Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Power Berry 100% Juice Blend

You know how I'm always ranting that Trader Joe's sells such an incredible variety of really bad juice (or, "juice") blends, and you shouldn't buy them because TJ's is also capable of making some really outstanding ones? Well, this is one of the latter.

Nothing in particular prompted me to try this, other than seeing it on the shelf and realizing that I had never noticed it before. I didn't know what to expect of it.

What you should expect--because I'm telling you--is that this is really, really good. It's thick, made mostly from purees rather than juices per se, and it's just chock-full of fruity goodness. It doesn't taste overly sweetened as so many of TJ's blends do.

It's not easy to pick out any single fruit constituent, but that's not surprising, given how many there are. And it's not grounds for a demerit here, as I think it is when there are fewer ingredients. When you're listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, you shouldn't be able to hear one voice over the others. So it is here.

This is a gem, hiding inconspicuously in a veritable sea of awful juice blends. You might want to seek it out.

Will I buy it again? 

I already have--I'm on my fourth jug of it as I write this. I've decided that it's even good enough to join my Top Ten list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Parmesan Crisps

I bought these because they appear so similar to the excellent Sun-Dried Tomato & Cheese Sourdough Toasts, which I love. As the saying goes, they're the same, but different: The bread isn't sourdough. There are no sun-dried tomatoes. There is less cheese.

These three points together make all the difference in the world. They're basically very slightly cheesy Melba toasts. In other words, they're kind of pointless. They do not need to exist.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread

This is very pleasant stuff. And no wonder--the ingredients are just raspberries, grape juice concentrate as a sweetener, pectin, and ascorbic and citric acids.

Predictably, it works anywhere you might usually use raspberry jam. It tastes more natural, less sweet than jam.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. Part of that is because it's a lot more expensive than jam. That, at least, is defensible. The other part of the reason isn't, really: I'm a barbarian. I was raised on cheap fruit jam, and still like it. Though I could sense that this spread was how such a product ought to taste, I'm still so used to the stuff that's about half added sugar that that's what I want. I'm sorry.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Crisps

These are yummy little morsels of delight. They are just thin slices of dark chocolate with tiny embedded rice crisps. They're like Nestle's Crunch, but with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, and cut into thin, bent slices that resemble half-sized Pringles.

I can't think of anything more to tell you about them. But if that description isn't enough to let you decide whether you'd like them, I'm not sure what would.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, November 26, 2016


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

How to shop at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:\


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

Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Mini Vanilla Sandwiches

Nina bought these and I tried them at her house. Me likey. Me likey mucho. They are very much like the ice cream sandwiches I used to eat as a kid, but with a vegan fake ice cream that performs the rare feat of actually being a convincing alternative to the real thing.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. This is a solid winner.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Bambino Pizza Formaggio

As far as I can tell, this is identical to the Bambino Pepperoni pizzas, except with no pepperoni. I like it a little bit less than that product, but it's pretty good.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, simply because I would always choose the pepperoni version instead. Pepperoni on pizza will probably be the last vestige of beef/pork products to be eliminated from my diet, because of yumminess.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Antibacterial Hand Soap Fresh Linen Scent With Aloe, Vitamin E & Rosemary Extract

I encountered this at a friend's house, and so got a chance to try it without buying it myself.

The fact is that I would never have purchased it, because of one word in the name of the product: Antibacterial. I'm reasonably well convinced that adding antibacterial chemicals to soaps and household cleaners is not beneficial, and may well do more harm than good. See, e.g., this from Wikipedia, and this from Consumer Reports.

But there's another reason I would not want to use this particular soap: It's the strongest-smelling of any of the liquid hand soaps I've tried from Trader Joe's. I'm not a fan of having artificial scents bombard my nose from soaps and detergents. What's wrong with just having things be clean? Why do they have to smell like something they're not?

I have a hard time describing the scent of this soap. It's pleasant, but on the verge of being overwhelming in intensity. Nothing about it reminds me of "linen," so I don't know what that reference in the product name is about.

One point in its favor: It comes in the prettiest soap dispenser I've seen from TJ's. But that's hardly enough to make me want to buy it.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Sprouted Organic California Rice

Sprouted rice has more amino acids than regular rice, and cooks up faster, too--or so claims Trader Joe's. I'm a bit dubious of the first claim: where do those amino acids come from, when the "sprouting" appears to be such a small amount that there is no shoot or root extended into soil?

I also can't verify the second claim. I usually follow cooking directions as precisely as I can when testing an item for the first time. I didn't do that here; I just dumped the stuff in my rice cooker as I would with any other rice. The machine doesn't know what kind of rice is in it, and just cooks until the pre-set amount of water has boiled off.

It turned out fine. It maybe could have used a little more cook time, as it was definitely al dente rather than truly soft. But neither Nina nor I minded the texture. It was definitely chewier and denser than plain white rice, or even plain brown rice. Nothing wrong with that.

It also has a more distinct flavor--more nutty and grainy. But I can't say that I liked it more than other kinds of rice. Different, but not better.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. At $2.99 for one pound, it's quite a bit more expensive than other rice, and I don't see enough advantage to pay that much extra. For comparison, TJ's has provided this handy guide to its rice varieties and their respective prices.

Nina's View

I liked this a lot. The chewiness and nuttiness were appealing. I like the color variation. It would work very nicely in a cold summer salad, maybe with beans and lentils and bell peppers and other goodies.

Try it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Mint Creams

Perfectly nice, but indistinguishable from a thousand other similar products.

One gripe about the packaging: The tub has a big piece that comes up from the bottom into the center. The only possible purpose of this is to reduce the interior volume, and make you think you're getting more than you actually are. Really shabby, Trader Joe's.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Brownie Truffle Baking Mix

Good brownies. However, they're a little too much cocoa as opposed to chocolate for my taste, and I'm not a fan of chocolate chips added to brownies, as these have. Also, I didn't like having to use a full stick of butter to make them, rather than the more typical vegetable oil called for by other mixes. Still, I'd happily eat them anytime they were served to me.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It's not because I didn't like them. It's only because I long ago discovered that the best brownie mix in the universe is Ghirardelli's "Chocolate Supreme." (Ghirardelli makes eight different brownie mixes, so it's easy to get confused as to which is which. The "Chocolate Supreme" is the only one with a packet of chocolate syrup that you add to the dry mix. This is clearly indicated on the front of the box, and is the only way I can remember which one to buy.)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative--Cheddar Flavor

A while back, Nina and I reviewed a TJ's product with the same name as this one, but different packaging. I don't know for sure whether TJ's just changed the label, or actually changed the product composition--but I suspect the latter, for two reasons.

1. The new one says "99% lactose free," and the previous version didn't. I suspect they reformulated it to have even less dairy content than before, in order to appease both the lactose-intolerant and the impure vegans willing to make tiny compromises.

2. I described the former version as "a reasonably convincing fake cheese." For this one, wild horses could not drag those words out of my mouth.

If somebody blindfolded you, put a piece of this stuff in your mouth, and asked you to identify it, your response would be, "Limp, oily, thinly sliced cardboard." When, to your surprise, you were told that that was wrong, and you should think of a food product, you would express disbelief. You would then start guessing at random, hoping to end this stupid game. But you would get through, oh, maybe 100 food categories before desperation provoked you to guess "cheese." BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING EVEN VAGUELY CHEESE-LIKE ABOUT THIS CRAP.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It went back to the store for a refund. I'm adding it to my Bottom Ten list. Truly awful.

Nina's View

This stuff literally has no flavor. And when I say "literally," I mean LITERALLY literally, not metaphorically or emphatically literally. NO FLAVOR. None. It does not even taste of cardboard. There's a little salt, maybe. And some oiliness.

The notion that this bears any resemblance to cheddar is beyond absurd.

Seriously, TJ, get a grip.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


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

November's new products at Trader Joe's

Top ten Trader Joe's picks

Reporter to Trader Joe's: Are we having fun yet?

The 5 things you should buy from Trader Joe's for Thanksgiving

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

Trader Joe's Salted Popped Potato Chips

I had never noticed these on the TJ's shelves until a trip a few days ago, when I saw several different variations on the same theme. I picked this one, "salted," as it appeared to be the most basic, with the idea that I would check out the others if I liked it.

I did.

What are they like? Imagine the taste of a Pringles potato chip, but textured to be air-puffed. That's about what you've got here.

Nina and I were eating them with some powerful hummus (Thai Coconut Curry from Roots). I thought it made for a good combination, though this particular hummus is extreme thick and stiff-textured, and the chips were a bit too delicate to scoop through it.

Ingredients: Potato flakes; potato starch; sunflower, safflower, and/or canola oil; rice flour; salt. Vegan friendly, gluten-free. $1.99 for 3.25 oz.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. I don't think it will become a favorite or staple, but they're plenty good to have as something a little different once in a while. And now I have to work my way through the other varieties.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pub Cheese

A few weeks ago, one of the feature articles about Trader Joe's that came across the transom was about what products some chefs routinely buy there. One of them mentioned "pub cheese." I had never heard of that and had no idea what he was talking about, but it sounded like something I needed to explore.

It wasn't hard to find, once I started poking around the cheese section. In fact, there are three different varieties. Only two are shown above, because the third is cheddar with horseradish, which I'm confident I wouldn't like, so I'm not wasting my money on it.

Notice that these are not, in fact, "Trader Joe's Pub Cheese." Oddly, there is no brand at all on them. The side of the tub does list a distributor--not Trader Joe's--but no manufacturer is named anywhere. But this should be a TJ's-branded product. It's certainly good enough.

In fact, it's really great stuff. It is non-stop-edible. If you're not paying attention and have a large enough supply of crackers or whatever else you're pairing this with, half a tub will be gone before you even notice, and your diet will be about 8 billion calories off-course.

I kind of arbitrarily picked TJ's Honey Wheat Pretzels as the first thing with which to scoop up gobs of this cheese, and it was a fortuitous match. They're absolutely delectable together. On my next trip to TJ's, I bought another container of each just so I could have at it again. I could seriously eat this cheese on those pretzels all day long.

I tried the same thing with the jalapeno cheddar version, and didn't like it nearly as much. Not terrible, but I just didn't find the cheese-jalapeno combination pleasing. I don't think I would ever pick it over the plain original.

Will I buy it again? 

Oh, yes. It's already an all-time snacking favorite. I've flirted with the idea of adding it to my Top Ten list. It's a close call, but at least for now I'm ruling it to be just a hair short of that level of magnifiosity--but it's damn good, and highly addictive.


A strange thing happened. I blasted through two tubs of the plain in addition to the one of jalapeno, and loved them. But then I took some time off from them before buying a third tub--and I suddenly didn't like it as much. That half-eaten third tub has been sitting in my fridge for, I dunno, maybe a month now. I see it often when I'm in snack-hunting mode, but keep passing it over for several other things. I don't think there's anything different about this tub; it doesn't taste off or anything. I think I just kind of used up my interest in the product, which is not a common occurrence.

Apologies for the lack of a convincing explanation--I don't have one, but can only report my experience.

Nina's View

These are not a high-end item for the discerning palate. They are salty, fatty, snacking crack-bombs. If you like cheese products, you'll probably like them as a guilty pleasure.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trader Joe's French Market Sparkling Limeade

This is the fourth and last of this product line that we've tried.

I didn't much like this on first taste, but I warmed up to it. By the time I finished off the bottle a few days later, I had concluded that it was the best of the bunch. Why the initial dislike? It's hard to be sure, but I suspect it was a combination of (1) the spicy food I was eating at the same time, and (2) an unfortunate memory remnant from my childhood, in which I ate a lot more "lime"-flavored things (like Popsicles and Jello) than actual limes, leaving me with a badly warped idea of what limes are supposed to taste like.

But, as I said, my impression of this drink became progressively more favorable with each subsequent sampling. My final opinion was that it was more faithful to its source fruit than any of its shelfmates. Moreover, though I didn't compare actual sugar quantities by the labels, it tasted less sweetened than the others.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. Of the four, this is the one I'm most keen to have in my fridge for a repeat try.

Nina's View

Highly drinkable, without the metallic edge many lime-flavored items unfortunately have. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trader Joe's French Market Sparkling French Berry Lemonade

I would usually say that everything is better with berry in it. But I found the taste of this odd--as if the combination of lemon and berry flavors made it so that I couldn't taste either one. The impression I got was just of a generic sweetness and fruitiness. I ended up not liking it any better than the plain lemonade version, which wasn't much.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trader Joe's French Market Sparkling Pink Lemonade

This is just what you'd expect. Take some pretty-good-quality pink lemonade, lightly carbonate it, and voila. I liked it.

Will I buy it again? 

It won't be a staple, but for an occasional treat, yes.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Trader Joe's French Market Sparkling Lemonade

I love lemonade--but not this. It was OK, but I'm not sure I would have pegged it as lemonade if not primed by the label. It's just not distinctly lemon at all. It's pleasantly sweet and pleasantly tickley. But lemon? No.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Paper Towels

These work fine for the purposes for which I use them: as dinner napkins, and for light cleanup. I don't need anything super-absorbent. My usual pick has long been Bounty Basic, which at Wal-Mart cost $8.67 for 8 rolls of 66 towels, or about 1.64 cents apiece. Trader Joe's charges $3.99 for 3 rolls of 80 towels, or about 1.66 cents apiece--a virtual tie. The TJ's are a hair larger at 11" x 11", compared to the Bounty's 11" x 10.2", but that difference does not matter at all to me. The Bounty have the advantage of coming in larger packs, so it's easy to carry home a bunch at a time. On the other hand, the TJ's are made from recycled paper, which is nice.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. This contest looks like a toss-up to me, so I plan to get whichever one happens to be most convenient when I need some.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trader Joe's Pizza Al Pollo Asado

It seems strange to use both the "Mexican food" and "pizza" tags simultaneously. But I think I must, because this thing is labeled as a "pizza," but is about as un-Italian as possible. It's a masa corn-flour base with refried beans, salsa, and chunks of chicken breast on top. When baking, it smells just like tortillas frying.

As is so often the case with TJ's frozen foods, it took significantly longer to heat properly than the 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees that the box advised. It was barely warm after 15 minutes, so I gave it another 5, and then it was OK, but still needed a bit more.

It was OK overall, but nothing special. If I'm going to be eating something that is basically a tostada, well, I would rather make my own, as described here. They're not only a mainstay of my diet, but one of my favorite things to eat. Trader Joe's should freeze and sell those instead of this boring little thing.

Will I buy it again? 


Friday, November 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Apple Blossoms

In all my trips down the Trader Joe's frozen-food aisle, I had never noticed these. Nina found them and baked them up for dessert one day recently. I thought maybe they were new, but a look around the web tells me they've been sold since at least 2008. I don't know how I missed them.

Anyway, they're excellent. Strong apple flavor, nice sauce, and one of the best textures of frozen pastry I can remember ever having. They're just right on every count, if you ask me. (And I guess that by reading this blog, you sorta did.)

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. It's a solid winner.

Nina's View

Little mini apple pielets. Good choice of apples, lovely pastry. What's not to like? Go get you some.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trader Joe's 12 Mini Mint Ice Cream Mouthfuls

There's nothing complicated to explain about them; you can tell exactly what they are from the name and picture. Which means that you can already tell whether you will like them. Which means that you don't need any more from me on it.

Well, OK, one more thing: I loved them.

Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View

I bought these as a dessert for Bob, who was having dinner at my place. This was a pretty straightforward process of deduction: Bob likes chocolate, Bob likes ice cream, Bob likes mint, Bob likes Oreos. Bob will like these.

And he did.

I, however, did not. None of the flavors were distinct or special. The cookies were soggy, the mint uninspired, the ice cream grainy. Feh.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trader Joe's New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings

In contrast to the Freeze Dried Fuji Apple Slices, these are very much like the dried apple slices my mother used to make in our home food drier. I liked them a lot, though it's hard for me to say how much of that is pure nostalgia working on me.

For a contrary opinion, see that of my e-friend Susan, in her no-longer-daily TJ's blog:

My main complaint is that the core was cut out with such small margins that the seed capsules were often left in place, creating unpleasant nuggets of toughness. I had to either nibble around these, or pull them out before popping a slice into my mouth. I'm hoping that was an idiosyncrasy of this particular batch, and not characteristic of the product generally.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Trader Joe's Savory Thin Mini Edamame Crackers

In texture, these reminded me strongly of the late (i.e., discontinued), lamented Sea Salt & Pepper Crisps, presumably because both are largely made of rice flour. But the edamame component adds a weird green hue to the crackers, and a slightly off flavor. They're really too small to host a hunk of cheese or dip into salsa, and too delicate for any but the thinnest hummus.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I just don't see a role for them that isn't accomplished better by several other products.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Multi-Purpose Cleaner

I tried using this for three things:

1. As a glass cleaner (specifically, my bathroom mirror).

2. As a lens cleaner (my glasses).

3. To de-smudge the touch-sensitive surfaces of my smart phone and tablet.

In all three cases, it committed an unforgivable sin: It left a film behind, which I then had to remove with another glass cleaner. I suspect this is to be blamed on the "essential oils" that the label boasts about. Oils do not make for good cleaning of surfaces that need maximal transparency.

Maybe it works great as a general kitchen and/or bathroom cleaner. I don't know; I didn't try it that way. But for glass and clear plastics, it's an utter failure. Having to use a second cleaner to remove what the first cleaner left behind is as inefficient and counterproductive as just about anything I can imagine.

And, mind you, this wasn't a one-time, casual observation. I was so baffled by it at first that I kept trying it, again and again, and only became convinced that I wasn't imagining things after at least five tries on the glasses and tablets. The mirror came after those, when I was already pretty confident about what was going on. When I had to re-do that, I was done and gave up on the stuff forever.

I had probably used only about 5% of the bottle, and the rest went back to the store for a refund to an unhappy customer.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trader Joe's Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks

These are the best pretzels I've had in a long time. They're unconventional, in that they're less salty and more sweet than most. This is unexpected (well, unless you noticed the "honey" in the product name), but very pleasant. They're worlds better than the shelf-mate pumpernickel pretzel sticks with the same goofy-looking dude on the package.

The thickness of the sticks allows them to be used for dipping without the constant breakage that occurs with thin pretzels. Nina and I tried them with TJ's Pub Cheese (review to come), and I thought it was a fabulous combination.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's not Top Ten quality, but it's a new snacking favorite.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Juice

This is pretty much like most other apple-cranberry juice blends. It has the advantage of being just those two juices, not sweetened with either sugar or with juice sweeteners, such as grape juice.

It has the disadvantage of being too heavy on the apple and too light on the cranberry. Perhaps that's implied in the name "apple cranberry" instead of the more common "cranapple." I wish they would tilt that balance differently. I like more tartness in cranberry juice blends.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe occasionally, but I didn't like it enough to develop much of a yen to have more of it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Simply Seasoned Tuna Burgers

I liked these much better than the Premium Salmon Burgers, and even a little better than the Salmon & Vegetable Croquettes. But that's probably just because I have a general preference for tuna over salmon.

When Nina wasn't around to express what would likely have been her severe disapproval, I went full-burger on one of these--pickles, ketchup, and cheese on top. It was kind of weird. They were better the first way I did them, when Nina was here: Just pickles on a bun. (She also added mayo to hers.)

Will I buy it again? 

No--not because they're bad, but because, to use an expression in its least-literal sense, they're neither fish nor fowl. If I'm feeling like having a hamburger kind of thing, I would prefer any of the fine, reasonably convincing meat-substitute patties available from just about any grocery store other than Trader Joe's. If I'm feeling like having tuna, I would rather have either a tuna salad sandwich or a favorite from my mother's old recipes, creamed tuna on toast. TJ's tuna burgers just don't have a place in my life.

Nina's View

Oh no, another weirdly spongy fish burger. I don't know how these things are constituted, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. Just don't expect an actual hunk of un-messed-with tuna.

In brief: do not like (although I will concur that they are better than the salmon burgers). But they are not even close to the fabulosity that is the Salmon & Vegetable Croquettes.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trader Joe's "This Apple Walks Into A Bar..."

These are just like the blueberry and strawberry versions of the same basic product, but not as good. So buy those instead.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trader Joe's White Stilton With Apricots

Sorry for the crappy photo. I didn't realize how badly I had botched it until it was way too late to go back and take a better one.

I had no particular reason to pick this; it just looked interesting, different from anything I've ever had before. And it was. I couldn't imagine what cheese and apricots would taste like together. Turns out, it's a combination that works surprisingly well.

I don't think I've ever eaten Stilton cheese before. It's among the most mild-flavored cheeses I've tried. Maybe apricots only work well with a cheese that mild.

It was extremely crumbly, essentially impossible to slice with any implement.

Will I buy it again? 

No, but I'm very happy to have tried it once.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry Flavored Juice Beverage

This is the last of the flavors in TJ's line of sparkling juice beverages that Nina and I have tried. I think it might be the least successful of the batch. Though the only juices in it are grape and cranberry, it's about as far from real cranberry flavor as I can imagine anything being. It's not terrible; being sweet and fruity and bubbly is enough for me to enjoy it enough to finish the bottle. But with every sip, I was thinking, "How can this possibly be based on cranberry juice? Where's the cranberry?"

Will I buy it again?