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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, April 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Salmon Burgers


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


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

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

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

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



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Trader Joe's Jalapeño & Cream Cheese Crispy Wontons


What we have here is a wonton disregard for condiments and sauces. You feel me? This is a decent product, but for goodness sake, throw us a bone and give us some sweet chili sauce in a little packet next time. They even show a bowl of dipping sauce on the packaging. It might be nice to include the condiment since it's generally understood we'll be pairing these apps with something sweet and tangy.

Alrighty, I'll stop ranting for a bit and tell you what I like about them. They are crispy. We heated ours in the air fryer, and the wontons get all dark and crunchy around the edges. The middles are less crispy since they're a bit soggified from the cream cheese filling. They're just a tad oily, too, but letting them cool for a spell on a paper towel or napkin remedies most of that issue. They taste good—like typical crab puffs but without the crab.


The jalapeños are picante enough to give the wontons a kick but not enough to produce any discomfort, at least for folks who enjoy moderately spicy foods. There's a decent amount of cream cheese in every bite, so there's a rich, milky aspect to them as well. They really do want to be dipped in something sweet, though. Fortunately we had some non-TJ's sweet Thai chili sauce stashed away in the back of the fridge. I think they're way better when slathered with that stuff.


$4.99 for a dozen little wonton appetizers. Not the best value in the store, but still worth a purchase if you're looking for something tasty, crispy, and easy to make. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four stars from yours truly for Trader Joe's Jalapeño & Cream Cheese Crispy Wontons.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa Paste


Everything I ever knew about harissa I learned from Trader Joe, which admittedly isn't all that much. We saw a decent harissa-based salsa some years back. And I vaguely remember trying some sardines packed in harissa during one of our short-lived podcast episodes. What is harissa? It's a spicy chili pepper paste that comes from the Maghreb region of North Africa. This item isn't shy about its origins. It's a proud product of Tunisia.

I remember liking the flavor and intensity of harissa, but I think this paste is a more concentrated format than either of my previous encounters with the spicy sauce. I like a good bit of heat with certain foods, but I definitely have my limits. Hopefully I'll be able to apply this paste so it's strong enough to enhance my meals but not to the point of pain. Let's dive in...


The harissa hits you up front with a rich, pungent fragrance. It's peppery, smoky, and faintly vinegary. There's a layer of oil around the edges of the jar, and a moderate amount of seeds can be seen throughout the mixture.

Flavor-wise, it's similar. There's a bit of garlic and coriander in the paste, but they're mostly overshadowed by the intense hot pepper flavor. I mean, this isn't the spiciest sauce I've ever had, but it's not for the faint of heart, either. I'd put it at the same intensity level as a jalapeño pepper—and definitely a good bit hotter than the gochujang sauce we looked at recently. You feel it in your mouth and tongue immediately, and over time it slowly warms your tummy internally.


So far, we've had it on chicken and fish, both of which worked really well. We've added it to plain hummus to give it a kick. And we've also put dollops in things like Asian-style stir fry. I've heard some people like to mix it with a bit of mayo to temper the spice level and add it to burgers and other typical American fare. Sounds good, but we haven't tried it that way yet.

$2.99 for the jar. Not a bad value considering it came from halfway around the world and it'll most likely last us a long time due to its potency. We're eager to experiment with it some more. Four stars from Sonia, four from me on Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa Paste.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Trader Joe's Corn & Cheese Arepas


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

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


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

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

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


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

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



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Trader Joe's Kanom Krok Thai Coconut Pancakes


Dang, I need to start being more adventurous when I go to Thai restaurants. If it's a place I've never been to before, nine times out of ten I'll get the pad thai on my first go around. On subsequent occasions, I might try some sort of curry or soup, but I rarely grab appetizers or desserts that I've never heard of. I've apparently been missing out.


So...people seem to be calling these "Thai pancakes." I guess I can see where that comes from. But to me, a pancake is a breakfast food—something carboriffic that you'd eat first thing in the morning alongside juice, toast, and milk. These do have a thin, crispy, doughy exterior layer, but that's just the outer shell.

It would be more accurate to call these "Thai coconut cream pies" in my opinion, because the main attraction here is the sweet, smooth pudding-like filling in the middle of the little dome-shaped treats. It's über-coconutty and utterly superb.

The packaging says they're a good "balance of salty and sweet." Yeah, no. I'm not saying there's no salt in them, but you wouldn't reach for these if you wanted something salty. You'd reach for these when you want a blast of dessert-o-riffic silky coconut perfection—like a coconut cream pie, but better.

There's not much in the way of actual coconut texture. If you're one of those folks that doesn't like the feel of coconut shavings, you're in luck. The custard filling is fairly thick but extremely smooth. The beautiful wifey likened the creamy filling to the coconut version of sweetened condensed milk.

$3.29 for nine kanom krok, which are about two bites a piece. I really wish they sold a larger pack because it took Sonia and I about 90 seconds to demolish this entire box. If you enjoy the taste of coconut, these things are amazing. Incidentally, this was the item my Trader Joe's cashier chose for her obligatory "compliment one of the customer's choices" on my last TJ's run. No wonder. Four and a half stars a piece from the two of us for Trader Joe's Kanom Krok Thai Coconut Pancakes.



Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Trader Joe's Figo! Bars


Never heard of "figo" before, pronounced like "fee-go." Apparently it's an Italian word that means "cool" or, according to Google Translate, "sounds cool." I guess the idea is kinda cool: two desserts in one. One half of the treat is like a Dove bar or what have you with vanilla ice cream and a thin chocolate coating and the other half is an ice cream sandwich.


I'll tell you right now I like the chocolate coated half better. It's definitely chocolate-forward. That coating is rich and full of cocoa flavor. The ice cream is decent, but it could be more vanillatastic...you know with vanilla beans and a heavy marshmallow vibe. It tastes sweet but any actual vanilla taste is overshadowed by that chocolate. That's fine. It still works.

The vanilla ice cream is the same in the sandwich half, but there's something off-putting about the texture of the "chocolate wafers" to me. It's like oddly starchy—almost chalky. Like it makes me want to cough. Even the flavor is slightly bland in the wafers.

If you space out your bites strategically, you can have a couple mouthfuls that contain both chocolate wafer and chocolate coating. The chocolate coating continues to steal the show in these instances. However, you'll still be left with a few bites of nothing but chocolate wafer and ice cream at the end. And I don't know why, but it just feels a bit like fancy Italian sawdust to me.

Sonia entered the room just as she was getting to the second half of her bar. "I really like these cookies!" she exclaimed, in reference to the items I just likened to the byproduct of a high school wood shop class.

"Well, now that we agree on that..." I said.

Despite their shortcomings, the wafers didn't completely ruin my enjoyment of these imported desserts. But would I buy them again? I dunno. I'm on the fence, but the beautiful wifey sure would.

$4.49 for six bars, found in the frozen section. Three and a half stars from me, four and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Figo! Half Dipped Chocolate & Vanilla Flavored Sandwich Bars.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Trader Joe's Korean Gochujang Sauce

Let me explain something about myself. I love condiments. I love sauces. When I eat French fries, I'm an absolute ketchup fiend. I like mustard, mayo, relish, onions, chili, and cheese sauces on my 'Murican stuff. On my foreign foods, I like
sriracha, sweet Thai chili, garlic spread, tzatziki, zhoug, chutney...you name it.

I think places like Chick-fil-a are outstanding not because they have the best chicken, although theirs is definitely up there, but because they have the best dipping sauces. Freaking Polynesian sauce? Come on, man. You can't beat that. The only reason I ever patronize Subway anymore is to get my chicken teriyaki sandwich absolutely drowned in that sweet onion sauce. Why they took away the red wine vinaigrette, I'll never know.

I'm on record stating ketchup is my favorite condiment of all time, followed closely by sriracha. I'll stand by that. Like sriracha, this sauce is made with fermented red chilis, but it hails from Korea rather than Thailand. A purchase was inevitable.

We've seen Gochujang Paste from Trader Joe's before. That's more like the unadulterated source material while this product is truly a sauce ready for application and implementation. It's not quite as potent, spice-wise, since it's mixed with rice vinegar and soy sauce. While that previous product was a thick paste, this condiment is thin and smooth like ketchup or sriracha.


Heat-wise, it's right in the middle of the spectrum. It provides a kick, for sure, but you don't have to worry about wasabi-like sinus-clearing pain, even if you use a bit too much. As far as flavor goes, it tastes more fermented than sriracha to me. It's almost like a kimchi made with red peppers. Also, the vinegar flavor is much stronger in this particular sauce and it's not nearly as sweet. For those reasons, sriracha will easily maintain its position as the second best condiment in existence for me.


Sonia? She likes this stuff better. She's a bigger fan of kimchi than I am and of fermented flavors in general. She also enjoys vinegary stuff more than I do. She thinks of it like an Asian version of Tapatio or Cholula. I'll admit it does go well with tacos and sour cream. Mexican-Korean fusion for the win. We also mixed it with mayo and tried it on a cheeseburger. Not bad, not bad. Sonia also LOVES this product with eggs.

$3.49 for the 9.17 oz bottle. Would buy again. I'll throw out three and a half stars. Put the beautiful wifey down for four and a half on Trader Joe's Korean Gochujang Sauce.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Trader Joe's Raspberry Mousse Cakes


There's a whole series of these little mousse cakes that TJ's does. Usually, they're chocolate. You know, they have Chocolate Mousse Eggs for Easter season, pumpkins for Halloween, and presents for Christmas. Also there's a larger single cake for Valentine's, which might still be around. They'll all run you about four bucks and have pretty much the same flavor.

Finally, they tried something a little different, and I'm glad they didn't try cramming chocolate of any kind into this product. They're tiny white cakes with raspberry buttercream on top and a candy coating all around. They're soft, sweet, and satisfying.


The cake portion has a nice vanilla flavor. It's not too heavy or rich at all. I like it just fine, but the raspberry buttercream steals the show. They used actual raspberries and real butter. It's thick, smooth, and very tasty. The outer coating just kinda holds the whole thing together. It's very similar to the coating on those other mousse cakes mentioned above.

We were tempted to eat the whole package in one sitting, but we managed to space it out to two. No real complaints other than we wish there were more in the pack, and I think they could cram some more of that delectable raspberry buttercream into each cake, but hey, they're pretty darn good as they are.


$3.99 for six small but scrumptious raspberry cakes, found with the baked goods. Four and a half stars from Sonia, who states "This is the kind of stuff Marie Antoinette would eat at parties." Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Raspberry Mousse Cakes.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Trader Joe's Organic Super Bread


Look! Up on the shelf in the baked goods section! It's a bagel! It's a pastry! It's Superbread!

I don't know if I'd call this bread "super" myself, but it is very earthy and seedy and unique, not to mention certified organic. For the third review in a row, Sonia is way more positive about the product than I am, although in the end, this product will get a thumbs up from me, too.

My in-laws have been sending us this delicious bread from Le Pain Quotidien that has nuts and seeds and dried fruit all through it. It's not dessert bread, but there is a bit of sweetness to it and it's amazing. I thought this bread might be Trader Joe's version of the same bread. And while it is similar in some ways, it's not quite as scrumptious as that LPQ selection.


Despite the "organic dried apple" mentioned in the ingredients, this bread really isn't very sweet at all. Aside from the wheat flour, seeds are far and away the dominant flavor and they add a lot to the texture, too. We've got pumpkin, flax, and sunflower here.

The most unexpected element? Carrots. I mean I guess it wouldn't be "unexpected" if I had actually bothered to read the front of the bag, but I tend to just impulsively yoink stuff off the shelves these days and ask questions later. But yeah, there are thin carrot slivers all through the bread. I wouldn't have expected that to work, but it does. Sonia is absolutely mad about the carrot bits. It'll be hard to go back to dollar store bread after this gourmet stuff.

Organic super bread isn't bad raw, but both Sonia and I prefer it toasted. It's nice with either butter or cream cheese. It's versatile enough to make sandwiches of all kinds. I don't know if I'd reach for this for, like, peanut butter and jelly. But for cold cuts and cheese it works well.

Organic. Kosher. $3.99 for the loaf. Sonia says a re-purchase is inevitable. That's fine, dear. That's fine. Four and a half stars from her. Like I said, I like it and will eat some here and there, but I can't muster quite the same enthusiasm as the beautiful wifey. Three and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Organic Super Bread.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Trader Joe's Sri Lankan Organic Mango Chutney


So this totally wasn't what I was expecting. But I'm not going to let my preconceived notions ruin my experience with this product, because it's a unique and delicious condiment in its own right. Was I expecting Indian-style chutney while this specimen is uniquely Sri Lankan? Possibly.

I fell in love with chutney many years ago. There was a place close to my apartment that had the best chicken tikka, and I'd always get naan and samosas on the side and they came with two little dishes of red and green chutney. Before I'd even start on the entree, I'd finish both types of chutney completely. I'd later find out the green one was mint chutney and the red one was tamarind chutney, neither of which would have appealed to me if I'd only heard the names of the sauces. Both were heavy on sweet coconut flavor and were very watery and thin—no bits of fruit or chunks of anything.


This product is more like a marmalade in terms of look and texture. It's quite thick. And there are indeed mango bits floating throughout the little jar. It's sweet like the aforementioned chutneys, but this one is more fruit forward and has a lot less coconut taste, despite the fact that it does contain "organic coconut sap vinegar."

There's an unexpected though not entirely unwelcome spice blend here, as well. In addition to chili powder, which gives the product a modest kick, we're also looking at cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg. They're oddly strong, too. If it were me, I would have dialed the spices back just a tad and let the fruit flavors do the talking, but it makes for a very exotic taste combo.


This chutney went well with pan-fried chicken and rice. It complements naan bread, samosas, and charcuterie type foods. I'm sure you could use it with sandwiches, wraps, or as a glaze for meat or white fish.

Sonia says she's had chutney very similar to this one at other Indian restaurants. She's a fan. $2.99 for the 8.5 oz jar. Product of Sri Lanka. Organic. Kosher. Would buy again. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Sri Lankan Mango Chutney.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Dried Tart Montmorency Cherries


I think this is the first time I've ever heard of a "montmorency" cherry. Apparently they're a fairly common variety of sweet-tart cherry widely available throughout the US and other countries. Who knew?

This dried fruit is very flavorful. Trader Joe's Montmorency Cherries are not unlike Craisins® or dried cranberries in terms of size, color, and texture. Flavor-wise, they're similar, too, but I think these are slightly sweeter and more robust.


The bag says you can use them in muffins, salads, and trail mixes, or as a component in a meat glaze. We mostly just ate them straight out of the bag. Balsamic glaze, Brussels sprouts, walnuts, red onions and these cherries together was an oddly good combo.

We also got in the habit of dropping a few of them into different beverages. We found they gave whatever we were drinking a little sweet-tart essence and the cherries, likewise, would absorb a bit of the flavor of the drink. Think: orange juice with a twist of sour cherry and then citrus flavored dried cherries at the bottom of the glass. Tasty.


They were really handy to snack on here and there for a between meal pick-me-up, and they come in a resealable bag. One drawback: they're slightly oily and you need a wet nap after eating a bunch of them.

$4.99 for the 8 oz bag, which lasted us a good long time. Kosher. Would buy again. Four stars from me, four and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Trader Joe's Shrimp Pouches of Many Colors


As a kid, I was much more into "grazing" than eating big sit-down meals. My family ate together on Christmas Day, Easter...and that's about it. The rest of the time I would forage around the pantry or the freezer eating random things I found a la carte. Sonia largely grew up in the same manner, although family meals were somewhat more common in her case. Oddly, we're both only children, as well. You'd think three people would be easier to gather around a table than five or six or more, yet it seemed those bigger families were more tightly knit and ate meals together almost every day. Oh well.


Our grazing habits have followed us into adulthood. Since it's just the two of us, Sonia and I have gotten into the habit of eating Trader Joe's appetizers as a mid-day snack from time to time. Somewhere in between Elevensies and Luncheon, these little pouches of shrimpy goodness started calling my name from the back of the freezer, so I fired up a pan and got to steaming.

They're easy enough to heat, going from frozen to hot in just over 10 minutes. The pouches are very similar to the outside of a typical Asian dumpling—soft and slippery, supple and squishy. Inside, there's a clump of shredded shrimp meat mixed with radish, ginger, and spring onion. Along with some spices and oils, there's a very nice savory flavor to these super small sacks of seafood.

$4.29 for 12 little shrimp appetizers. Product of Vietnam. The beautiful wifey and I both wanted more shrimp in each pouch. We also wanted more pouches in the pack. Plus, you have to provide your own soy or sesame sauce. You don't get a ton of bang for your buck with this product. 

On the other hand, the quality is there...and I freaking LOVE shrimp.

Four stars a piece for Trader Joe's Shrimp Pouches of Many Colors.



Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Trader Joe's Portuguese Bacalhau Tartelettes


These aren't the first Portuguese tarts we've tried from TJ's. We had some desserty, breakfasty custard tarts a few years back. I thought these might be similar. And in some ways they are, of course, but these are actually fishy, dinner-ish tarts, rather than dessert ones.

If you didn't know that "bacalhau" was the Portuguese word for "salted cod," well you're not alone. I guess Trader Joe expects us to be multilingual now. I've nearly worn out my Duolingo app with a 1,365 day streak going on, which I'm very proud of. But I'm learning español and brushing up on Deutsch, but alas, not Português.


It does say "cod" on the box, too, to be fair. But some of us have attention deficit issues here, TJ's. Sometimes your product names are lame and boring, and other times I wish you'd just stick with English. "Cod tarts" would have worked here. But I digress.

Air fryer instructions? Check. Eight tiny frozen fish apps, each with its own little pie tin? Check. Twenty minutes later, it's time for our mid-day meal.

Butter, eggs, potato, and salted fish never tasted so good. Sonia and I demolished the whole pack in a matter of minutes. The tartelettes smelled and tasted similar to New England clam chowder to me, but with a buttery, flaky croissant thrown into the mix instead of crackers or croutons. I never had cod that approximated the taste or texture of clams before, but that's what I got for ya. Fortunately, I love almost all seafood including clams.


The mixture is approximately 50% crispy, flaky, bready shell and 50% soupy, chowdery, fish filling. I was tempted to try to eat mine with my bare hands, but I wound up using a fork. They can be a tad messy.

$4.99 for the pack. Product of Portugal. Another exotic, restaurant-quality appetizer from Trader Joe's. Would buy again. These made a great stand-alone meal for us, but I bet they'd be even better as an appetizer. Four stars from the beautiful wifey. Four and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Portuguese Bacalhau Tartelettes.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Croissants


They need to put a huge disclaimer on the front of this package that says THESE TAKE TEN HOURS TO PREPARE. Culinary dummies like me don't take things like proofing into account, generally. Yes, we've reviewed similar products before that required proofing, but I didn't remember it took so much time. Traderjoes.com says you need to proof them "like a bakery would." Newsflash, TJ's: I don't run a bakery. I can barely toast a slice of bread correctly.


Also, our house is cold, arctic vortex and all. The kitchen is definitely not in the typical range of what might be considered "room temperature." Fortunately, I found a great reddit thread with alternative ideas for proofing. There was still some ambient heat lingering in the oven from when I heated our Chicken Shawarma Bowl, so I started the proofing process in the semi-warm oven. I waited about four hours and no visible proofing had occurred. Some folks on the thread said that if the product has been in your freezer for a significant amount of time, they won't proof correctly, but fortunately they also said the product is still delicious even if it hasn't risen like it's supposed to.


And you know what? They were absolutely right. These pastries might not have been as puffy as they were intended to be, but they sure did taste good. There's a richness to the bread that's absolutely marvelous, just like Trader Joe's other frozen croissants. The chocolate flavor is velvety and indulgent, sweet but not overly so, and the whole conglomeration is flaky and buttery as can be.

$5.49 for four bakery-quality croissants. Kosher. Would buy again in warmer weather just to try them when proofed correctly. Four and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Croissants.



Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Trader Joe's Empanadas de Ropa Vieja


So...I speak a little Spanish, but I'm not so confident to be 100% sure I'm translating everything I read or hear correctly. Glancing at the title of this product, I thought it meant something along the lines of "hand pies made of old clothes." Well that's obviously wrong, I thought. So I asked my wife, fluent in español, where I'd gone wrong. "No, that's correct," she explained.

She'd heard of the dish before but didn't grow up eating it. Apparently, it's more of a Caribbean and Central American thing than a Mexican thing. Her Cuban co-worker, very familiar with the traditional meal, explained that there's a legend that an old homeless man with no food began tearing up his own clothes in lieu of meat and heating them on the stove and they magically turned into beef—hence the name. Thanks, Julio, for that anecdote.


But enough about the name. How does this offering from Trader Joe's taste? Shoot. It's REALLY good. I'm surprised I haven't heard more buzz about this product. Both the wifey and I found it muy delicioso.

Nine minutes in the air fryer had these puppies piping hot and crispy golden brown on the outside. Pretty sure the traditional dish is made with actual bread rather than cassava—a root vegetable—but this product didn't suffer at all for the substitution. It's not the first empanada with cassava crust we've seen from TJ's. It lends a faintly nutty flavor to the "breading" part of the empanada.

The filling is soft, flavorful shredded beef with tomato, onion, and bell pepper. It just melts in your mouth. There's a spice blend including garlic, salt, oregano, and coriander that rounds out the taste perfectly.


I could have sworn there was a layer of mashed potatoes just inside the crust, but I think it was just more cassava. It made the meat pie feel even more like comfort food. So, so good.

The beautiful wifey and I plowed through the pack in a single sitting for lunch. We'd absolutely buy it again. About $6 for eight mini empanadas. Restaurant-quality appetizers. Four and a half stars a piece for Trader Joe's Empanadas de Ropa Vieja.



Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Trader Joe's Apple Overnight Oats


Well, 2023 was an interesting year. There's no doubt 2024 will be even more so. I've mused about New Year's resolutions before on this blog, so there's no need to wax philosophical today. Suffice it to say that if I were to make any intentional changes in my life, eating better and being less fat healthier is always somewhere on the list.

I like oat-based cereal, oatmeal, and overnight oats. Sonia has some oaty stuff on hand more often than not, so I'm not sure why I don't eat it more frequently. It's filling, nutritious, and generally not very expensive. This product is no exception to those rules.


Plus, this oat and almond-based breakfast tastes surprisingly good. Overall, it's nutty and hearty, and there are plenty of sweet date and apple pieces throughout. Honestly, I didn't notice the dates until I looked at the ingredients. They just blended in with the slightly more familiar taste of apple, and there's plenty cinnamon flavor too—for a distinctly apple cinnamon vibe.

There's a good bit of moisture all through the oats. It's almond milk, mostly...er, sorry—it's almond beverage. Is there a copyright on "almond milk"? Meh. Who cares? Anyway, the mixture is nice and wet, but it's still quite thick. I was pleasantly surprised at how dense and rich the mixture was. It's not watered down at all. Sonia actually wanted the overnight oats to be thinner, with more liquid. Interesting. That's the only point we disagree on.


We both like the product quite a bit and are eager to try other flavors. $1.99 for the 5.5 oz cup. Gluten free. Kosher. Would buy again. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Apple Overnight Oats.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Cream Cheese Spread


Trader Joe's has gone and made hot cocoa flavored cream cheese. It's everything you'd expect it to be...I mean, unless you were expecting it to actually be hot. Of course it's not hot when you pull it out of the fridge. That would be silly to think that. I mean, I suppose you could heat it up and melt it and find some uses for it that way, but now we're getting off track...


This cream cheese looks, smells, and tastes like actual hot cocoa. It's a milky light brown color, and it spreads like any other cream cheese. It's super smooth. No flecks of powder or chunks of marshmallow or anything like that—although Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Cream Cheese with Marshmallows doesn't sound bad to me at all.


As soon as you open the tub, the smell of hot cocoa hits your nose. And it tastes like hot cocoa, too—like a medium-sweet milk chocolate made with real cow's milk, cocoa, and sugar. It goes great on bagels and anywhere else you'd use regular cream cheese. Sonia is fond of sprinkling Trader Joe's Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Blend on top of this stuff for an extra blast of sweetness and maybe a bit of Mexican Hot Chocolate flair from the cinnamon.

$2.79 for the tub. Would buy again. Four stars a piece from the beautiful wifey and me for Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Cream Cheese Spread.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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