Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Pomegranate Seeds

The first thing I ever read by David Foster Wallace was his Harper's magazine essay, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," though I think it originally went under a different title than that. It's about his experience on a cruise ship. He notes that while the unexpected level of service at first seems like you've died and gone to heaven, after just a few days your standards shift. Then you start noticing that the lettuce isn't quite as fresh as it could be, the beds aren't made up with truly military-grade creases, and the crew has carelessly left a few unpolished spots on the brass railings.

When I was a kid, pomegranates were a rare treat. I loved eating the seeds--but, boy, did I ever hate having to dig them out one or two or three at a time. As I grew up and took over doing my own grocery shopping, I never bought one, because of how I dreaded the work-to-pleasure ratio. Occasionally I had the thought that if somebody would sell just the seeds, already shucked out of the shell, that would be a super-duper product, and I would buy it forever.

And then the other day I was reading the new issue of Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer, and learned that TJ's sells pomegranate seeds, just as I had long thought somebody should! It instantly went on my shopping list.

I brought a container home yesterday and ate half of the it late last night. I quickly ran into the David Foster Wallace cruise-ship experience. It didn't take days, but only minutes.

With the first few, I was giddy--all the sweet juice with no hassle! (Yes, I was just eating them straight, the way real men do.) But before I was a quarter of the way through the package, I began to notice a change in my feeling about them. Sure, that little burst of flavor is nice, but then you're left with the unpleasant nub of the seed to chew and swallow (or spit out, if you're that kind of person).

When I was doing the work of digging the seeds out, the pleasure of that juice burst far outweighed the bit of unpleasantness that followed. But that ratio changed when there was no delay before the next one or two got popped into my mouth, and no effort invested in harvesting them. I began to want just the juice, with none of the flavorless, chewy parts. My dislike of the latter began to outweigh my enjoyment of the former.

Of course I can buy bottles of pomegranate juice. In fact, I can buy them from Trader Joe's. But it's just never quite as good as that tiny squirt of divine goodness that comes from a seed.

It seems that the more of the work that is done for me, the less I appreciate the result.

Maybe I should just go on a cruise, where everything will be perfect.

Will I buy it again? 

Contrary to a lifetime of expectations, no. They're rather pricey at $3.99 for this little plastic dish, and I don't intend to pay that just to be disappointed.


I wrote the above a few months ago. Since then, I changed my mind, sort of, and did buy another package, though it was specifically for the purpose of adding the seeds to a salad. For that, they worked well, though it's a pretty expensive way to add some fruity zing to a salad. I might do it again, though not often.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Trader Joe's Parmesan & Gouda Melange Cheese

Once again, I went to the cheese display with no plans other than to find something I had not tried before, and this was the first one that caught my attention.

On the plus side, it's extremely flavorful and easy to slice without crumbling.

On the minus side, I tasted all parmesan and no gouda. It's not much of a melange, with the parmesan being so dominant.

Nina and I had this on TJ's melba rounds. Predictably, given the extreme blandness of those crackers, there was no blending of flavors, and we might just have well eaten the cheese by itself. I'm not sure how well it would pair with bolder, more interesting crackers; I worry that the parmesan flavor is so strong that it wouldn't play well with others, so to speak.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. It's not bad, but there are many other cheeses I like better--including plain gouda. Besides, I have enough parmesan in my life already.

Nina's View

This version does no favors either to parmesan or to gouda. In fact, in general I think Trader Joe's hybrid cheese breeding program is a colossal mistake. There's a reason we have different types of cheese, it's because different flavors are good when they're different. Not when they're mooshed together either in your mouth or in the cheese itself.

Stop your evil artificial genetic cheese modifications TJ's! No good can come of it!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Country White Bread

This is the first Trader Joe's bread that I would be content with having as my default, everyday, keep-around bread for toast and sandwiches. It's dense, flavorful, and uniform in size and shape from slice to slice.

It's still not my favorite. My favorite remains a sourdough loaf from Atlanta Bread Company. But when I can't have that, this will make a nice second-best. It will be the one I pick if I'm needing bread when I'm at TJ's and I'm not looking to try something new.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, June 27, 2015


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

OMG, we can't stop eating Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn! 

Trader Joe's announces recipe contest winners. 

Whole Foods 365 takes on Trader Joe's 

Hidden camera follows woman on Trader Joe's shopping trip (humor piece in New Yorker)

Snack attack at Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's scores high in survey of customers' emotional attachment to companies

Summer favorites from Trader Joe's 

Favorites Friday: Trader Joe's 

What Trader Joe's does right in the Fearless Flyer 

Here's this week's video from "Trader Joe":

Best tweets of the week:





And finally, this week's cute cat in (or, in this case, almost in) a Trader Joe's grocery bag is none other than Loki, Nina's handsome kitty-boy:

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows

First, a word about the timing of this post. When I've tried a seasonal Trader Joe's item, I try to push the review to the head of the queue so that anybody interested in trying it can actually find it while it's still in stores. But around Christmas, I bought so many seasonal treats that it took me a long time to get around to eating them all. I didn't get to these Minty Mallows until late January, by which time it was too late to find them in the stores, so I just added this post to the queue in its normal order, which means it will probably publish sometime in June. (Yeah, that's how much of a backlog of posts I have.)

Now to the thing itself: I love, love, love these. They are the best of the TJ's seasonal candies that I sampled, and overall my second-favorite seasonal item, after the top-ten-worthy Gingerbread Molasses Cookie Dough.

I have to confess to a personal idiosyncrasy: I like nearly all chocolate candies better refrigerated than room temperature. As a result, the marshmallow center of these treats was, for me, less "light and fluffy" (as advertised) and more "dense and chewy." But, oddball that I am I liked that. (Spoiler alert: Nina didn't.)

The proportions of chocolate to marshmallow to peppermint flavoring were perfect. These were so good that I ate four at my first time trying them, and it took a lot of self-control to stop there. The knowledge that I couldn't run to the store for another box anytime soon helped me put the rest back in the refrigerator--but 24 hours later the discipline broke down and they were all gone.

Is there any way to make December come faster this year?

Will I buy it again? 

If Trader Joe's does not bring these back again at the end of the year, I'm just gonna have Christmas canceled entirely.

Nina's View

It is baffling to me why I am invited to contribute to these reviews but my beloved insists on regularly stealing my thunder with his "spoiler alerts."

Two things: I have over time become increasingly less enamored of the combination of chocolate and mint (of any variety). And I would probably find these more palatable if they were indeed light and fluffy rather than tooth-cloggingly dense and sticky.


Now that another Christmas season has come and gone, I've had three more boxes of these, and love them more than ever. Better late than never, I'm adding them to my Top Ten list.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Creamy Asparagus Soup

I don't like asparagus, so it took some considerable mental effort to put this tub of soup in my shopping basket. I did so only because (1) I thought a cold soup would be nice for a dinner with Nina, and (2) this is a brand-new Trader Joe's product, and I try to get those tested ASAP for our readers.

I didn't like it. But I can say that it wasn't as awful as I had anticipated. Even the fact that ONION is the first listed ingredient, after water--that's right, there's more onion than asparagus in this asparagus soup--was not enough to make it totally inedible. I choked it down, using the mental trick of trying to tell myself it was pea soup, which I like. That didn't really work.

I'm not a fair judge of this, I'll admit.

Will I buy it again? 

We ended up pouring the last half of this tub down the drain rather than saving it as leftovers. Does that answer the question?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trader Joe's Lentil Soup With Ancient Grains

This was a surprising entry in the line-up of Trader Joe's perishable, refrigerated soups. Previously we've had the pea soup, vegetable soup with quinoa and kale, and chicken, barley, and vegetable soup. (I was alone on the last of those.) They had all been thrashed by the Blandification Committee.

This one, not so much.

In fact, its bold, powerful flavors presented something of a problem. For a dinner with Nina, I paired it with the Kung Pao Noodles, assuming that its blandness would offset what I anticipated to be some fire from the Chinese dish. But the soup was much spicier than I had guessed based on experience with its shelf-mates. Don't get me wrong--this is a good thing. It's easily the best of the bunch. It's just that my placement of it in a meal was misplaced, due to a justifiable but incorrect assumption.

The "ancient grains" in the name refers to amaranth, quinoa, flaxseed, and millet. But if you don't like any of those things, don't let that scare you. They're in such small proportions that I barely noticed them.

Will I buy it again? 

This is the first from this line of soups to which I can answer that with an enthusiastic "yes." I also liked the pea soup--though less than this one--but Nina didn't, so I would get that for myself but not for her. This one, though, I would happily serve to both of us again. I just have to be careful about what else is on the menu.

Nina's View

Cats and dogs lying down together! A rain of toads! Earth's rotation changing direction! Brace yourselves: the apocalypse is upon us.

How do I know this? Because I think that this product is way too peppery—Way. Too. Peppery.— and Bob does not. 

And, sadly, it's not an interestingly flavorful kind of pepperiness, but rather an overwhelming layer of straight-up black pepper. Which is a shame, because the soup itself is actually (I suspect) rather interesting in both flavor and texture.

I suppose it's possible that we just got an over-seasoned batch. I liked it enough to give it another chance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Opal apples

I confess that I was suckered in by the label description of these apples as a new variety "with exceptional flavor." They are not. There's nothing wrong with them, but also nothing exceptional about them.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was a stretch getting this many at once, as it exhausted my interested in eating apples before the bag was empty. I'll go back to buying a few at a time--honeycrisp, gala, Fuji, Rome, or whatever.

Nina's View

My first take on this apple was "nothing special." But then something weird happened: I got a very strong sense-memory of it being quite delicious. I cannot account for this. There is some strange marketing hypno-voodooism going on, I suspect, because I actually want to have another one.

Subliminal messages? Brain-altering chemicals? You be the judge!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Cranberry Apple Juice

How bad has our experience with Trader Joe's big jugs of juice been? So bad that when I pulled this newest one out of the refrigerator, Nina asked, "What flavor of melted popsicle are we having this week?"

However, I didn't think this one was as disappointing as most of them have been. In fact, I liked it; it was basically what I expected based on lots of other brands of cranapple blends.

The most surprising part of exploring this blend was reading the label. Of course you've got the reconstituting water and the apple and cranberry juice concentrates. But then comes "aronia juice concentrate." Neither of us had any idea what that was, so Nina picked up her iPad to learn that it's another name for chokeberries. Wikipedia, though, cannot tell me why aronia juice is in this blend; I don't taste anything except apple and cranberry.

This is still not nearly as good as the few real standouts in the big-jug lineup: Honey Crisp Apple Cider, Pear Cinnamon Cider, and Power of Seven. On the other hand, it's a far sight better than the terrible Hibiscus Cranberry Blend, Pomegranate Limeade, Omega-3 Carrot Orange Juice, etc.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. Cranapple is a staple, and this is as good as any.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Persimmon Salad

What you've got here is lettuce, kale, goat cheese, persimmons, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds with a pomegranate-sherry dressing. All of which would be fine, except for one prominent flaw: TOO MUCH KALE!

In fact, it we were to rewrite the ingredient list to more accurately reflect the actual contents, it would be approximately this: kale, kale, kale, kale, kale, kale, lettuce, kale, persimmons, kale, goat cheese, kale, pumpkin seeds, kale, pomegranate seeds, kale, pomegranate-sherry dressing, and kale. With a side of kale.

It’s kind of like the Monty Python sketch, where a menu item is Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, and Spam.

Kale is nice as a salad component, but this was so overdone it was ridiculous.

Will I buy it again? 

If these ingredients were better balanced, it would have been a really nice salad. Maybe someday I'll look at a couple of samples in the refrigerated case again and see if it looks like they've toned down the kale volume some. If so, then yes, I would give it another try.

Nina's View

What he said.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trader Joe's Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza

This is pretty good pizza. The crust is crispy on the outside, bread-like on the inside. It's exceptionally generous with the pepperoni. It's one of the thickest crusts I've ever had in a frozen pizza.

It really needs several more minutes of baking time than the package indicates, but that's easily fixed.

My main grip about it is that it's an awkward size. If I eat half of it for my lunch, it feels like not enough, but if I eat a whole one, I'm overly stuffed and uncomfortable. With most frozen pizzas, I find that half is exactly the right amount. Not so here.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. In fact, this is my third one, having gone through two of them in the months before I decided to start blogging about TJ's food. They have been very consistent.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


This is my weekly compilation of news and other items related to Trader Joe's.

Recipe for jambalaya using Trader Joe's riced cauliflower 

17 favorite Trader Joe's products 

Tips for shopping at Trader Joe's (this one originates from my own adopted hometown of Asheville)

15 reasons to start buying beauty products at Trader Joe's 

Best new Trader Joe's products for June 

Will "365 by Whole Foods" spell trouble for Trader Joe's? 

Shopping at Trader Joe's in a wheelchair 

Best of Trader Joe's--sweet stuff 

Five favorite finds at Trader Joe's 

Why is everyone who works at Trader Joe's so incredibly hot? 

I'm in a shame spiral because of these Trader Joe's products (very funny)

I found yet another Trader Joe's review blog this week: The Trader Rater. It appears that they publish only very sporadically--like two posts so far this year.

Here's something different: A New Mexico mom reacted to her three kids' complaints about her lunch plan by taking them to Trader Joe's and having them buy items themselves--but they had to agree on the purchases and spend no more than $20. It turned into an impromptu lesson in both meal-planning and budgeting. They ended up with bread, peanut butter, jam, juice, sunflower seeds, and some fruit. See her delightful series of photos and running commentary in her Twitter feed from June 15, here. That's some excellent parenting right there, folks.

This week's YouTube video from "Trader Joe":

Best tweets of the week:



And finally, this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:

Trader Joe's Coconut Strips

Special note: This is Day 7, the last day of Coconut Week. I hope you have enjoyed it. I actually have products on hand--some of them already tested, some not--to do a second Coconut Week, so you can expect it later, maybe in two or three months. 

If I were more of a rebel than I am, I would go through every Trader Joe's store and, in the name of honesty, use a Sharpie to scribble out the word "lightly" in "lightly sweetened" on the labels of all of the bags of TJ's Coconut Strips. If this is what passes for "lightly sweetened," I wouldn't want to run into anything that was "heavily sweetened."

In other words, these are really, really sweet. They are too sweet. But I admit to loving them--not in spite of being too sweet, but because of it. With every bite of one of these strips, I think, "Oh, that is SO good. But it's SO much sugar! But it's SO good!"

I really don't know how they make these things, but just on the basis of how they taste, I imagine that it involves taking strips of coconut meat, soaking them in large vats of a rich sugar solution, then maybe using a hypodermic needle to inject extra sugar into each one, just to be sure.

Even though I think that's approximately what they do, and even though I know how evil that is, I can't stop snarfing them down once I start. This is one of the few snacks for which I have to set out in advance a fixed amount I'm going to eat, then put the bag away. Otherwise, my self-control goes out the window in the face of delicious sweetened coconut.

I like them much better than TJ's coconut chips, even though I know that they're much worse for my teeth, my metabolism, and my waistline.

Will I buy it again? 

I am powerless not to.

Nina's View

Too sweet. I like the coconut chips much better.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Roasted Coconut Chips

Special note: This is Day 6 of what I'm calling Coconut Week--seven days of reviews of Trader Joe's products that are derived from coconuts. 

Nothing complicated here. Coconut chips are exactly what you'd expect: thin slices of coconut meat apparently soaked in coconut milk, then roasted.

They are, of course, tasty--assuming that you like coconut. (And who doesn't?) I have had them only by themselves, as a snack, though one could presumably use them as a topping, similar to shredded coconut.

I like them just fine, though it's a snack that I tire of quickly.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure, once in a while.

Nina's View

These are perfect: not excessively sweet, a little salty, crunchy and coconutty. I now buy a bag from time to time as a treat. They make a nice addition to fruit compote and trail mix. They are snackable out of hand. My only objections is that I think they are overpriced for the quantity you get.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Coconut Cranberry Granola

Special note: This is Day 5 of Coconut Week--seven consecutive days of reviews of Trader Joe's coconut-based products. 

I'm usually not a fan of granola, but this stuff is mondo good. The rolled oats are sweetened with brown sugar and clump together with agave syrup. And what's not to love about coconut chips and dried cranberries?

After just one serving, this became one of my all-time favorite cereals. I usually don't eat any breakfast, and when I do it's usually just a couple of pieces of toast. But I'm going to keep a box of this stuff around all the time as a sweet, chewy, yummy alternative.

I'm flirting with the idea of adding this to my Top Ten list. I'm not quite there yet, but I reserve the right to come back and so classify it later.

Will I buy it again? 

See above.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trader Joe's Cookie Thins--Toasted Coconut

Special note: This is Day 4 of Coconut Week, seven consecutive days of reviews of Trader Joe's products that are coconut-based. 

When I bought the Meyer Lemon flavor of TJ's Cookie Thins, and found them so delicious, I immediately knew that I had to try the other two flavors from the same line--coconut and ginger. I bought both; this is the first of the two I have tried.

My first impression was that they're good, but not quite as good as the lemon. But then I kept eating them, and loving them more and more. I have now finished one of the two stacks, after having them on three separate occasions, and I'm prepared to revise my initial assessment. These are even better than the lemon.

The coconut flavor is strong, without being overpowering. They are a little bit sweet, without falling into the common TJ's trap of going overboard with the sweetness. They are pleasingly thin and delicate.

So that does it: onto my Top Ten list they go. I can't resist canonizing anything this scrumptious.

Will I buy it again? 

If it ever becomes legal, I will marry these cookies.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Fruit & Vegetable Wash

Special note: This is Day 3 of Coconut Week. I know--you're wondering how this odd product makes it into Coconut Week. It's because the main cleaning agent is derived from coconut oil and corn oil. I told you that you'd be surprised what pops up during Coconut Week! 

I'm not one to worry much about chemical residue on produce, despite Meryl Streep's dire warnings. I sometimes wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, sometimes not. But when I do, it's really just a quick rinse under the faucet, which probably does next to nothing. This is the first time I've bought a product specifically meant for that purpose, since I'm not really convinced it's necessary. But I was curious.

Here's what I can tell you for sure: It effectively removes the glossy, slightly lubricated feel that I can detect on the outside of some apples, pears, etc., which I assume is the result of a thin coating of edible wax. Dribble a few drops of this stuff on a piece of fruit, add a little water, swish it around in your hands, rinse and dry. The result is a distinctly less waxy feel, and a surface that is somewhat duller, less reflective of light. I infer that this means that I have succeeded in removing or at least reducing a previously applied exterior coating of some sort.

It does this without leaving any soapy taste or residue, as things like dish detergent might.

But does it matter? Am I better off for having that wax removed? Are there pesticides hiding in or under it? If there are, does it do me any good to flush them down the drain before I eat the fruit? I don't know the answers to any of those questions. The process does make me feel like I've accomplished something worthwhile, but I may just be fooling myself.

Will I buy it again?

This bottle is going to last for a long, long time, so it will be, I'd estimate, a few years before I have to decide that.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trader Joe's Strawberry Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Made With Coconut Milk

Special note: This is Day 2 of Coconut Week. 

Nina bought this and served it for dessert with a dinner she made for us. She also took that picture.

This is good, good stuff. You won't know that it's not made from what Nina has lately been calling "pain juice" (i.e., milk). There's a little hint of coconut flavor, but it is neither unpleasant by itself nor out of harmony with the dominant strawberry.

It's not the greatest strawberry ice cream I've ever had, but it's quite tasty. It's good enough that if all the real strawberry ice cream vanished from Planet Earth tomorrow, and we were left with only this in its place, I would feel no significant loss.

I think it's one notch below its chocolate shelf-mate in overall yumminess, but that's the worst comment I can think to make about it.

The good folks at the "What's Good at Trader Joe's" blog liked it even more than I did, assigning it 9.5 on a scale of 10, and giving it their rare "pantheon" status for excellence. See here.

Will I buy it again? 


Nina’s View


I like this better than the chocolate. Now every time I go to TJ’s it will be a struggle NOT to buy this. So good.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Trader Joe's Moist Chewy Coconut Bonbons

Special note: We're kicking off Coconut Week! Seven consecutive days of reviews of Trader Joe's products that are based on coconut. No, they won't all be candy. In fact, I think you'll be surprised at the variety of items. 

Bite into one of these, and you'll immediately be reminded of a Mounds bar. In fact, the comparison is so obvious that it's inevitable.

Trader Joe's has two clear advantages over Mounds: (1) Better quality chocolate, and a domed shape that gives a higher filling:coating ratio. More coconut is always better. There is no such thing as "too much coconut." (2) You get a lot more candy for your money than with Mounds.

But Mounds have the edge in what the filling is. Specifically, it is moister, richer, more luscious, with a much nicer mouth feel. The filling in TJ's is more dry and flaky, as if it's been baked.

I'd happily eat either one. Chocolate and coconut? Yes, please--sign me up for that plan every day. But if I had to choose just one? Damn, that would be difficult. The strengths are pretty equally matched. I suppose I'd end up giving the edge to TJ's version, by about a 51/49 vote of my conflicted inner voices.

What the world needs is for somebody to scoop out the coconut middle from TJ's bonbons and replace it with injections of the stuff they put in Mounds bars. Those I would eat until my stomach burst. Then I would have surgery to be sewn shut again, and eat some more. So maybe, on second thought, it's best that nobody ever make such a hybrid.

Will I buy it again? 

Oh, yes. It's not quite a Top Ten item, but it's very, very good.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


It's my weekly compilation of news and other links that I have found this week related to Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's gluten-free product reviews 

Cheat sheet for shopping at Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's picks for pregnancy 

Comparison test of 10 sriracha sauces (including Trader Joe's) 

Trader Joe's customer experience (episode of a podcast about marketing) 

Trader Joe's adds new vegan products for summer 

Favorite Trader Joe's picks 

Make-at-home Trader Joe's copycat recipes 

Whole Foods takes on Trader Joe's with new "365" chain 

Episode #2 of the WGATJ's podcast 

Favorites from Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's employees dish on their secretive employer 

Best tweets of the week:




Here's this week's new video from "Trader Joe":

And finally, instead of a cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, we have a cute cat with a Trader Joe's bouquet:

Trader Joe's Organic Riced Cauliflower

Until about two weeks ago, I had never heard of "riced cauliflower." Then I started seeing people on Twitter post photos of these bags, full of excitement, even though they had not yet even had a chance to cook and eat it. It did not escape my attention that most of those tweets include hashtags like #paleo or #paleodiet.

Nearly everything important about the so-called paleo diet has been so thoroughly debunked that it's hard to believe it still has people living by it. (See here, here, here, and here, for example.) Wait--I take that back. It's not hard to believe that, because people are faddish, gullible, and lacking in critical thinking skills. You'd have to be, in order to be duped into thinking that buying a bag of frozen chopped cauliflower--a vegetable that DID NOT EXIST in paleolithic times--and reheating it in a pan on your electric stove somehow replicates the diet of, I dunno, Australopithicus or something. It's ridiculous on its face.

But bizarre, unsubstantiated beliefs about nutrition and human evolution aside, how does this stuff work as a vegetable? Not very well, I thought.

It's wonderfully simple to prepare--just dump it in a saucepan and reheat for a few minutes. But I found the taste to be off. It simply didn't taste much like cauliflower to me--little flavor, and what there was had a slightly bitter hint to it. I eat a lot of cauliflower, both raw and cooked, and I think I could not have identified this as the same vegetable in a blind taste test. I have no convincing explanation for why this should be so--I mean, it is cauliflower, after all--but that was my impression.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I see no point in it. When I want cauliflower, I can't think of a reason that I'd want it shredded instead of cut into larger pieces. When I want something grain-like, I'll have a grain. Why have cauliflower masquerade as rice when you can just have rice? But then again, unlike some people, I'm aware that I'm shopping at Trader Joe's, not Neanderthal Joe's.

Nina's View

So, I liked this stuff. I found the texture novel. I can imagine all sorts of fun uses for it—as a crust in a vegetable pie, blended with breadcrumbs and egg as a fritter, etc. It tastes EXACTLY like cauliflower to me, which I did not find surprising since it is in fact nothing but cauliflower. On its own it's pretty bland and boring, but I think with a little tarting up it could prove charming. I'm a fan of mixing up vegetable textures.

As for the whole paleo thing: I'm all in favor of diets that get people adequate nutrition while cutting down on processed ingredients, so if paleo does that for people and they are healthier as a result, well then YAY. But people get all crazy in the head over dietary things and probably have since paleolithic days. It's how the tribes separate themselves: THOSE PEOPLE eat THAT, but WE GOOD, FAMILIAR, HONEST, SAFE PEOPLE eat THIS. My guess is that a big selling point for religion has always been that it is an effective way of justifying your food practices—"God told us to eat THIS not THAT." The ongoing attempts people make to convert each other to their dietary point of view are positively evangelistic and missionary. The cray is strong in the food world.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken, Barley & Vegetable Soup

This is the fourth of TJ's refrigerated soups reviewed here, after vegetablepea, and gazpacho.

I'll admit that this one is more flavorful than the others, though still on the bland side, as per TJ's company policy. But the balance of ingredients was all wrong. Too little chicken, barley, beans, peas, broccoli, and carrots (i.e., the stuff that I like), too much squash, onion, and celery (i.e., the stuff that I don't like). If they'd just let me fiddle with the ingredients ratio, they'd have a major winner on their hands here.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Trader Joe's Original Savory Thins

And today's random pick from the Trader Joe's cracker aisle is (drum roll, please)... Savory Thins!

These had a nice, delicate texture yet held up well to scooping up some really thick hummus. So far so good. However, they had a strong, borderline bitter taste, the origin of which I could not pinpoint even after scrutinizing the list of ingredients. I can't figure out what caused them to taste bad (IMHO), but there was something off. Rice meal is the main constituent, which shouldn't be a problem for me. Maybe the sesame flour? Dunno. I'm stumped.

Will I buy them again? 

No way.

Nina's View

Okay, here's the bottom line. Bob is a good man. We have been together for nearly six years. He is not perfect, but then neither am I. Most relationships require some degree of negotiation and compromise—I both accept and embrace that premise.

That said, in this case I cannot fathom how my boyfriend can be so totally and completely wrong about something. WRONG I TELL YOU.

These are wonderful. They have a great texture and a nice rice-sesame flavor. I think they would go nicely with just about any savory appetizer or snack. I am at a loss as to why Bob does not like them. Really, I just cannot figure out what could possibly be objectionable about them.

They are delicious. Go buy some.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trader Joe's Soycutash

This is, as you might expect, succotash except with soybeans instead of the more usual lima beans. Lima beans have never been among my preferred beans, so I was not surprised that I like this variant. There's no sauce or seasoning here--just soybeans, corn, and little bits of red pepper--so you'll have to add your own to perk it up some.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. It's convenient, easy to prepare, tasty, nutritious, and, at $2.29, not expensive.


I've bought this many times since writing the above. In fact, it has become one of my staple items; there's almost always a bag in my freezer for when I need some quick, easy veggies. Good stuff.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trader Joe's 5 Cheese Frusta

These are basically strangely shaped individual cheese pizzas. I bought two (one for Nina, one for me) mainly because I was curious why anyone would make and sell pizzas that were folded into this odd shape. I still don't get it.

The obvious downside is that if you want to add your own toppings, as I did, the fold reduces the available surface area. I had a fake ground beef to increase the protein content of the meal, and it was difficult to stuff it onto the small amount of open cheese.

I didn't mind the taste overall, though the tomato sauce was unusually sweet. But I just couldn't get past the peculiar shape. Oh, and the shape also adversely affected the cooking: where the crust is doubled, it didn't bake all the way through, and was still cold in spots, despite having followed the heating directions to the letter.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Pizzas are supposed to be flat, dammit.

Nina's View

I am only writing this because I want to say how frusta-rating this product was. The premise seemed good, but I'd like to know who the heck in Italy hand-made this and why he or she was persuaded that it was worth eating the frustas of their labor.

It is not good. Overly sweet. Soggy crust, uninspired topping. No no no. Back to Italia with you, misbegotten frusta!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Trader Joe's Cookie Thins--Meyer Lemon

This was an impulse buy on my last trip to Trader Joe's, when they had a bunch of these boxes strategically, temptingly placed in the checkout lane. I succumbed to their wiles. But I'm happy to have found them. They have quickly become one of my favorite TJ's cookies.

They're intensely lemony, crunchy, and oh-so-thin. Sweet but not too sweet. It's easy to eat a lot of them but not actually consume a lot of calories.

I love them. I'm tempted to push them straight onto my Top Ten list. But I'm going to hold off for a while and see if I still love them as much after a cooling-off period. [Edit: I continued to love them just as much after a second box, so they did indeed make my list.]

For a contrary view, the "Serious Eats" blog says this:
The cookies claim to have no artificial flavors or preservatives, and yet I can't believe that the Meyer Lemon Thins are made any other way. The cookies taste like artificial lemon hard candy and have an unfortunate, funky aftertaste. Many companies have misstepped when trying to replicate the taste of Meyer lemons, but that doesn't excuse cookies that taste like dish soap.
So, so wrong.

Will I buy it again? 

Eagerly. The blog post quoted above has also given me to understand that the Cookie Thins line includes two other flavors: coconut and ginger. Wanna guess what I'll be buying on my next TJ's trip?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Trader Joe's Ridge Cut Potato Chips--Salt & Pepper

I passed these by in the store many, many times without even considering a purchase, because I've never much been fond of black pepper. What prodded me to change my mind was a surprisingly favorable reaction to TJ's sea salt and black pepper lentil chips. If I could find myself liking the pepper there, perhaps the same could be true elsewhere. So I ventured.

And I was right to do so. I liked these. The texture was nice, and the mild potato flavor was complemented by the salt and pepper. Not overwhelming--much tamer than the South African chips and salt-and-vinegar chips--yet pleasantly different from standard potato chips.

My primary gripe is that they're too oily--among the oiliest chips I've ever had, in fact. I could do without that.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, once in a while, as a change of pace.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's that I've found this week.

The man who runs the Silver Lake Trader Joe's parking lot 

10 Trader Joe's coffees, ranked by an expert 

Meet the authors of 9 Trader Joe's cookbooks 

Trader Joe's treasures (TJ's ingredients for Italian food)

Best Trader Joe's snacks

Recipe using TJ's ricotta and lemon zest ravioli 

Favorite appetizers from Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's ex-president opens store with aging food and cheap meals 

7 healthy Trader Joe's copycat recipes 

Trader Joe's favorites (Warning: Incredibly annoying 52-minute video of one woman talking about her favorites, off the cuff, bizarrely filmed with the camera in the vertical orientation, dog barking in background, walking away to take care of the dog--without editing that out--and uptalk about every third word. I could stand only about five minutes of it. But if you're into that kind of thing, go watch it.)

Best tweets of the week:



Here's this week's video from "Trader Joe":

And finally, this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag is not a photograph, but a short (30 seconds) video. See it here.

Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus

I passed this by many times, kind of afraid of what it might be like. The slightly green color is not the most attractive thing ever.

But my worry was for naught. It doesn't have much of a distinctive soybean taste or aftertaste. The most different thing about it, compared to TJ's plain hummus, is that it seems to have more tang from lemon. Nina and I ate about 3/4 of a tub of it with chips as an appetizer before dinner.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe. It was good. However, I'm fast becoming a hard-core fan of the line of exceptionally good hummus varieties made right here in Asheville by a small company called Roots. I'll still try other things sometimes to continue my exploration of the whole category, but most of my hummus purchases are likely to be non-TJ's.

Nina's View

I like this very, very much. It's wonderfully lemony and the pale green color is sort of nice once you make your peace with it. I will happily eat more of this.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli

Two or three weeks ago I noticed the announcement of Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli in the What's New section of the Trader Joe's web site. It sounded like the sort of thing I would have to try as soon as possible, because a wacky mashup food idea like this could either be crazy good or an utter failure, and I wanted to know which.

I looked for them on several trips to the store--nothing. But finally they showed up yesterday. I bought a package and cooked it for my lunch today.

The answer?

Crazy good!

The insides really do taste like the filling of a good chicken pot pie--rich, creamy, loaded with the flavor of chicken broth. Though there are onions reportedly present, I'm happy to report that even my super-onion-suspicious tongue was unable to detect them.

There's not a lot of chicken meat, but I consider that an advantage, because these days my guilt level rises proportionate to the amount of meat or poultry content of food. Eating a package of these, I'd guess, was responsible for the demise of maybe one-tenth of a chicken. I can live with that (even if the chicken can't).

To get the most accurate read on the taste, I added a little butter, but nothing else. I'm not really sure how they would taste with a traditional pasta sauce added, as the label suggests. "Pot pie" and "marinara" are not easy flavor memories for my brain to meld together, absent actual experience. Maybe I'll try it next time.

  • Two of the raviolis popped open while boiling, spilling some of their contents, and I think others would have if I weren't extra-gentle in stirring them. TJ's food engineers need to make them seal better. 
  • The serving and package sizes are all wrong. The package contained 12 pieces, and claimed that this was two servings. I ate the whole package for my lunch, along with a salad. Admittedly, it was about two more than I would have considered ideal, but I wasn't going to either throw away the last two or store them for another day. Either reduce the package size a bit and call it single-serving, or put about 20 in and keep the serving size at two. 

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Soft Multigrain Bread

I'm tempted to start postulating the existence of a Trader Joe's Sweetification Committee, which operates in conjunction with the Blandification Committee to be sure that as many TJ's products as possible carry their two signature characteristics. I'm less sensitive to and bothered by the ubiquitous sweetness than Nina is, but I do still notice it--especially where one does not ordinarily expect to encounter sweetness, such as in sandwich bread. It's not quite as bad here as it was in the Organic Soft Wheat Bread, but it's still much more noticeable than necessary. I really don't understand why they do this.

The other problem here is in the commitment to being multigrain. You've got wheat flour, rye, yellow corn, barley, oats, flax seed, and millet. I'm not sure which of these is to blame, but there's a fair number of hard bits--insufficiently ground grain or seed, I presume--that don't yield easily to chewing. They feel almost like bits of stone, which is not pleasant to encounter in one's bread.

Will I buy it again? 

No. As the old saying has it, life is too short to put up with overly sweet, tooth-cracking bread. (What? That's not an old saying? Hmpf. Well, it should be.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A word about carrots

I've having guests for dinner tonight. One part of it is pretty much the same kind of salad I usually make when it's just Nina and me--two different Trader Joe's bagged salads combined. But I wanted to add a little something extra, so I bought a bag of TJ's Organic Carrots of Many Colors and sliced them up to toss in. Looking at them on the cutting board, I just had to share:

I mean, come on! When you have the option of buying something that pretty, why would you settle for plain old boring orange carrots in your green salad?

Trader Joe's Stone Ground Wheat Crackers

This is the latest installment in my ongoing "pick a random box of crackers at Trader Joe's" experiment.

This one turned out nicely. I like these a lot. They're not especially surprising or interesting, but they're flavorful wheat, attractive, and salted just right. They fracture nicely along the midline perforation if you want them half-size, or use them full size. Either way, they don't crumble to pieces when you bite into them. They are substantial enough for hummus-dipping or carrying a heavy load of whatever you want to serve on them. Best of all, there's a LOT of them in the box--more than you would think from outward appearances. Also: vegan, in case that matters to you.

Will I buy it again? 

These are not quite Top Ten material, but they're excellent, and they will be a top contender--right behind Some Enchanted Cracker--when I want a known cracker entity rather than another experiment in the unknown.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Trader Joe's French Liquid Soap, Orange Blossom Honey

For more years than I care to try to calculate, I've been a loyal user of Softsoap, and specifically their "Soothing Aloe Vera" variety. I'm a frequent hand-washer, so this soap's most important quality is that it's non-drying. Additionally, it doesn't have antimicrobial ingredients (completely unnecessary in soap), it's pleasant to the touch, and it has no heavy scents. I buy it in gallon jugs to refill the dispensers, which also makes it highly economical. Frankly, it's going to be hard for anything to displace my preference for this stuff. But I'm willing to try, for the sake of my devoted readers. That's just the kind of guy I am.

I love honey, so when I decided to give TJ's a chance to win me over with a liquid hand soap, and I discovered that they carry a bunch of different kinds, the "orange blossom honey" thing jumped out at me.

It's certainly true that this looks like a bottle full of honey. Moreover, when you squirt a little into your hand, it definitely smells like honey. But I want you to consider two things: First, it's hard to think of why anybody would want to wash his or her hands with honey. Second: There's no actual honey listed in the ingredients. No actual orange, either. So basically it's a mixture of oils and glycerin, with artificial honey and orange scents added. Which, granted, is pleasant enough at first, but I found it to grow tiresome quickly. It's also several times more expensive than Softsoap, with no large-sized refills available.

Will I buy it again? 

Because this is an actual product of France, and bears the "Trader Jacques" label, I think it's only fitting that I let my answer come from Marcel Marceau, with his famous gag from "Silent Movie":

Nina's View

It's pleasant, and doesn't seem to be too drying, which is nice in a handsoap. The fragrance is okay. But my go-to handsoap is Method's Sweet Water, which has a lovely light neutral scent, and which comes in bulk refill bags for my dispenser. Not giving THAT up.

I do, however, favor TJ's Lavender hand and body lotion, which I first encountered in my friend Sonali's house. Nice, nice stuff. It won't replace my staple Curél for after bath lotion, but it does grace the downstairs bathroom for the enjoyment of my guests.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Trader Joe's Dixie Peach

If you were to look back through all of the reviews we've done here with the category label "juice," you might notice a pattern: The ones that are in small bottles tend to be good, while the ones in big jugs tend to be mediocre to bad. The pattern continues here.

Your first impression from the label is that this is "Dixie Peach" and "100% juice," and thus must be pure peach juice--which would be super-yummy, right? But if you either have experience with the way that Trader Joe's does these things, or think carefully about the careful wording of the smaller print underneath, you would be forewarned. The key words there are "peach flavored." I will at least grant TJ's this much: such wording on the front is an improvement on finding the truth only by scrutinizing the tiny print on the back, where ingredients are listed.

My first impression was indeed that peach flavor dominates over the others. But there's no doubt that this is a "peach flavored" blend, rather than peach juice. It's nothing like, for example, really good apricot nectar.

As is the case with most of these big-bottle TJ's "juices," most of what's in it is reconstituted apple and grape juices from concentrates. In this blend, they have also thrown in some reconstituted pear and pineapple juices.

What about peach? Well, it's in there somewhere. Peach puree is the third listed ingredient, and peach juice concentrate comes in at number seven. The "natural flavors" probably includes something that chemically mimics something in peaches, too.

If you understand that this is "peach flavored" apple and grape juice, not peach juice, and you're willing to accept it on those terms, be my guest. If you're expecting real peach juice, you'll be disappointed. Having learned my lesson before, I knew what to expect--and on those terms, I found it acceptable. Nothing to write home about, but nothing objectionable, either.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not.