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Showing posts with label really darn good. Show all posts
Showing posts with label really darn good. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Trader Joe's 12 Mini Pumpkin Ginger Scones


My dad used to make pumpkin muffins with barley flour back when I was a kid. I got sick of them pretty fast, but I didn't have the heart to tell him, and my mom would request them quite often.

"I made pumpkin muffins again, Nathan!" I'd hear him declare from the kitchen.

"Oh grrreat...I'll, um, I'll come grab one as soon as I'm done with my homework," I'd reply.

In a way, these pumpkin ginger scones remind me of my dad's pumpkin muffins, probably because they both contain barley flour and pumpkin puree, although these are much better, flavor-wise. The texture is a tad different, of course, but the insides of these scones were a little muffin-esque, at least to me.


They came out much flakier and scone-like on the outside. I kind of liked the subtle difference in textures. I was also surprised at how much larger the scones got after baking. I mean, I knew they were going to expand a bit, but I'd say they at least doubled in size while heating, if not tripled. It doesn't look like a whole lot of food while frozen, but it's way too much bread for two people for one sitting, even if Sonia and I are carbivorous pumpkin gluttons.

I could see these becoming dry or even coming out undercooked if you don't nail the baking time and temperature exactly. The instructions offer an option to brush the pastries with milk or cream, so I used half and half. Can't tell if it helped much or not, but I guess it couldn't really have hurt. The scones really wanted to stick to the parchment paper after heating, but other than that, they were really nice and flaky, buttery, and flavorful.


They're surprisingly not that sweet. Uncharacteristically, Sonia was the one pining for a glaze or icing of some kind. I can see where she's coming from, but I was fine with them plain. The pumpkin spice blend was pleasant and well-balanced, with a particular emphasis on ginger—but it wasn't an exaggerated raw ginger explosion, either.

$4.99 for a dozen scones. I think we're looking at double fours here. Would possibly buy again next year.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus


Well this stuff is clearly just Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch plopped on top of a traditional tub of hummus. That's not quite as weird as pickle flavored hummus or chocolate flavored hummus if you ask this guy, but it could still be considered "experimental" in nature, I suppose.

By a quick count, this is at least the ninth variety of hummus we've reviewed on this blog throughout the years, not counting the hummus we made ourselves using Trader Joe's Organic Tahini and some handy dandy cans of chickpeas we had floating around in the pantry. In short, I love hummus and most other garbanzo bean derivatives.


And I guess I'll just cut to the chase and say I'm a fan of this new-ish product. Initially, I was gonna say there's not nearly enough of the chili onion crunch, but after inhaling about half the tub within a few minutes of having opened it, mi boca es en fuego and I don't know how much more of that stuff I could have handled.

So the heat level is acceptable. Spice-o-phobes beware. It's not super hot either. My tolerance just isn't what it used to be. It's got a nice chili onion chickpea flavor with a bit of a kick. Big thumbs up from both of us.


Complaints? There's not much crunchiness to be found. The crispity-crunchity factor is severely dampened by the soft mush of the whirled garbanzos and tahini, but the coolness of the hummus also helps temper the spice level, too.

$3.99 for the tub. Would definitely buy again. Four stars from Sonia. Four and a half from me for Trader Joe's Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Blondie Brownies


When I was a kid, I got called "Blondie" quite a bit. It was usually old people using the term. Out of respect for my elders I refrained from calling them "geezer" or "old bag" in turn since, in my head at least, those monikers were about on par with calling a young boy "Blondie." It felt way too feminine, even if it was accurate. Why not call me "He-Man" or "Viking"? That would have been way cooler.

But yeah, I was a towhead back in the day—you know, back when I actually had hair. If you go back to our earliest YouTube videos, you can see I was still very blond, even if my hairline was receding like the ocean at low tide.


And while I'm waxing philosophical about names, why even call these "brownies"? Wouldn't it have been more accurate to simply call them "pumpkin blondies"? There's no actual chocolate in them as far as I can tell. Bah. Whatever.

Aside from a few hangups about the product title, I really don't have any major problems with these pumpkin snacks. They were way fresher than most Trader Joe's baked goods we've sampled throughout the years. I mean, ours were super moist and soft. They almost had a fresh-baked vibe.

Both the pumpkin puree flavor and pumpkin spices were subtle, but there. The white chocolate chips were a nice touch, adding some extra sweetness and a more solid texture. Likewise, the pecans were perfect. I only wish the pieces had been larger and more ubiquitous.


This dessert wasn't too sweet, nor too rich. There was almost a carrot cake quality about these blondies. If anything, they could have used just a tad more pumpkin and pumpkin spice, but they're plenty satisfying as is. I'd buy 'em again next year. Sonia likes them even more than I do.

$4.49 for the 8 serving container. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Pumpkin Blondie Brownies with White Chocolate Chips and Pecans.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Lasagna


Of the "big three" fall foods—pumpkin, apple, and maple—at least one isn't really a fall food at all, at least not in terms of its peak harvest season. I'm talking of course about maple syrup. It's easiest to acquire in February and March, so some argue it should be a late winter flavor rather than an early autumn one.

And I mean, don't get me started about apples. Even though apples are harvested in September around these parts, apples are pretty much available all year round to us spoiled Americans. Apple pie on the Fourth of July? Yes, please.

So really, butternut squash is much more autumnal than some of these other "fall flavors," and it rarely gets its due. We saw some pretty decent butternut squash macaroni and cheese not too long ago, which I believe is still available seasonally at TJ's, but unfortunately I have not seen that butternut squash parmigiana in quite some time.


Ah, well. Let's make do with what we have. As far as I know, this is a brand new product. Never saw it around TJ's before this year. How bad could it be? I never met a lasagna I didn't like.

Actually, that's not true. The very first post on this blog, written over 13 years ago, was a review of a lasagna I didn't like. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself...

After 45 minutes at 400°F I can wholeheartedly assure you, history did not repeat itself in this instance. From first bite, this pasta dish delivers. It's creamy and cheesy inside, crispy and crusty on the outside, and it's got a nice cozy Italian vibe without being over-the-top heavy or rich.


Butternut squash is a fairly subtle flavor, and here, it's balanced expertly with the cheeses, herbs, spices, and layers of egg pasta. The crunchy bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds on the top just sealed the deal for me.

I can't vouch for this product shining quite so brightly if heated in the microwave. It does include nuking instructions on the box, so I guess Trader Joe's thinks it's legit.

If you're expecting a super bold flavor or traditional tomato-laden lasagna or anything remotely resembling pumpkin spice, then I guess it's conceivable you might be disappointed or unpleasantly surprised. We've got a smoky bechamel sauce in this instance, rather than typical marinara or spaghetti sauce. I liked it. It think it worked.

$4.49 for 2 servings. Sonia enjoyed it as well. Put her down for four stars. That sounds about right. Would buy Trader Joe's Italian Butternut Squash Lasagna again.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Trader Joe's Panama Rum


It's been a hot minute since we finished this bottle of Trader Joe's Panama Rum, so I did a brief internet search to refresh my memory on its taste, etc. I remember liking it quite a bit. Like, I might have even said this is the best straight rum I've ever tasted. Granted, I've never shelled out for top-shelf rum in my life. I've only ever tried your basic Captain Morgan or Bacardi or whatever, and I very rarely drank them straight. Rum is great with cola or in a piƱa colada or a daiquiri, etc.

But apparently there are rum snobs out there. Like...just from a brief Google search and my first few impressions, these rum snobs make wine connoisseurs look like low class hacks. I never knew rum had such an intense fan base of highfalutin aficionados. Holy cow. So if you want a take from a random dude who has no idea what he's talking about, read on.

This stuff looked and smelled like caramel and brown sugar. You could taste the bourbon essence in the background. It was smooth—far more drinkable than any straight rum I've ever had. It wasn't syrupy or sticky, but clean and faintly spicy. I enjoyed it vastly more than I thought I would. I pictured myself mixing this spirit with all manner of fruit juices to make it palatable, but in the end, I drank nearly all of it straight over the course of a month or two, savoring each glass one at a time, with a bit of help from Sonia, who did indeed mix hers with various citrus juices.

I would absolutely buy it again. $14.99 for 750 mL. I can't compare it to anything rare or expensive or exotic, but next to all of those run-of-the-mill common brands, I'll take this one any day of the week. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Panama Rum.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto Sauce


If you've been following this blog for any significant amount of time, you'll know I'm a big fan of lemon flavored stuff. And if you've been following this blog even longer than that, you might recall that I'm not a fan of traditional pesto made with pine nuts. Fortunately for me and for the score I'll give to this product, this pesto—as well as one or two other pestos from Trader Joe's that we've reviewed—are not made with pine nuts. Those previous two iterations were made with cashews, and this one's made with almonds. Did you know that lemon and almond blends together fairly well? I didn't either until recently.


By itself, this sauce is thick and oily with little chunks floating around. It's almost like super finely chopped almonds with lemon zest and sunflower seed oil. Well, I mean, it is all those things...and a few other things, too. But it not only looks primarily like those three ingredients, but it basically tastes that way as well. It's citrusy, sweet, salty, oily, and nutty. I wouldn't recommend eating it straight from the jar, although it's interesting enough you might want to at least try it that way.

Sonia cooked up a shrimp and pasta dish using this stuff. It involved fettuccine, cream, butter, shredded parmesan cheese, and garlic. Ohmygosh. I finished eating it an hour ago and I can still barely keep my head up from the comfort food coma. It was lemony, creamy, spicy, and garlicky. So delicious.


My only complaint was that Sonia didn't use enough of Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto Sauce, so I dumped a bunch more onto my portion. I've never had lemon garlic butter shrimp quite so tasty. I'll easily finish all the leftovers tonight. Actually, here's the recipe she used: Pat Cooks. Highly recommend.

$3.49 for the jar. Would buy again. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Lemon Pesto.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice


About nine and a half years ago, we looked at Trader Joe's other mainstay cherry juice in a glass bottle, Trader Joe's 100% Cherry Juice. One of the first comments was a suggestion to try this not-from-concentrate, more tart version. Well, Tess, I don't know if you still read our blog or not, but thanks for the recommendation. It only took us a decade to find the product at Trader Joe's and actually make a purchase.

Maybe my forty-something-year-old self craves less sugar than my thirty-something-year-old self, but I'm actually surprised how much I like this. It's not as mouth-puckeringly sour as I might have guessed. At the same time, it isn't particularly sweet at all.


It just tastes like actual cherries—not like cherry candy, sour or otherwise—not like a sugar-laden cherry juice blend. It just tastes like actual slightly tart, slightly sweet cherries, and it's surprisingly drinkable.

Sediment collects at the bottle of the bottle fairly quickly, so some agitation is in order prior to pouring. The juice flaunts a deep pink sort of color, not unlike a ruby red grapefruit juice in terms of cloudiness and redness, but perhaps a shade or two darker. Sonia thinks the flavor is very similar to cranberry juice. I agree. I'd say if you split the difference between 100% cranberry juice and that other not-so-tart cherry juice, it's a fair approximation of the flavor you get from this beverage, at least in terms of tartness level.


Apparently cherry juice is full of antioxidants and is fairly good for you. Another bonus. We'd both buy again.

$4.99 for the bottle. Four out of five stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's 100% Red Tart Cherry Juice.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Trader Joe's Traditional Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese


I think of ricotta as kind of a sweet cheese, in that same category as cream cheese almost—like you could enhance quite a few different desserts with it. But it's honestly quite versatile. It's not only great with pastries and pancakes, but it's also outstanding with just about any kind of pasta or bread-based dish. I mean, I guess that's pretty obvious since it's widely used in lasagna recipes, and I'm pretty sure I've known that for a long time, but it never really registered in my foodie-hack brain until now.


Sonia whipped up a spinach and cheese pasta meal with Trader Joe's Traditional Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, pictured above. I forget all the yummy things she used, but man, it was scrumptious. This cheese was the key ingredient. It was tangy, savory, salty, and sweet. I'll definitely be requesting that one again.

I couldn't get the ingredients in the same shot as the nutrition info, but since there are only four of them I can just type them out for you easily enough: whey, milk, acetic acid, and salt. I guess that's pretty standard..? I'm sure most of our readers know more about ricotta cheese than I do...so why am I the one reviewing it, again? Ah, yes. You find my buffoonery amusing.


$3.99 for the 16 oz tub. That's a decent value in my book, and it's a tasty cheese for sure. Double fours from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Ricotta Cheese.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers


No Indian meal is complete without a bunch of naan bread. Man, I could eat that stuff every day. I remember falling in love with the naan at my favorite Indian restaurant back in Los Angeles, Anarkali. Since most Indian restaurants pale in comparison to that place, and also because we don't eat out that much any more, we often pick up naan from Trader Joe's or other grocery stores to go along with our room temperature, pantry style Indian meals or frozen microwave ones.


The biggest problem with naan that I can think of is that it doesn't keep very long, just like regular white bread. It molds in a week or so, unfortunately. Hmmm. 

If only they could turn naan into crackers that last a year or so...and voila. Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers are here. I'm not saying TJ's invented naan crackers, but these are the first ones I've ever seen, so naturally I picked up a box. Garlic flavor. Yum.

And it's kinda uncanny how much these little guys actually taste like naan bread. I'm not even sure how they did it. They captured the unique bready flavor of naan in a crispy cracker format. The garlic flavor is there, too, but as I might have predicted, I want MOAR GARLIC.

It's a nice, savory flavor, but it's not very pungent. I guess that's so you can pair the crackers with Indian food or soup or any kind of dip without worrying about the cracker clashing or trying to steal the show. These crackers flaunt a subtle flavor. I think they could have amped up the allium and made these a very tasty stand-alone snack. As is, they're optimized for dipping, crumbling, and scooping. They go GREAT with hummus.

$3.79 for the 9 serving box. Kosher. Organic. Would buy again. Four stars from me. Four and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Garlic Naan Crackers.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Trader Joe's Ube Mochi


I neglected to post the nutrition information in the video review, so I'll post it here. And just so you're not looking at a weird skinny vertical pic in the middle of a white screen, I shall let this post serve as Ube Central, and it will contain all ube related links from our blog.

Man, when TJ's latches on to an idea, they really run with it. It was once referred to as "Purplepotatopalooza" by Mr. Shelly. I like that.

PURPLEPOTATOPALOOZA:

Trader Joe's Ube Purple Yam Ice Cream

Trader Joe's Ube Mochi Pancake & Waffle Mix

Trader Joe's Ube Tea Cookies

Trader Joe's Ube Pretzels

Trader Joe's Ube Spread

Trader Joe's Ube Joe-Joe's

I guess that's it. Did we miss any?




Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Ube Mochi.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Strawberry Muffins


Maybe I'm just getting used to it, but I feel like each time I have a gluten free muffin from Trader Joe's, the texture gets closer to normal wheat-based muffins. I honestly have to say that texture-wise, these muffins beat last week's non-gluten-free coffee cake hands down.

The flavor's nothing to complain about either. There's a good bit of strawberry taste all throughout these bready breakfast bites. There are bits of real strawberry, too. The only thing I can think of that would improve these muffins would be more and larger chunks of strawberry.


Sonia absolutely raved about them. I thought she was going to try to sneak three out of the four muffins for herself she was so enthusiastic. But no, she was nice and left me my fair share. 

Truth be told, I didn't even eat both my muffins before the best by date. Honestly though, they still tasted remarkably fresh. We'd buy these again.


$5.99 for four big, filling gluten free muffins. 
Folks with wheat allergies, celiac, or Crohn's disease, rejoice. Put these on your grocery list for sure. Put me down for a solid four out of five stars. The beautiful wifey will go with four and a half on Trader Joe's Gluten Free Strawberry Muffins. 



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers


Since it's almost 300 miles to the nearest White Castle, once in a blue moon, Sonia and I will pick up those frozen White Castle sliders that can be found in most grocery stores and dollar stores in our area. White Castle burgers aren't the best to begin with, but there's a novelty and uniqueness about them that's hard to replicate. And of course the frozen, non-restaurant sliders are just a little less delicious than the originals, but as far as cheap and easy comfort food goes, they aren't bad once in a great while.

I was wondering if Trader Joe's was going for a White Castle vibe with these Mini Cheeseburgers—if the popularity of White Castle's frozen offerings inspired TJ's to offer a similar product. After tasting these for the first time, I'd have to say "NO." Trader Joe's went top shelf in terms of quality meat, cheese, and bread. These burgers are larger than your typical frozen sliders and there's more meat, and everything is a notch higher in terms of quality.


The bread is actually sweet Hawaiian Aloha rolls. There's a small amount of ketchup and relish in a "sauce" mentioned in the ingredients. It's subtle. At first I couldn't even tell there was anything on the burger other than cheese, but the flavors all seemed balanced pretty well. I'm glad I didn't put on any extra condiments before trying the cheeseburger as is, because it honestly didn't need anything. Everything from the seasoning on the meat to the creaminess of the cheese was beyond my expectations.


$4.49 for three small burgers seemed kinda steep at first, but now that I see they're really not that tiny, I think it's a pretty decent value. I can't imagine even the biggest appetites not being satisfied by all three cheeseburgers. Would buy again.

Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Mini Cheeseburgers.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp


Did you know that shrimp is the fruit of the sea? There's shrimp kabobs, shrimp salad, shrimp gumbo, deep fried, pan fried, stir fried. There's shrimp scampi, pineapple shrimp, coconut shrimp, lemon pepper shrimp, and of course, Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning.

How could Bubba have forgotten Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning??

I suppose it's possible it didn't exist back then. We'll forgive you for this glaring omission from your famous list of shrimp dishes, Mr. Benjamin Buford Blue. But just this once...


Like Bubba, I consider myself a shrimp aficionado. I've been eating the stuff since I was a wee one. So my standards are pretty high and I'm a pretty tough grader as far as final scores are concerned.

My jam was always deep fried jumbo butterfly shrimp. I'd drown those things in cocktail sauce or some kind of remoulade and could smash dozens of them in one sitting. These puppies aren't fried or breaded, so how do they fare against such fierce competition?


Pretty good, honestly. I'm amazed I didn't mess them up when I cooked them, but they came out with a really nice texture, not too chewy or weird in any way. They tasted good, too, although Sonia and I just wish the spices were a little more potent. We definitely tasted ginger and garlic in that buttery sauce, but I think we were both hoping that the togarashi seasoning would bring a little bit more heat to the equation.

Still, for $7.99, this is pretty close to a gourmet quality seafood entree. I counted about 16 or 18 decent sized shrimp in the package. It's supposed to be a single serving, but if served with rice and some sides, this pouch can easily satisfy two people for dinner. Sonia and I give Trader Joe's Argentinian Red Shrimp with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Style Seasoning two thumbs up and four stars a piece. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins


Ah, here we have an "Old World Recipe." No doubt these tasty morsels were concocted by The Great Old Ones in their storied city R'lyeh. Perhaps Cthulhu himself combined the delicious flavor of butter cookies with the sweet and tangy zip of juicy Meyer lemons and offered the resulting thins to his demonic brethren as a tide-me-over snack in between devouring hapless human victims.


Or, perhaps, Trader Joe is referring to the European Renaissance rather than characters from a loathsome Lovecraftian lineup. Now that I've scoured the box for clues, it appears that indeed it's the latter assumption that's correct and you can safely disregard all that nonsense in the opening paragraph. Something something something about 19th century sailors and women using lemons for lipstick and kings gifting one another lemons because they were so hard to come by back then. Who knew?

I could see kings gifting each other Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins even nowadays because they're quite delicious. They're like those really thin and crispy snickerdoodles, texture-wise. They're buttery like them, too. But instead of cinnamon and spice, there's a pleasant wave of lemon flavor.

Lemon always feels like a summer flavor to me, and these cookies are no different. Despite the butteriness, they don't feel overly filling, dense, or oily. They're light and crispy yet also somehow very flavorful.

In general, crispy cookies aren't my thing, but this selection gets a thumbs up from me. I'd almost want to call them "dessert crackers" instead of "cookies," you know, if dessert crackers were a thing.

I've tried these dessert crackers plain, with cream cheese, and with vanilla ice cream. They're awesome in every instance. I'd try my dessert crackers with lemon ice cream or lemon sherbet if I had some.

Sonia likes them a lot, too. $4.49 for the 9 serving box is a little pricey IMO, but as usual, you get what you pay for. These things are high quality. Plus there are two separate sleeves of cookies so one half of the package can stay wrapped up while you eat the other half. Double fours on Trader Joe's Old World Recipe Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel


I'm not sure why mackerel isn't more popular. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I've ever had it. Every grocery store in America has a section for canned tuna and most have a row or two of canned salmon. Mackerel? I'm not saying it's not there, I'm just saying I've never taken note of it before.

And even though fresh, expertly-prepared salmon is among my favorite foods on earth, canned salmon is a sad substitute for it. Even Trader Joe's Canned Salmon fell short of my expectations.

So Sonia and I went into this purchase with low confidence but were both pleasantly surprised. Trader Joe's Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil didn't exactly look like a delicacy when I first peeled back the lid of the tin can, with both light and dark meat sections visible, all of it swimming in a tiny sea of sunflower oil.


There were two long, thin fillets of the meat. They forked apart easily enough. The texture was similar to tuna but decidedly firmer. Again, these were actual slabs of natural fish rather than minced into a mush like canned tuna.

The taste was very similar to tuna as well, but slightly less fishy. It was almost like tuna but a step in the direction of canned chicken. The plain unadulterated fish straight from the can definitely received a thumbs up from both Sonia and me. It was even better when served in a salad.

Finally, we chopped up some dolmas, added spinach, mackerel, and balsamic dressing and put it all on water crackers, as seen in the pic above. They turned out messy but surprisingly scrumptious. If we'd added feta, they would have been even more outstanding.


We'll absolutely buy Trader Joe's Wild Caught Boneless Skinless Mackerel again and we'll be on the lookout for other brands of mackerel in other grocery stores. This product had a "best by" date a good three years and some change into the future. I think we found a new pantry staple.

$2.99 for the 6 ounce can. Product of Tunisia. Four stars from me. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Trader Giotto's Italian Style Meatballs


To my surprise, there were at least three or four different varieties of meatballs in the frozen section at Trader Joe's during my last run. It's been a hot minute since we've reviewed any kind of meatballs on this blog, so I thought: what the heck?

I chose this bag for two reasons: these are all beef meatballs, unlike the others which all contained pork. And it's brought to you by none other than our old Italian friend Trader Giotto. Buongiorno, Signor Giotto! Why they don't call you Trader Giuseppe, I'll never know. But whatevs.


I got lazy and opted for the microwave heating instructions. Ready in four minutes from frozen? Yes, please. 

The texture was still quite pleasant after being nuked for a spell—not unlike fresh-made meatloaf. It was just a smidge chewier than your average melt-in-your-mouth hamburger, but still very pleasant.

The spice blend wafted out from our magical radiation machine as the meat reheated, and it made our kitchen smell like an Italian restaurant. I tried the large meatballs just by themselves, no fixings. Delicious. They tasted just like they smelled: rich, meaty, and full of peppers, garlic, onion, and parsley. I'd have happily eaten four or five meatballs by themselves for an easy protein-rich lunch.

But in the end, we heated up some pasta and marinara sauce and topped the whole thing with parmesan cheese. Perfetto!

I'm far from a meatball connoisseur, but I've gotta give Trader Giotto's Italian Style Meatballs a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up. About five bucks for a dozen full-size meatballs. Four and a half stars from me. Sonia will go with four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Trader Joe's Black Garlic

I freaking love garlic. I've sung its praises on this blog numerous times in the past. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of what it does to one's breath, although if you and your partner both have it at the same meal, it's never quite as offensive as when only one of you has partaken of the potent plant's pungency.

It's delicious raw or cooked, in sauces, salsas, dips, chips—you name it, it works. I know they even have garlic ice cream. I think I'll pass on that, though.

You'd think I'd have heard of black garlic a long time ago, but its existence has only recently come to my attention. The easiest way to describe the flavor is with the following analogy:

black garlic : plain garlic :: caramelized onions : raw onions

Black garlic is to plain raw garlic as caramelized onions are to raw onions. Yes. It says right on the shaker it has a "caramelized-like flavor." It might sound a little awkward to put it like that, but it's not wrong. Trader Joe's Black Garlic is actually a little sweet. It's a rich, dark, earthy sweetness, but it's definitely kinda sweet.

Texture-wise, it's like large grains of salt. It makes food just a little crunchy and gritty, but in a good way. I added it to a bagel with plain cream cheese, and black garlic made every aspect of it better. I even tried it on hamburgers, and it worked better than I'd expected. I imagine you could use it on just about anything salty or savory.


$2.99 for about one net ounce of the condiment. Kosher. I'd buy it again. It has rice hull as an "anticaking agent" in the ingredients, but you still might find the grains are stuck together. Just break them apart with a fork before shaking. 

Four and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me on Trader Joe's Ground Fermented Black Garlic.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Trader Joe's Cheesecake-Inspired Truffles Collection


How cute. Cheesecake slices for dolls. I mean, I'm a dude, so you know...cheesecake slices for action figures. When we were kids, we'd take our G.I. Joe toys and set them up with my friends' sisters' Barbie dolls. They'd fraternize, eat tiny cheesecakes together, and then they'd get a little amorous, you know? Things might have gotten a little frisky between the Joes and the Barbies. But then Sergeant Slaughter would realize his pants were fused onto his legs, so things never really got out of hand.

Anyhow, tiny cheesecake slices. They're "truffles" that are "cheesecake-inspired." I've always been a big fan of cheesecake. Truffles? They're kinda hit or miss. I don't generally gravitate towards them. But cheesecake-inspired truffles are worth a whirl, I figure.


And yes, the morsels in Trader Joe's Cheesecake-Inspired Truffles Collection are awesome. They do indeed taste like cheesecake. Texture-wise, they're close to real cheesecake. It's like cheesecake but not as dense. They feel like whipped cream cheese on the inside. The outside is like your typical candy shell or thin layer of chocolate.

I LOVED the two fruit flavors: lemon and raspberry. Sonia agrees about raspberry but not lemon. I have no idea why. I almost felt personally insulted when she mentioned she wasn't as big a fan of the lemon flavor. They're both super tart and super sweet. I guess there's more tartness in the lemon flavor—a bit too much for Sonia, apparently.

She loved both of the non-fruit flavors. I liked them okay, especially the vanilla one. The caramel one was my least favorite, and even it's nothing to complain about. I think the salted caramel flavor just overshadowed the cheesecakiness to some degree.


If they made a box with four different fruit cheesecake flavors, it would be a shoo-in for this blog's Pantheon. They should keep lemon and raspberry. I'd also add orange cream, cherry, strawberry, and/or blueberry.

$4.99 for eight miniature cheesecakelets. Would buy again. Perfect as a gift or to substitute any occasion you might buy one of those boxes of chocolates with mystery truffles. Eat your heart out, Forrest Gump. I give Trader Joe's Cheesecake-Inspired Truffles Collection four stars. Sonia does too.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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