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

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.

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 24, 2024

Trader Joe's Italian Artisan Heart Shaped Pasta


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

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


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

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


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

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



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Trader Joe's Almond Chipotle Dip


I thought there was about a zero percent chance this stuff would even be edible. I've tried enough vegan dips, cheeses, condiments, and sauces in my day to know it's rare if those types of products are worth a single provisional purchase, let alone the times when they're actually good and could potentially become a household staple or replace something made with dairy. Here's the one exception I can think of off the top of my head: Trader Joe's Vegan Tzatziki Dip.

I'm equally impressed with this product. I thought it would taste like rancid almond butter with a few spices tossed into the mix. Nope. In fact, the almond butter base doesn't really interfere with the chipotle flavor at all somehow. It's only faintly nutty. The main essence of the dip is a spicy, tangy, zippy chipotle. It's slightly garlicky and smoky, but not over the top on either count. There's a hint of onions and black pepper, but it's mostly just chipotle flavor—in this case coming from a chipotle pepper powder.


Oddly, it's a bit thinner than almond butter. I'd say it's even thinner than most dairy-based chipotle dips I've had, but it still coats quite well. It also works fine that way because it packs quite a punch even if you use very little—it's only moderately spicy yet very flavorful.

We used it in place of cheese with nachos, as a taco sauce, a dip for chips, and a glaze for chicken. It even worked with veggies like carrots and broccoli. I'm surprised how versatile it proved to be.

$3.49 for the tub. Vegan. Would buy again. Four stars from me. Three and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Almond Chipotle Dip.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Vanilla Overnight Oats and Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Overnight Oats


Trader Joe's Apple Overnight OatsBottom line: 8 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Vanilla Overnight Oats: Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Almond Butter Chia Overnight Oats: Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Roasted Hatch Chile & Jalapeño Cheese Dip and Trader Joe's Garlic & Asiago Cheese Dip


Here are a couple of cheesy dips that appeared at Trader Joe's around the holidays. As of the time this review is being composed, the hatch and jalapeño version shows still available on traderjoes.com while the asiago one does not. They both have a sour cream base, flaunt extremely similar packaging, and can be zapped in the microwave for quick and easy prepping or heated in a conventional oven. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any practical way to heat these in the air fryer. Boo.

But they're both quite tasty and are great for that New Year's diet you started. No? You don't consider these diet foods? They're only 60 and 70 calories per serving, respectively. And chile peppers raise your metabolism. I think it's time to declare 2024 the year of the hatch chile diet. Just remember, it's not a lie...if you believe it. Thanks to reader halcyon for reminding me of that great George Costanza quote. That's my new mantra.


Let's talk about dip now, shall we? Although Sonia and I enjoyed both of these condiments quite a bit, I liked the hatch and jalapeño version slightly more than the asiago version while Sonia felt the opposite. I must admit the chile pepper dip was a tad oilier than its cheesy cousin, but I really liked the way the peppers spiced up the sharp cheddar and sour cream base. Sonia liked the fluffiness of the asiago dip and loved the asiago and mozzarella cheese flavors.

Both dips went great with chips, pretzels, bread, and even veggies. We would have tried them with other items, but honestly, they didn't last that long. Ten ounces each. I think 10 servings per package is a little generous, but I guess that's an FDA thing..?


Found in the refrigerated section. $4.99 for each microwavable dip tray. Would consider a repeat purchase. These will wind up with 7.5 star scores each, with me going a half star higher on Trader Joe's Roasted Hatch Chile & Jalapeño Cheese Dip and Sonia going half a star higher on Trader Joe's Garlic & Asiago Cheese Dip.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Cranberry Orange & Onion


So here's an odd little condiment we've been experimenting with over the past few weeks. I wrote a song about it. Wanna hear it? Here it goes.

To the melody of the Tiny Toon Adventures theme:

"It's oily, it's crunchy,
it's just a tad bit munchy.
Will this little bunchy
enhance charcuterie?
It's a citrus dispenser
that cracks up taste bud sensors.
Let cranny orange onion
spruce up your lame turkey!"

And that's all I've got so far. I know you were all hoping for a full length song, so sorry to disappoint. Anyhoo, it's pretty obviously the classic Chili Onion Crunch but with a festive, fruity blend of citrus and berry flavors added in.


I liked the original product okay, but I thought it really shined when applied to other condiments such as hummus. See: Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus. And like the original, it's not super apparent to dummies like me what this sauce is wanting to be paired with.

We experimented with chicken and turkey mostly. The picture you see is actually Oscar Mayer Natural Plate AKA "Healthy Lunchables" or "Lunchables for Adults" with a bit of Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Cranberry Orange & Onion sauce applied. It worked pretty well. I always said those natural cracker, meat, and cheese snacks needed to come with a condiment, but I never thought to add something as exotic as this. I usually reach for dijon mustard with that stuff.

I must admit it worked much better, however, on actual turkey sandwiches. We just added turkey, swiss, and arugula to sourdough bread, grilled them panini style, and also added this sauce. That worked even better than pan-fried chicken if you ask us.


There's a fair amount of heat here from the ancho chili. In fact, I'd say that's the dominant flavor. It overshadows the cranberry orange elements by a good bit. I wish the fruit flavors were a little stronger. It's also too heavy on oil. I'm sure there's a reason for that, but I found myself applying it with a fork all the time so I could let the olive oil drain out before distributing the condiment.

$4.49 for the jar. Not sure if we'd buy again. We still have a good bit left and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some still at the back of the fridge come the 2024 holiday season. It should still be good then, right? As long as it smells fine, we'll still eat it. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Three out of five stars from me for Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Cranberry Orange & Onion.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Figgy Cheddar


Well, it's Christmas yet again. And in lieu of figgy pudding—which I've still never even tried, by the way—we've got some figgy cheddar cheese, which we'll be munching on throughout this soggy winter's day, along with some all beef sausage and crackers.

This block of cheese is a fine mild cheddar, produced in the U.K. It's nice and soft and not very sharp at all. Most of TJ's cheeses are high-quality, so that's usually not something you have to worry about.

But it has figs in it. Weird, right? Does it work? Yeah, sorta. The figs lend a faint sweetness that otherwise wouldn't be there, which I expected. What I wasn't prepared for was the odd crunchiness from the fig seeds. Just as you get a bit of grittiness when eating a dried fig, there are whispers of crunch in this block of cheddar. It's a tad odd, but it's still a tasty cheese.


The "spiced" part of the figs is negligible. You don't really taste much, if any, of the coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and fennel mentioned in the ingredients—not that I was really hoping to. This is figgy cheddar after all, not pumpkin spice cheddar. Shoot, I better not give them any ideas for next fall...

The fig bits could be bigger, honestly. I think it would help the unique flavor shine a little more, but then there would be more of that weird sandy grit, too, so...never mind. $8.68 for our block, priced by weight—looks like $11 per pound I think. Sonia likes it a little more than I do. She'd buy again, while I'm on the fence. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Figgy Cheddar.

Merry Christmas, everybody! Thanks for reading!

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Holiday Vegetable Hash


Trader Joe's is selling the good stuff now. And it's not just any hash, it's a special strain cultivated for this magical holiday season. But try as I may to roll it up and light it up, I just couldn't get this bud to burn. Somebody gotta tell Joe to dry his goods before selling them. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to eat these little hash chunks. They even give you suggestions for using them as edibles right on the package. You can make super stimulating soup or stoner stuffing with this stuff. Far out.

All hash jokes aside, our mixture seemed like it was teetering on the verge of being too dry, honestly. A bit more moisture would have been quite pleasant here. The squash and sweet potato bites were a little too hard and even the celery seemed stiff. We did consume it a couple days before the "best by" date, but it seemed like maybe our batch had seen better days..?


It's not a mix I'd ever want to eat on its own. In addition to the lack of moisture and abundance of firmness, it's a very odd flavor combo to me. When cold, the onions clash with the sweet potato and squash, and the herbs and spices are overrepresented.

As far as seasonings are concerned, we're looking at parsley, sage, rosemary, and...wait. What? Just parsley, sage, rosemary...and no thyme. I bet Simon and Garfunkel are rolling over in their graves right now. Wait. What? Neither of those guys are dead yet? Well, that's good, I guess. Time for a reunion tour then, maybe?


As an additive to other foods, I guess I'm failing to find a soup that suits this unusual mishmash of not-super-Christmassy oddball ingredients. Sonia sautéed it with salt and olive oil, and I must say I like this melange much better when served warm. The oil helps with the dryness, and all the flavors blend into a nice savory snack—much less harsh and bitter than when consumed raw. It works amazingly well as an accompaniment to eggs.

The beautiful wifey has big plans to serve up the remainder of our hash with a Cornish hen, but I don't think we'll get to that before this review gets posted. In light of how good this stuff is when served as a hot dish, I'll have to give it the benefit of the doubt. Sonia agrees.

$4.99 for the 18 oz container. Three and a half stars a piece from the wifey and me for Trader Joe's Holiday Vegetable Hash.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Ice Cream


I'm definitely an ice cream-all-year-round kinda guy. Most of my life, I've lived in places with four seasons. Ice cream in December might make sense to Southern Californians, but it might not be the norm for folks in the Mid-Atlantic or Upper Midwest. 

Actually, I take that back. In my hometown in central Pennsylvania, there'd be folks in line for ice cream at The Igloo all throughout the winter months. And the Berkey Creamery at Penn State never closed even in the freezing cold. I guess it's just part of the culture when you live in places surrounded by dairy farms.


At any rate, we never shy away from newfangled ice cream from Trader Joe's even if it's cold outside, so let's dig in. The actual ice cream here is gingerbread flavored. There are also nice big pieces of ginger cookies and a molasses-esque "gingerbread swirl." I think a vanilla base would have worked a little better here than the spicy brown base they used. A bit more creamy and sweet would have helped put the ginger spices in check, in the manner of Cookie Butter Ice Cream.

Still, this is a decent ice cream flavor, particularly if you love gingerrific ginger snaps. Every few bites or so, we got a piece of powerful, sinus-clearing raw ginger. I didn't really mind it since it wasn't in every bite. There were enough sweet and desserty elements that the raw ginger bits helped to balance them out, and they blended well with the molasses, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors.


$3.79 for the pint. In summary, this ice cream is a festive, high quality, specialty dessert. It'll hit the spot for folks that absolutely love ginger. For other folks like Sonia and me, it was fun to try just once, but we'll return to vanilla-based ice creams that balance out the ginger spices a little better in the future. Three and a half stars a piece from the beautiful wifey and me for Trader Joe's Gingerbread Ice Cream.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Double Fold Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Like most people, I love the smell of vanilla extract. I love it as an ingredient in all manner of desserts and cakes and I enjoy the flavor it provides. However, unlike most people, I even like the taste of it straight out of the container, plain. I mean, I wouldn't drink a whole bottle of it like that, but I probably could on a dare or some similar situation.

After taking in a few whiffs of this Double Fold Bourbon Vanilla Extract, I was absolutely enchanted. I informed Sonia that I was going to try it straight. She cautioned me against it in the same manner that my parents used to, but being the wild man that I am, I proceeded to pour a teaspoon full and lap it up like so much fragrant water.

It's harsh and full of alcohol, for sure, but I mean, some bourbon can be pretty harsh and astringent, flavor-wise. It's got a distinct bourbon flavor and plenty of pure vanilla, too. It's like a shot of regular vanilla extract mixed with a dash of straight bourbon, slightly stronger than a spoonful of normal vanilla extract.

As an ingredient in food, it lends a nice earthy sweetness. Sonia made some pancakes using this elixir, and they came out just a little more vanillatastic than pancakes made with normal vanilla extract. I made a London fog beverage with some Earl Grey, half and half, honey, and this stuff, and it was lovely.

At first $7.99 seems a little steep for just 3.55 fluid ounces, but considering the quality and the fact that it's imported all the way from Mauritius, it could be a lot worse. Hard to score something like this. I think I'll throw out three and a half stars. Put the beautiful wifey down for four on Trader Joe's Double Fold Bourbon Vanilla Extract with Vanilla Bean Seeds.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Trader Joe's Sweet Picanté Peppers


If Peter Parker picked a pack of pickled picanté peppers, then where's the pantry where the people put the package of pretty pepper pieces? Or something like that...

So here we have pickled peppers submerged in oil and vacuum-sealed in a jar, along with plenty of salt. Not surprisingly, the product is shelf stable for quite some time—about two years—but the package label says "once opened, keep refrigerated and consume within 5 days." Five days?? We don't even get a week to eat these? You'd think they'd keep almost indefinitely if they're refrigerated and still submerged in oil, salt, and acidifiers. I have a feeling we won't finish the whole jar in such a short span of time, but this review will be posted well before we know for sure.


First thoughts: just like the sweet peppers you get from sandwich joints. I know they exist outside of Subway and Jersey Mike's, but that's where I know this flavor from. They're usually sliced into little strips there, but here we have the whole pepper.

The cheese? It doesn't really specify what type of cheese it is, but it strikes me as just your typical cream cheese or what have you. It's good and it pairs pretty well with the pepper flavor.

As far as the "picanté" aspect is concerned, yes there is a hint of peppery spice, but it's quite mild by our standards. Sweet? Yes. Quite sweet. Cheesy? Yes. Quite cheesy. But not very hot.


These went crazy well with water crackers and beef summer sausage. I don't really like them on their own, but they do very well with other charcuterie style foods. They need something bready to soak up all that oil. They're absolutely dripping with sunflower and canola oils and it's very difficult to get them completely dry.

$4.99 for the 5 serving jar. Not a bad thing to stash away in the back of the pantry for a rainy day. Four stars from me. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Sweet Picanté Peppers with Creamy Cheese Filling.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Cheddar Cheese Sticks


"Cheese sticks." Hope nobody got a pay raise or promotion for coming up with that creative product title. Why not cheese swords or cheesy rods or cheese branches or cheesy trees? Oh wait. They already did that one. The packaging is lackluster at best, and these crispy little do-dads don't even have a listing on traderjoes.com as far as I could tell. Oh well.


Thanksgiving week tends to be the slowest time of year in terms of blog traffic, so I often throw out kind of oddball generic reviews of boring-ish products during that time because, hey, what have I got to lose?

What's working here: the texture is nice and crispy, crunchy, but not overly hard. The sticks are brittle but even my sensitive teeth and gums aren't irritated even after gnawing on a few of these sourdough sticks. They pair great with almost any kind of soup, especially tomato-based ones, and who needs croutons for a salad when you have these? The sourdough flavor is pleasant, as well, but not overpowering. 

What's not working here: there's definitely some cheese flavor, but I think they could have packed them with a bit more. I guess too much cheese would reduce the shelf life of the product and make it more prone to spoilage, but doesn't all that salt help with preservation?

$2.99 for approximately a dozen cheese sticks. I guess we'd buy this item again just to have it in the back of the pantry to serve with tomato soup in lieu of grilled cheese or something more elaborate. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Cheddar Cheese Sticks.



Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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