're not honest. Three and a half stars a piece from the beautiful wifey and me for Trader Joe's Texas Vodka.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Halibut


Got some GF battered halibut here. That could stand for gluten free battered halibut. Could mean Good Friday halibut. Both are accurate in this case.

I know a bunch of you do the whole Lent thing where you eat fish on Fridays in the weeks leading up to Easter. That's cool. I mean, I'll eat fish any day of the week, any month of the year, but we have been hitting up the local Catholic church lately for their Fish Fry-days. It's not just the Alaskan pollock that's the attraction. They've got coleslaw, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, and homemade desserts, too. Quite enjoyable.


So I figured we'd look at these crispy critters today because why the heck not? Let's heat them up in the air fryer...just for the halibut. Get it? <sigh>

Anyway, this is one of those gluten free items that I might actually prefer over its wheat-based cousins. The thin coating here is so delectably crispy, it feels even better than regular batter. It's just a tad more rigid than the traditional stuff, but in a good way.


The halibut here is beautiful, flakey white fish. Absolutely no complaints there either. It goes great with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, malt vinegar, or whatever you eat with your normal fried fish. My only grievance: the value. Twelve bucks for six or seven modestly-sized pieces of breaded fish is a little steep in my book.

But hey, you get what you pay for. I think we're still looking at about four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Halibut.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Trader Joe's Fruits & Greens Smoothie Blend


Sonia and I make our own smoothies from time to time. Although the ingredients are subject to change and substitutions, we generally use blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and some kind of juice. If it involves milk or ice cream, in my mind anyway, it's a milkshake even if it does contain some fruit. So if we're talking smoothies at our house, it's generally understood that they're 100% fruit and fruit juices.


This mix has some spinach and kale included, which of course, are also fairly common smoothie ingredients. I've had pre-mixed smoothies that sneak in traces of nutrient-dense vegetables like kale successfully, but my palate is generally sensitive enough that I can taste the veggies and to some degree or another, they detract from my enjoyment of all the sweet fruit flavors. I don't want a salad smoothie. I want a fruit smoothie. If I want greens, I'll eat them on the side, heated with a little butter and salt.

The greens didn't bother Sonia one bit, but they did bug me a little. Every third sip or so, I'd taste the relatively bitter essences of spinach and kale. And it wasn't because the beverage wasn't blended enough. Our little wannabe bullet blender got the ingredients pretty darn liquefied. There was just a tad too much in the way of greens. If there had been half as much, I think it might have slid under my taste bud radar undetected.

Still, it's not a bad mix. It's bursting with berry flavor and some banana underneath. Dragon fruit is such a relatively mild taste in comparison, I don't think it affected the flavor profile in any significant way.

We've used apple, orange, and/or pineapple juices to make smoothies in the past. With these ingredients, Sonia and I both agreed apple was the way to go here, as the extra sweetness helped cover over most of the earthiness of the kale and spinach. It worked pretty well.

$3.99 for the bag, which will easily produce four or more smoothies for us, despite the three serving specification on the nutrition info. In the end, I'd rather just buy my own smoothie ingredients. This is pretty close to what I'd want, but with fewer veggies. Sonia would buy again for the convenience factor. Four stars from her. Three stars from me for Trader Joe's Fruits & Greens Smoothie Blend.



Bottom line: 7 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.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey


I've only been to Tennessee once, and I didn't get to spend much time there. I saw a bit of Memphis and the surrounding area, but everything from Nashville to Smoky Mountains NP is pretty high on our list of places to visit when we hit the road again. I've known some folks from the state, and every single one of them seemed like good salt-of-the-earth types.

Other than that, I don't know much about Tennessee, and I certainly don't know much about whiskey. So all I can offer you is an honest opinion, not an expert one. If you want a connoisseur's take on this product, they're out there for sure. Hint: they HATE this stuff.

I will say this: Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey is a little sweeter than most other whiskeys I've tried, which isn't really a big deal either way in my book. It looks, smells, and tastes a bit like caramel to me. It has a thin consistency, and it's a bit oaky.

Sonia says it reminds her of Old Forester, which is a Kentucky bourbon. Kentucky and Tennessee share a lengthy border on the map, so their whiskeys are probably similar, right? She enjoyed this beverage neat as well as with ginger beer and lime juice.

Me? I'll stick to gin. I like this stuff as much as any other cheap whiskey, but in the end, it's just not my thing. $14.99 for the fifth. Three out of five stars from me. Four out of five from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Trader Joe's Mini Mochi Rice Nuggets


So many Japanese food products can be called "mochi," things can get a bit confusing. The first mochi I learned about were spherical ice cream treats with a soft, stretchy rice shell. Then I discovered sweet, chewy little rice bits called mochi served as toppings at all those frozen yogurt places. Then I became aware of appetizers with mushrooms inside also known as mochi. And we've seen at least two iterations of these crunchy mochi from Trader Joe's, one with a rock band theme and another with a spicy fire motif on the packaging. What do they all have in common? Well, rice, I suppose. Other than that, there's quite a gamut of Asian snacks, desserts, and appetizers all bestowed with the moniker "mochi."


But what's in a name, right? Are these little guys any good? Well, they're very much like, though not identical to, the above-mentioned rock band-themed mochi rice nuggets. The most obvious difference: these ones are smaller. You might have guessed that from the word "mini" in the product title. They are miniature indeed. They are essentially dime-sized, as seen in the photo.

The only other differences are alternate types of oils and lecithins used in the ingredients. Both contain rice and sea salt. They're crispy, crunchy, and very mild in terms of flavor.

I don't particularly care for them as stand-alone snacks, but Sonia likes them that way. They turned out to be great additives for soups and salads. You don't even necessarily need an Asian salad for them to work, either. Their taste is neutral enough that I loved them thrown into my typical spring mix with spinach, chickpeas, mozzarella, and Italian dressing.

Soup-wise, they work with everything from tomato to ramen to vegetable. If you're craving a crunch in your soup, these are basically just rice-based croutons. Other suggestions I've read about but not yet tried include: adding them to eggs, casseroles, or noodles, or even smashing them up and using them as gluten-free breading or crust. All of those sound tasty.

At $2 for the resealable bag, it's hard to complain about the value either. While I can't really feature myself ever craving these crispy crunchy croutons by themselves, I would totally purchase them again for their versatility as an additive to other foods. Sonia likes them both ways. Four stars from her. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Mini Mochi Rice Nuggets.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bites


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

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


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

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


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



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Trader Joe's Chocolatey Drizzled Strawberry Kettle Popcorn


If you're like me, you frequently wake up in the morning contemplating how our wonderful world is so nearly perfect in every way, what could possibly make it better? Your thoughts then inexorably drift in the direction of fruit-flavored popcorn. "If only I could wake up to a handful of mango flavored popcorn, life would be perfect."

Then in June of 2016, the dream became reality with Trader Joe's Mango Coconut Caramel Corn. But alas, not only did that admittedly very tasty popcorn flavor not make my life splendid and serene like I had hoped, it was discontinued shortly after the advent of Mango Mania. "Hmm, that wasn't it. Maybe strawberry popcorn will bring completion to my life and make this world 100% flawless," I've mused daily for the last eight years. And now, finally, here we are.


In case you can't tell, I'm being facetious. And I honestly had low expectations for this chocolate strawberry kettle corn. But...I mean, it's strawberry flavored popcorn...so of course I had to buy a bag and review it.

First thoughts: this might have worked if there were way more freeze dried strawberries in the mix. You can see in the picture that most of the popcorn pieces don't have any strawberry bits fused onto them. There's chocolate drizzle on every piece...but I didn't buy this snack for chocolate drizzle. They put that stuff on everything. The only element that makes this product truly unique is real strawberry and there simply isn't enough of it.

The packaging is odd-looking and lame. Even the quality of the popcorn is a bit sub-par, which is not the norm from Trader Joe's. I bit down on a widow or two—you know, like unpopped kernels. I literally don't think that's ever happened before with these fancy schmancy caramel corn flavors from TJ's.

Sonia? She likes it. She also thinks the strawberry flavor could be stronger, but she likes that the chocolate isn't too sweet nor too hard. She thinks there's enough strawberry taste to separate this product from the pack of run-of-the-mill caramel corn. I disagree.

TL;DR — Thumbs down from me, thumbs up from Sonia, but we both agree it needs more strawberries. The beautiful wifey will easily finish the bag over the next week or so. $3.49 for the 5 oz bag. I'll throw out 2.5 stars again and Sonia's down for 4 on Trader Joe's Chocolatey Drizzled Strawberry Kettle Popcorn.



Bottom line: 6.5 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.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Trader Joe's Chocolate Vanilla Creme Joe-Joe's


Despite the fact that we've reviewed 17 types of Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's sandwich cookies on this blog going back almost 14 years as well as numerous derivative Joe-Joe's products like ice cream, cereal, and beverages, we've never ever looked at the original flavor Joe-Joe's sandwich cookies. And since the product got a fancy-schmancy repackaging and reboot last year, I guess it's high time we took a looksee.

So...it goes without saying that these are Trader Joe's take on Oreo cookies. Plenty of other stores and brands have done the same thing: Hydrox comes to mind. Who would want to eat something called "Hydrox"? It sounds like a cookie made of hydrogen peroxide or something like that. "Oreo" sounds so much more appealing for some reason. (edit: Oreo is actually an imitation of Hydrox! Who knew?)


Joe-Joe's have forever flaunted a toucan mascot, which I always found odd. Makes me think of Froot Loops. I mean, sure, we've had plenty of fruity Joe-Joe's throughout the years. I'm thinking mango, strawberry lemonade, and ube for starters. But the originals were always chocolate cookies with a vanilla cream center...just like Oreos.

How similar are Joe-Joe's and their name-brand predecessors? Let's find out. Both products start out with unbleached enriched flour and a host of B vitamins. The ingredients then move on to "sugar" in the case of Oreos and "powdered sugar" made of cane sugar and cornstarch in the case of Joe-Joe's. Then we've got a couple types of oil and cocoa in both products. The only significant place where Joe-Joe's deviate from Oreos is when the classic Nabisco product lists "high fructose corn syrup," Trader Joe's cookies list "invert sugar." There's baking soda in both products. Trader Joe's uses sea salt where Oreos simply use regular salt. And the Joe's add a bit of "vanilla bean specks" while Oreos contain no such additive.


It's safe to say that if you like Oreo cookies, you'll like Joe-Joe's, too. Oreos will generally run you about $4 for a 13.3 oz package while Joe-Joe's are a buck cheaper at $3 for 13.4 oz. In my youth, I'd eat entire boxes of name brand sandwich cookies with reckless abandon. I liked putting three or four in a glass of milk and letting them get saturated before scooping them up with a spoon. The same goes for these Joe-Joe's.

Brand name or not, sandwich cookies just aren't my thing anymore. But considering the price and quality, it's hard to snub a decent product. These cookies get the same score we would give to Nabisco Oreo Cookies: 7.5 out of 10 stars. Three and a half stars from me, four stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Chocolate Vanilla Creme Joe-Joe's.



Bottom line: 7.5 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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Trader Joe's Artichoke Bread Pudding


Hot take: Trader Joe's Artichoke Bread Pudding has both the taste and texture that I wanted Trader Joe's Artichoke Timbales to have, but it's still not something I'd reach for regularly simply because I don't crave any kind of vegetable bread pudding very often.

It's a heavy comfort food full of bread and cheese, and it also flaunts the earthy, nutty, bittersweet taste of artichokes. It's kind of a weird concept to me, but it works. It's not desserty at all. It's got more of an appetizer vibe.


There's a surprising amount of cheese in each bite. When you take a forkful of the bread pudding, strings of yummy cheddar cheese appear between the bread crumbs and artichoke chunks. The breading has a faint sourdough flavor, but it's overshadowed by the cheese, spices, and veggies. It's also buttery and rich with notes of onion, garlic, and black pepper in the background.

This is another one that took a significantly longer time in the oven than the instructions indicated. After 20 minutes at 350° the bread pudding was still frozen in the middle. All told, I think it stayed on the center rack for 35 minutes before it was completely heated through.


$4.99 for the 3.5 serving loaf. Decent product, but again, I'm not really a vegetable bread pudding kinda guy. If I had guests that were mad about artichoke, I might repurchase just to share it with them. Otherwise, this is probably a thing that was neat to try just once. Three and a half stars from me. Four stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Artichoke Bread Pudding.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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