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Showing posts with label vegan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegan. Show all posts

Friday, November 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage


You all know me. I'm a trooper. I'll try just about anything once. There are pumpkin products I love and pumpkin products I dislike, and everything in between. But this right here is pretty gross. I imagine it's about as close as I'll ever get to drinking a pumpkin spice candle.

I mean, we don't even have pumpkin spice cow's milk. Sure, I've had some killer pumpkin pie milkshakes in my day. And there are pumpkin coffee beverages galore, some of which are okay and some of which are not. But there's not really just plain pumpkin milk. So...just maybe the world doesn't need a dairy-free version of pumpkin milk..?


We tried the pumpkin almond beverage a few years back, and it wasn't good. It might have passed as a coffee creamer, but even that was pushing it. This stuff is an even paler shade of unnatural orange—not unlike orange cream milk or an orange creamsicle milkshake. Oh how I wish to God it tasted like an orange creamsicle.

It tastes like the dirty dishwater used to clean out several bowls of plain oatmeal...mixed with potpourri and a dash of pureed squash. The aftertaste is appalling. I just barely managed to down a couple swigs of it for this review. Never again.

Sonia, predictably, isn't nearly as disgusted as I am, although even she says she can't really taste pumpkin spices exactly. She thinks it needs more cinnamon. Yes. Okay. I'll agree with that. It definitely doesn't taste like cinnamon, and the taste of cinnamon is much less vile than the taste of this beverage, ergo, it could use some cinnamon I guess.

Sonia will finish the carton using it as a coffee creamer or to make her own potpourri lattes. $2.99 for the candle. Three out of five stars from the beautiful wifey. One star from me for Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage.



Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Mini Maple Marshmallows


After 14 years of marriage, I thought I knew all the culinary tricks my wife had up her sleeve. As I popped a couple of these maple-flavored marshmallows into my mouth, Sonia scolded, "Don't eat too many or I won't have enough to make rice crispy treats."

"You know how to make rice crispy treats?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Literally everybody knows how to make rice crispy treats. It's SO easy," she replied.


I've mentioned it on this blog before, but I got a bad grade in home ec class. My little group couldn't even get rice crispy treats right. I mean, we had to repeat the assignment multiple times and we still couldn't produce edible food. We actually had to stay after school to chisel the charred remains of our project out of the pan. Basically, that whole episode scarred me for life and I haven't even attempted to make them since.

But Sonia whipped up a batch in like 10 minutes. She made it look so simple. I mean, neither of my parents ever made rice crispy treats, so I figured it must take some kind of wizard-level kitchen skills. Most of the ones I've had were the store-bought, pre-made kind. I've had homemade ones at potlucks and group picnics and such, and I always marveled that anyone had the talent to turn simple marshmallows and puffed rice into such a spectacular dessert treat.

But one thing I've never had: MAPLE rice crispy treats. So good! On their own, these marshmallows are super mapley and sweet. They're pretty much what you'd expect maple marshmallows to taste like, except maybe even better. They don't taste fake at all and there's no weird aftertaste.

When they're used in rice crispy bars, the maple flavor gets diluted just a tad, but there's still that sweet, nutty, caramel-esque maple goodness in the background. Combined with crisp rice, butter, and whatever else you baking geniuses put in those things, it's a delicacy you're sure to want next fall and every fall after that.

So, yes, we'd buy these again next year. Sonia wishes they sold them in a much larger bag. $2.99 for this 6 oz package. Four and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia for Trader Joe's Mini Maple Marshmallows.



Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli


For those of you unfamiliar, bolognese sauce originates from Bologna, Italy and is traditionally made with beef or sometimes pork, and it's rich and hearty and commonly served on pasta. Some versions contain red wine, while most contain herbs and spices like rosemary, fennel, and/or oregano.

Here we have Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli. Seems pretty straightforward: little round ravioli pasta pieces filled with that vegan bolognese sauce that we reviewed a few years ago? We liked that sauce okay, so filling ravioli with it will probably make a passable meal. Let's just dive right in.


The ravioli is very dainty here. Like each piece is simply two paper thin layers of pasta with a spoonful of a relatively thin tomato and lentil-based sauce inside. It has a pleasant, though not particularly pungent, array of spices. Tomato is far and away the dominant flavor.

Sonia wishes there were more of the sauce within each pasta round. I don't disagree, but I'd rather have a thicker, more robust sauce. It doesn't need to have meat, but even the lentils and tomatoes are crushed into oblivion and feel nearly liquefied. There's very little to chew on in this dish.


We actually wound up finishing the package by dumping Trader Joe's Calabrian Chili Spicy Pasta Sauce on the remainder. That stuff completely drown out the comparatively subtle flavors of the bolognese sauce and made the pasta much more flavorful. Everything's more exciting with that sauce on it.

There's nothing unpleasant about this pasta product, but it could be improved with greater quantities of the bolognese sauce and/or making it thicker, and even bulkier pasta on the ravioli would help.

$3.99 for the package, which Sonia and I easily finished in a single sitting. Three out of five stars from yours truly. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Vegan Italian Bolognese Ravioli.



Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets


As a lover of real fish, I'm coming into this one shaking my head, bracing myself for disappointment. A glance at the ingredients reveals this product is jackfruit-based. How can one fruit mimic barbecue pulled pork and fish fillets? It just doesn't seem possible.

There's air fryer heating instructions on the box. We'll go with that one. The air fryer seems to make everything taste better. 10 minutes at 400°F and we're in business.

The smell? Surprisingly, my nose doesn't detect much of anything after heating, in stark contrast to real fish fillets from the air fryer. I guess there's a hint of something akin to hot cooking oil, but that's about it.


Despite my instincts to slather Trader Joe's Plant-Based Fish Fillets with tartar sauce and slap them in between slices of bread and cheese, I think I'll just try them plain first to play it safe. First impressions? Surprisingly edible.

Using a fork to cut the fillets apart, the texture is somewhere between a normal fish fillet and a fried banana. The crispy coating is really nice. It's not very thick, but it does the job. Sonia likes that part the best.

Flavor-wise, they're not fishy at all, and I mean that in a good way. But at the same time, if you had to guess what meat they were trying to imitate, you'd all understand they were going for fish. Sonia said they vaguely reminded her of chicken empanadas. I can see that, too. You can faintly taste the king oyster mushrooms mentioned in the ingredients, and there's a nice savory blend of subtle spices.

I was really worried we had another meatless ground type situation on our hands, but that's not the case here. Not saying there aren't some folks out there who might find this product a little off-putting, but Sonia and I will easily polish off this box.

If you're vegan, gluten-free, or just looking to try something new, these aren't a bad option. $4.99 for three fake fish fillets. Three and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Battered Plant-Based Fish Fillets.




Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Trader Joe's Sliced Korean Rice Cakes


To me, the term "rice cake" has always meant a dry, crispy disk of whole grain rice, usually Quaker brand, mostly plain but occasionally dusted with a flavoring of some sort. Growing up with a wheat allergy, rice cakes were a great alternative to wheat-based crackers and even bread. I'd eat mine with peanut butter and jelly or sometimes just plain and I honestly grew to love them. Despite not having a significant wheat allergy any longer, I'll seek out Quaker rice cakes once in a while just for nostalgia's sake or to curb my once-in-a-while craving.

These rice cakes are obviously a little different from those big crunchy pucks I grew up with. Apparently, something similar to Trader Joe's Sliced Korean Rice Cakes is widely available at Asian grocers like H Mart, but this will be the first time either Sonia or I have tried this specific type of mochi-esque side dish.


The little slices of rices are oval-shaped, but otherwise about the size of a quarter. I don't know if you've ever placed a coin on the railroad tracks and let a train run over it or used one of those novelty crank-operated machines that stamps your penny with the logo from some specific attraction, but they're in that ballpark, size and shape-wise.

I followed the instructions to boil them, and they came out quite chewy. They were pillowy and somewhat soft, but honestly, I was hoping for something a little closer to regular rice or pasta in terms of texture. They're surprisingly dense, and I won't say they're leathery per se, but they don't exactly melt in the mouth quite like I was hoping they would.

Still, they're unique and convenient. There's no sauce in the bag, so you can just add them to pretty much any Asian dish. In our case, we had them with leftover sesame chicken, egg rolls, and stir fry topped with sriracha sauce. You can't really see any veggies in the picture we took, but I promise there's some cabbage in that bowl somewhere.

The cakes, not surprisingly, taste like rice, and they add an interesting texture, particularly if you cut them in half for easier chewing before taking a bite. We both like 'em enough. Repeat purchase? Maybe.

$3.29 for the 5 serving bag found in the frozen section. Vegan. Gluten free. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me on Trader Joe's Sliced Korean Rice Cakes.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Trader Joe's Mee Krob Snackers


I did exactly zero research before purchasing and trying Trader Joe's Mee Krob Snackers. They've been trending on social media, so I thought I'd just jump in head first.

So...as far as first impressions go, I'll start with the texture. It's not unlike eating uncooked ramen noodles, though slightly more pleasant than that. The noodles here are very thin, like vermicelli style. There's a thin glaze of a reddish sauce that's similar to the coating on flavored potato chips or rice cakes. The whole thing is extremely crispy and crunchy, with some cashews thrown into the mix that add a bit of softer texture. All in all, I'm a fan of the mouthfeel, though I wish the crackers were about half as thick as they are. It'd be easier to take small bites that way.


Flavor-wise, I'll just say this: Sonia and both of her parents are huge fans. I'm not hating on Trader Joe's Mee Krob by any means, but I can't say I'm as enthused as the rest of the family. I think it boils down to the fact that I'm not super fond of tamarind in most contexts, although there are some notable exceptions to that rule. Tamarind is a quintessential flavor for a lot of Hispanic beverages and treats, and it's also one of the key ingredients here, although this has an unmistakably Asian vibe in most respects.

"Sweet, tart, and savory" sums up the flavor pretty well. I actually wish there were more cashews and cashew flavor, but the bit that's there is mostly drowned out by the tangy sauces and starches. There's a tad too much vinegar flavor in the mix for my taste, as well, though I wouldn't call it a deal-breaker.


We all agree these would make decent croutons for an Oriental or Asian salad or wrap. They'd have to be broken into smaller pieces, but they'd work well. I guess you could add them to soup, too. Sonia and mi suegros are happy to munch away straight out of the bag, but I probably won't reach for them as a stand-alone snack.

But as always, I'm very glad I had the chance to try them. About three bucks for the 3 oz bag. Vegan. Gluten free. Product of Thailand. Four and a half stars from the beautiful wifey. Three out of five stars from me for Trader Joe's Mee Krob Snackers.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Trader Joe's Chai Tea Mints


Kind of a random little last-minute checkout stand kind of purchase here. I like mints. I like the flavor of chai tea. But I've never really craved a mint that tasted like chai.

But if Trader Joe's says I need chai tea mints, then maybe I need chai tea mints. Why not?

They're about the size of your average Altoid or other brand name mint. They are leaf-shaped and have leaf veins on one side and "TJ" on the other.


The taste? Hmmm. Kinda odd. I see where they get "chai" from, for sure. I guess it's the cardamom and black tea. You can taste it immediately. Later, you can taste the hint of peppermint oil mentioned on the ingredients list. There's something chalky both in taste and texture throughout the whole experience, though. I find it rather unpalatable. Is it the calcium stearate?

Do they even freshen your breath? Well, kinda. I guess it's better to smell like a chai tea latte than garlic, onions, and tuna fish...I mean, if that's, in fact, what you had for lunch...


About two bucks for a tiny tin of chai flavored mints. There are supposedly 57 pieces in there. Vegan. Would not buy again. Two and a half stars from me.

Sonia likes them enough. In regards to the discrepancy, she states, "Well, I like chai." I do too, wifey. However, I don't like chalk. She claims she doesn't detect the chalkiness. Four stars from her.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Meatless Ground


I wasn't particularly excited to try this product. I felt like it had a higher-than-average potential to be weird or gross. I have mixed feelings about all these newfangled fake meat products like Beyond and Impossible, etc. My experiences have ranged from being delighted by Del Taco's Beyond Tacos to spewing from both ends for about 18 hours straight after consuming an undercooked Booger King Impossible Whopper. Trader Joe's even offered their own Protein Patties a few years back. Not sure if they're around anymore.

What do all those bogus burger brands have in common? They're all refrigerated...like real meat. This stuff is dry and shelf stable at room temperature with a best by date about a year in the future. You reconstitute it yourself with hot water and oil. So...that just ups the potential nasty-factor exponentially if you ask me.


And yeah. It's weird. It's kinda gross. I suppose if you love the flavor of pea protein, you might like this. That's key for me: meatless meat can have pea protein in the ingredients all day long, but it can't actually taste like pea protein. 
In my humble opinion, this stuff tastes quite a bit like good, old fashioned pea protein and doesn't even come close to any meats I've ever had. They say it's like ground turkey or chicken. And while I'll admit it smelled and looked a bit like chicken while cooking, it definitely doesn't taste that way.

The texture is like wads of soggy paper. Not a fan. I tried cooking it and browning it a bit longer, but to no avail. Charred wads of soggy paper don't taste much better than undercooked wads of soggy paper.


There's a recipe for Meatless Macaroni on TJ's website. Lacking a few of the key ingredients, we whipped up a makeshift version of it, and it was...edible, thanks to the generous amounts of cheese and pasta we used.

$3.99 for the four serving resealable bag. I like the idea of having shelf stable "meat" ready in the back of the pantry for the day when real meat is unavailable for whatever reason, but this just isn't good enough for a repurchase. I've enjoyed fake meat and vegan burgers many, many times, but I can't say I'm an admirer of this product. Definitely wouldn't buy again. Two stars from me. Sonia will be even less lenient and throw out only one star for Trader Joe's Meatless Ground Plant-Based Crumbles.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm


Trader Joe's is discovering that hearts of palm are nearly as versatile as cauliflower. We've already looked at Trader Joe's Hearts of Palm Pasta, and I've already given my contemplative spiel about palm trees, so this time we'll just jump right into the food review.

Inside the box, there's a plastic pouch full of the riced hearts of palm. After snipping the corner or top of the pouch, you have to squeeze the contents out in the manner of toothpaste from a tube. They land in your saucepan resembling a lumpy wet mass. Not particularly appetizing. The smell is odd and excessively planty, similar to the pasta version, but not something that's familiar otherwise. Again, not particularly appetizing.


After heating, however, the product improves drastically both in smell and appearance. The aroma gets richer and more earthy, almost squash-like. The little palm pieces start to resemble actual rice as the liquids are partially cooked away.

The finished product is still a little wetter than actual rice somehow. The pieces are slightly more gelatinous than grainy. Still, they're quite edible. They need some fixins, though. The box recommends serving the dish with olive oil, veggies, and spices. I tried experimenting with a bunch of TJ's seasonings but nothing stood out head and shoulders above the others.

I like traditional rice the best. And I'd probably take riced cauliflower over this stuff. Still, this isn't a bad option. I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase Trader Joe's Riced Hearts of Palm again, but if someone served it to me as a side dish, I would eat it without complaint.

$3.49 for the 9 oz package. Vegan. Gluten free. Three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs


Usually Trader Joe's rolls out maple stuff in the fall, but I believe these little beauties debuted last month. Right now is actual maple harvest season—February into April, so let's take a look, shall we?

I was highly skeptical of these puffs before trying them. I mean, I love corn and rice-based snacks. They're so light and crispy and snackable. I'm thinking: Bambas, The World's Puffiest Sour Cream & Onion Puffs, and classic snacks like Pirate's Booty. They've generally been savory flavors like white cheddar cheese, rather than sweet, although a couple versions of the Bambas featured peanut butter and cocoa. How would they work with maple flavoring?

At first bite, both Sonia and I were a little weirded out, honestly. The texture was no surprise. Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs are identical to all the above-mentioned puffs in terms of their crispy, crunchy mouthfeel. On the other hand, the taste was a brand new experience.

There's an amber dusting on each puff. It looks a bit like cinnamon, but it tastes distinctly mapley. It's also oddly buttery, too. Just like a real pancake. The flavor grew on me quickly.

Not the beautiful wifey, however. She was still saying they tasted weird after a couple handfuls and told me I could finish the bag. I happily did. It took me more than one sitting, but I finished the whole thing in less than 24 hours. I thought they were addicting.

$2.49 for the 4 oz bag. Vegan. Gluten free. I'd buy again. Sonia wouldn't. She says she didn't think they were gross per se, but rather they're just not her thing. She'd prefer a cheese or sour cream and onion flavored puff.

I think these could easily become churro flavored puffs if they substituted cinnamon for the maple and molasses flavors. I'd try that version, too. Three out of five stars from Sonia on Trader Joe's Maple Pancake Flavored Puffs. Four and a half from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Peanut Butter & Jelly Frooze Balls


Just a quick hit for today. It's our first non-Trader Joe's brand product of 2023. It is widely available at Trader Joe's stores as well as a few other major retailers and grocery chains.

Frooze Balls. Not sure how I feel about that name for the product. Like I guess it could be a contraction or portmanteau of the words "fruit" and "ooze." They are made mostly of fruit, and there is a sort of ooze in the middle of them, so "Frooze Balls" it is.


They're made of date and coconut squished into a soft, moist texture, filled with peanut butter and various fruit purees and juices to make up the "jelly" part of the equation. They're fairly filling for how small they are, and they taste kind of like you'd expect: sweet, fruity, nutty. I like them okay, but I tire of them quickly after I've had one or two. They lack...pizzazz in my book, though many will disagree.

Sonia's a tad more into them than I am. She gives them four stars. We've also tried the chocolate hazelnut variety, which I like about the same as these. Sonia prefers PB&J over chocolate hazelnut. $1.99 for five balls. Vegan. Kosher. I give the Peanut Butter & Jelly Frooze Balls three and a half stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars


Let's kick the new year off right. It's January, and everybody's craving frozen treats, right? No? Well then, let's crank up the heat, put on a tropical island screen saver, and pretend it's the middle of July. Not every review can be seasonally appropriate.

I've honestly been surprised how well oat lends itself to fudge and chocolate flavors. In almost every case, these oats and oat milk-based products would have been a godsend if I were still on my milk-free diet as I was as a child, or for that matter, if I were vegan. I'm thinking these Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars, the recently-reviewed Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, and Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars.

Conversely, in each case, these chocolatey oat desserts fall just shy of my good old dairy-based stand-by treats. Although it's not really my thing these days, I used to love a good Fudgesicle circa junior high and high school. That's basically what these are: vegan fudge popsicles.

They taste fudgey enough for me, although they might fall a hair shy of the originals in terms of rich chocolatey goodness and creaminess. Still, for being oat-based, it's hard to complain, since the differences are negligible.

Texture-wise, they're sorta creamy-ish, I guess, but also almost a tad oily I'd say. Is it the cocoa butter? Sunflower lecithin? Both? It's not really unappetizing, just unique. The mouthfeel of this product is...interesting.

$3.49 for four bars. It seems odd there are only four. Six would be ideal by my estimate. Sonia gives these oaty treats four out of five stars. I give Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Chocolate Fudge Oat Bars three out of five stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Trader Joe's O' Nog

History repeats itself. After trying Trader Joe's O' Nog for the first time, I think Sonia said verbatim the same thing she said after tasting Trader Joe's Almond Nog.

"I like this better than regular egg nog."

Blasphemy. Culinary heresy, pure and simple. Vegans and lactose intolerants, you guys get a free pass. But the beautiful wifey is neither of those.

I'm just kidding. She's free to think silly things like that. And I'm free to think that traditional egg nog will never be surpassed by anything non-dairy.

But comparing this to full calorie, milk-based, egg-laden nog is unfair in some ways. So let's look at it for what it is: it's an oat-based beverage that very nearly approximates the flavor of traditional egg nog. It got the sweetness level right. It got the spice blend right. And it came very close to getting the creaminess right.


The texture, like the almond nog, is noticeably more watery than the real stuff. And while the almond nog was predictably nutty, this oat beverage is predictably grainy in a similar sense, flavor-wise.

This drink reminds Sonia of atole, or atole blanco, a traditional corn-based Mexican beverage usually served hot. So, logically, Sonia tried Trader Joe's O' Nog warmed up and she absolutely loved it. I must agree it works as a hot beverage, possibly even better than it does when served cold.

I can verify it works well when mixed with bourbon. I'd assume, like egg nog or almond nog, that it would go great with rum, brandy, J├Ągermeister, or any number of alcoholic additives, too.

It's not just dairy-free, but also vegan, soy free, gluten free, and lactose free. The only ingredients not in the "2% or less" category are water, hydrolyzed oats, and cane sugar.

$2.99 for the quart. Sonia will go with four stars again. I'll go with a solid three for the noble effort on Trader Joe's O' Nog Non-Dairy Oat Beverage.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Trader Joe's PBC Bars


Long ago, we reviewed Trader Joe's ABC Bars, the almond butter version of this peanut butter-based snack. In the post, I came up with as many "ABC" word combos as I could think of. It'd be a pretty big charge to do it again. It's in the past, babe, chill. I couldn't possibly be creative like that again.


Pleasantly buttery, creamy, these bars make positively boss comestibles like their predecessors. Trader Joe's packed blissful cocoa all through these bars, also peanut butter, creamy-style—pretty basic concept. 

But now that I've tried 'em, I get powerful bad cravings. Perhaps babies cry for PBC. They'd be a proper buy at checkout.

Health-wise, these are presumably a better choice than pretzels, brownies, chips. I would personally bake cookies, but I'm sure they wouldn't be as good as these. Perfect bars for camping, they'd probably be convenient.

People begging for chow? Pickup a box of craveable peanut butter cocoa bars. Please be careful: they're addicting. 

$3.29 for six bars. Vegan. Gluten free. I think I prefer the almond butter version just ever so slightly over these. I'm usually a peanut butter guy, but almond butter works a little better in this application. Still, peanut butter is never unwelcome to the beautiful wifey and me. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's PBC Bars.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies


Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. E-G-B-D-F. Anybody else? It's a mnemonic device to remember the lines on the treble clef. Or, alternatively, Every Good Boy Does Fine. I was terrible at piano even after nine years of lessons. I'm much more of a bass guitar guy. Sorry for the rabbit trail. I could go on for pages and pages, but we have a product to review here.

Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert with Fudge Brownies. That's a mouthful and a half for a product title. If nothing else, it's accurate. I mean, the fudge brownies aren't, like, whole brownies or anything. They're not even really chunks. More like bits...or bites. But there's a bunch of 'em, and they're pretty tasty.


Here we have rich, fudgy chocolate oat milk ice cream on top of rich, fudgy chocolate morsels. I have to be in the mood for "chocolate overload" to really enjoy a product like this one. Fortunately, I had one of my infrequent cravings just the other day. It was cold and gloomy, and I needed a pick-me-up. This did the trick in terms of picking me up...but not so much in terms of warming me up.

Well, duh. It is frozen dessert after all.

The oatiness doesn't really detract from the flavor. It's a pretty decent frozen dessert for being vegan. I will say there's something "loamy" about the look and texture. Can I use that word here? It's generally reserved for describing dirt. "This soil is loamy," said the farmer. It means a certain percentage is clay, silt, and sand. Not that it felt sandy in my mouth or anything like that. Clay-ish, perhaps.


Truth be told, I'm not really up to speed on all these newfangled dairy-free options from other brands these days. I've had a few. I think I'm more partial to rice-based ice cream than oat, but I wouldn't complain if you stuck a bowl of this frozen treat in front of me.

Sonia liked it but didn't love it. She'd generally prefer a vanilla-based frozen treat and thinks oat lends itself to less rich flavor combos rather than double chocolate like we have here.

$3.99 for the pint. Don't think I'd pick it up again, but I might if I were lactose intolerant or vegan. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me for Trader Joe's Very Chocolatey Oat Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit

 

Seems there was a brief moment in time that boba or bubble tea was all the rage, somewhat nestled between my college and not quite married years. Before she would come to be known as such, my lovely bride and I would occasionally go grab one after her work somewhere near the Carnegie Mellon campus. Pretty sure there was a place on Craig Street, probably still is, but it always seemed packed full of college kids happily slurping away on these kinda oddball milky tea drinks with these goofy balls of whatever in them. Whatever, I kinda liked 'em too. 

Must still be a semi-popular thing, as now if the mood hits for a boba, we don't have to deal with a bunch of runty AirPod-wearing jaywalkers half our age. Naw. We just need to hit up our freezer, with the new Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit. 

It's a weird concoction of sorts. Inside the boz there's four indicidual pouches, each with some flavor mix and those famous tapioca pearls, as well as an appropriately sized paper straw. Nuke the pearls and stuff for a minute, add some ice and milk, and voila, it's a boba tea, all right in the home, no real skill or even effort involved. 


That being said, it ain't the best.


For me, maybe it's just the flavor choice. I love brown sugar and all, but when mixed with the milk it just tastes like leftover cereal milk. Which is still kinda delicious, not gonna lie there. But then when paired with the tapioca balls, it must be a mental trick or something as I swear the boba tastes a little molasses-y. That and the pearls aren't as firm, and instead are somewhat rubbery and sticky. It's kinda close to the real deal, and does an admirable job for a freezer DIY concoction, but it still seems a little too nopticeably off.

Maybe that's just me. Sandy loved it. It was late at night when we finally made one to sample. She took one sip and asked if we really had to share. yes, dear, please. After two or three, i had my fill. Just not quite right, or maybe I've left all my crazy boba days behind me as I've just hit 40. Kinda makes me happy to see Sandy enjoy it then, maybe this'll be something all for her. 

Oh well. Maybe a different flavor, something kinda fruity, would've hit me different. Brown sugar just didnt do it for me this time. I'll be nice and toss out a few spoons for it, whereas my lovely bride will ring it up as perfection. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, June 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Caramel Coated Popcorn

It's officially summer now, and I'm generally in the mood for cold treats like popsicles and ice cream, iced beverages, and an occasional salty snack like chips, nuts, or popcorn. Snacks like chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel corn are too oily and melty and just don't appeal to me during these warmer months. So neither the name nor the packaging of this product seemed particularly enticing to this guy. Maybe I'd steer towards it in the fall, but not during this week of the summer solstice and now almost heading into July.

But our Trader Joe's clerk enthusiastically endorsed it. I might have put up a fight, but Sonia had already grabbed a bag and was excited to take Frankie's recommendation. And now that I've tried it, I get it.

There's really no caramel in this product at all. And for that, I'm thankful. The peanut butter coating is so perfect, it's hard to describe. It completely coats the surface of each and every piece of popcorn, and yet it's not overly thick or oily or heavy-handed in any way.


The "caramel" is just cane sugar and tapioca syrup. Some caramel is made with heavy cream and butter, but other caramel is just heated sugar. Since this product is vegan, we're looking at the latter option here. It just adds a nice level of sweetness that popcorn and peanut butter by themselves wouldn't otherwise have.

So the dominant flavor is peanut butter, with a nice bit of salty and sweet, all riding in the vehicle of perfectly-popped, round, crunchy pieces of popcorn. Surprisingly good. Addictive. If you like the flavor of peanut butter and the texture of popcorn, then this product is worth a try.


Four and a half stars from me since I'm a sucker for anything with peanut butter done the right way. Four from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions


Here's an oldie but a goodie. Shelf-stable eggplant in a can. Yum?

I didn't really know what to expect first time I opened one of these containers. Big slabs of eggplant? Actual pieces of tomato? If you ask me, this product is really just like a big can of tomato-based pasta sauce. I mean, sure, there's eggplant in there. And it doesn't taste or feel quite like any other eggplant I've ever had.

I've had eggplant that was leathery. I've tried some that was rubbery. But I've also sampled eggplant that was absolutely delightful—with a mouthfeel not unlike tender meat. This eggplant is none of the above. The texture of this eggplant is...gelatinous? Slimy? It's quite wet and limp, but I must admit there's an unexpected melt-in-the-mouth quality, too. It's definitely not the worst eggplant texture I've ever had, but it's not the best either.


Taste-wise, it's fine, but I think the actual mild flavor of eggplant is heavily overshadowed by tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. That's right, there's tomato sauce, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice in there. I guess "tomato paste" is actually an ingredient in the "tomato sauce," etc but all five of those tomato elements are indeed listed in the ingredients. Trader Joe's Tomato, Tomato, Tomato, Eggplant, Onion, and Tomato just didn't sound right to those marketing folks. By that same token, this is a "product of Bulgaria." I suppose TJ's shoppers are more inclined to grab a "Grecian" food than a Bulgarian one. Anyway, I digress.

Since Sonia's much more into tomatoes than I am, she enjoyed this product significantly more than yours truly. I must admit, it made a pretty great pizza topping. I want to try it on bruschetta. It's great with pasta, and it's okay with crackers. I like it better heated than straight from the can. On the other hand, I can eat those Greek Chickpeas straight outta the packaging ALL DAY LONG. Like the chickpeas, however, this product is shelf-stable for about a year and a half before the best by date and cheap ($1.29). Also vegan.


Three stars from me. A near-perfect four and a half from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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