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

Friday, June 21, 2024

Meikakuna Japanese Blended Whisky


Having lived in five different US states and having at least set foot in 40 of them, I can tell you this country's attitude toward alcoholic beverages is anything but uniform. Liquor laws not only vary state to state, but also county to county and town to town.

Some places you can buy any type of alcohol in just about every type of establishment—convenience stores, grocery stores, you name it. In other locales, the only way to get booze is through government-operated "state stores" or "bottle shops." In Utah, they recently raised the alcohol-by-volume limit from 4% to 5% for beer available in grocery stores. And there are still dozens of "dry counties" and "dry communities" throughout America where no alcohol is available at all.

Trader Joe's stores have to abide by the local laws, so naturally there are plenty of TJ's stores that can't sell any alcoholic beverages. Others can only sell beer and wine. Still more can sell whatever booze products they want. Currently, our closest Joe's does indeed carry beer, wine, and hard liquor, so every once in a while, we'll sample something relatively exotic...like Japanese whisky.

In case you're new here, Sonia tends to gravitate towards Irish whiskey while I consider myself a gin man. I was not particularly enamored with this product, in stark contrast to the delightful Japanese gin reviewed last year, while Sonia liked it nearly as much as her current favorite, Jameson.

We tried this beverage a few different ways. I liked it on the rocks best and Sonia preferred it neat. The whisky poured a yellowish color. On the nose and up front, we detected something lightly fruity and sweet. To me, the body tasted oddly spicy, almost like a muted cinnamon flavor at times. I thought the spices here were somewhat intense and interrupted the otherwise smooth essences of the beverage, but the beautiful wifey didn't seem to mind it.

I've heard this is a Trader Joe's exclusive. Not sure why they don't slap their name on it, but I'm sure they have their reasons. $29.99 for the 750 mL bottle. Probably would not buy again but it was interesting to try, although there's a good chance Sonia will pick up another bottle for herself at some point. Something like 6 out of 10 stars from me for Meikakuna Japanese Blended Whisky. Sonia will go with 8 out of 10.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Mini Croissant Swirls


We bought this product relatively recently, but since then it has been brought to my attention that this item is "on a production hold" or something to that effect. Pretty sure that translates to "it's discontinued and you'll never see it again," but just in case there are some bags left in your local TJ's freezer or they resume production at some point in the future, we'll go ahead and review it because why not? There are yummy-looking croissants in my freezer so I'm going to eat them and tell you my thoughts...


The French consistently do pastries quite well. And this is, indeed, a product of France. The bread part of this dessert is scrumptious—flaky, buttery, simultaneously crispy and soft. It's a top-shelf baked good all the way. Sonia loved dunking her croissants in coffee and slurping the java off the bottom of the miniature pastries.

The chocolate chips are tiny, but there's a surprisingly generous amount of them in the swirls. They come out of the oven semi-melted from the heat, and then they finish melting in your mouth. Quite good. Truth be told, I'd probably gravitate toward a fruit filling or maybe even some kind of custard or cream, but I can't complain about milk chocolate in the end. The swirls aren't nearly as delicious after they've cooled fully, but we can't fault them for not being fresh...you know, when they're not fresh.


$3.99 for eight small but bakery-quality croissants. Would buy again (if it ever returns). Another eight out of 10 star affair for Nathan. Seven out of 10 for Sonia on Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Mini Croissant Swirls. Not bad.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Trader Joe's Vanilla Cookie Thins


Let's see, serving size is 9 cookies, with about 9 servings per container. I'm no math whiz but by my calculations, that should be 81 cookies in the box. But wait. There are two sleeves that are the same height, so that would imply an even number.


Well, I guess that's where that word "about" comes into play. I'm not actually going to count the cookies and I think to some degree, they're predicting very few people will actually do that, so let's just say there are 80 cookies here.

To be honest, I like the lemon thins quite a bit better than these. I mean, vanilla is fine as a flavor. And there's a decent amount of vanilla taste considering just how thin these thins really are.

The carb count isn't super hefty, you know, considering they're cookies. They pair up with ice cream and other desserts pretty well, so I can't hate on them too bad.

$4.49 for the pack. Kosher. Sonia would buy again. I'd happily consume these again if they appeared in the cupboard, but I would not go out of my way to purchase a second time. Sonia's score: 8/10 stars. Nathan's score: 7/10 for Trader Joe's Vanilla Cookie Thins.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Trader Joe's Tiny Fruity Cuties Cereal


In 2013, we checked out the now defunct Trader Joe's Fruity O's. To be honest, I don't really remember what they were like, but at least I have that old review to jog my memory. I'd imagine these fruity cuties are quite similar, although I believe these are modeled after Trix while that old product was an imitation of Froot Loops.


This time around, instead of "O" shapes, we have fun, assorted fruit shapes, a la "Fruity Shapes" edition Trix cereal. Well, now that I take a closer look, are these really fruit shapes? They look like yellow and orange crescents alongside pink and purple flowers. Meh. Whatever.

It's been a hot minute since I've had Trix, but if memory serves correctly these do indeed taste similar to the classic General Mills offering. It's sweet and lightly fruity. The ingredients just say "natural flavors" so I'm not sure exactly what fruits are supposed to be represented here. I'd say it's something vaguely citrusy..? 

Most of these sugary corn-based cereals irritate the roof of my mouth after a bowlful, but I must say this one didn't seem quite as offensive as others on that front. These are just a tad softer, although I've heard this product gets stale and hard rather easily.

Despite being corn and oat-based, the product is not officially gluten-free since, according to the side panel, the product "may contain wheat." Good to know.

$3.99 for the 11 serving box. Kosher. Product of Canada. Would buy again. Sonia's score: 8/10. Nathan's score: 7/10 for Trader Joe's Tiny Fruity Cuties Cereal.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Trader Joe's Korean Beefless Bulgogi


Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.

I've always found that quote to be mostly accurate. I mean, none of us are immune from chatting about our fellow humans once in a while, but some folks are just absolutely fixated on gossip. I'm far from perfect and have my fair share of faults, but if you're focused on other people all the time, doesn't that imply that you lack purpose? If you're a man (or woman) on a mission, then you've got far better things to do with your time than wonder what others are doing with theirs. I digress.

One line I'd add to that brilliant quote in the opening paragraph: hungry minds discuss food. So let's do just that.


It's a fascinating idea: vegan meat being eaten by non-vegans. Why do it? Because once in a while the fake meat is as good or better than the real thing. I've only heard high praise about this product so I figured it was worth a whirl. Thanks for the rec, Alek.

The flavor of this meatless meat is savory and succulent. There's an interesting array of essences including soy, garlic, pear, apple, and onion. It's very similar to the traditional bulgogi in terms of flavor, but I don't think I like this offering quite as much.

Texture-wise, it's the opposite, surprisingly. I like the feel of this bulgogi just slightly more than the sometimes-gristly dead cow version. This bulgogi is moderately chewy and imitates the mouthfeel of fatty meat. Fatty meat isn't my favorite, but it's better than gristle.

Each piece is a uniform size, which I like. Real bulgogi usually includes big long stringy pieces and tiny pieces and everything in between. Also these are quite thin. Considering their chewiness, any thicker would have made the mastication process overly difficult. Both Sonia and I wish there was a bit more sauce. Most bulgogi is significantly wetter and saucier than this offering, which might be attributable in part to the fact that we heated these in the air fryer.

$4.99 for a decent amount of vegan bulgogi. Sonia and I both give the same score on this one, and in the end, it'll get the exact same score we gave to the beef-ful bulgogi. Seven out of ten stars for Trader Joe's Beefless Bulgogi.

What do you think of this product? Have you tried both the regular bulgogi and the vegan bulgogi from Trader Joe's? Are you vegan and really love or really hate this product? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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.

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