Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Hold The Cone! Mini Ice Cream Cones--Vanilla

As you can see, this is a box of eight miniature ice cream cones with chocolate coating. They're small enough that Nina and I each ate four of them in one sitting after dinner.

I thought they were OK, but not great. They were most spoiled by soggy cones. The box itself was kind of warped (as you can see above if you look closely), apparently by water. I suspect that they underwent some thawing/refreezing at some point, either in transport to the store or after I had purchased them. So the soggy cone thing might be a problem unique to this box, rather than being intrinsic to how the product is manufactured.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, at least once, to clear up that soggy cone question. And Nina liked them more than I did, so I know they'll be a hit for another dessert.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Cherry Preserves

This is excellent--as good as any cherry jam/preserves I've ever had. I would never know it's a "reduced sugar" variety without looking at the label.

Will I buy it again? 

I don't use cherry as much as strawberry and raspberry, but once in a while for a little change, sure.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Raw Milk Cheddar Cheese

See yesterday's explanation for why I picked this.

It may be the least flavorful white cheddar cheese I've ever tried. It's kind of amazing how they've managed to create a cheese that you can't even taste. It looks like cheese. It slices easily like cheese. And yet you put it on a cracker and it's like nothing is there.

Will I buy it again? 

Ugh, no. This product shouldn't exist. What's the point of eating cheese if it doesn't taste like cheese?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trader Joe's Wisconsin Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

I was almost out of my new favorite white cheddar, the perfect Extra Sharp Canadian, so I was planning to buy another block of it. But when I looked at the variety of cheeses available at Trader Joe's, I had another thought: I could take advantage of having a little of it left to do a direct comparison with one or two other of TJ's selection of white cheddars. So I picked, more or less at random, this one and the one I'll review tomorrow.

This Wisconsin variant is fine, nothing particularly wrong with it, but it's your run-of-the-mill, undistinguished white cheddar. I would not call it "extra sharp." It is clearly less flavorful than the Canadian. On the plus side, I like its texture--easy to slice with no crumbling.

Will I buy it again? 


Addendum, November 2, 2018: 

I tried it again and had a change of heart. See update here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


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

The 8 best cocktail ingredients to buy at Trader Joe's

My favorite Trader Joe's products

Trader Joe's ingredients for a backyard barbecue

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag on a Trader Joe's wine box.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Purple Maize Flakes

These are corn flakes, but purple. And organic. And pretty much flavorless, for some reason.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I am usually not a fan of the blend of chocolate and peanut butter. But I passed by the shelves of candy at TJ's the other day, and just had a sudden impulse to buy these.

They're pretty good, compared to other such things I've tried. I think that's probably because the tiny size means that there's a higher surface area:volume ratio, which translates to a higher chocolate:peanut butter ratio. The peanut butter is also appropriately salty, making it taste, I dunno, crisper or sharper, in nice contrast to the mellow milk chocolate.

Will I buy it again? 

No. There are many, many chocolate candies I like a lot better. But I'm not sorry I yielded to the urge to toss it in my basket just this once.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Special post: My two favorite things to make

Yesterday's review of the whole wheat tortillas prompts me to tell you about the two things I most often prepare for my main meal of the day, both of which are made mostly or entirely from Trader Joe's products.


I don't know if that's a proper Mexican food term. I picked it up from Taco Bell and appropriated for my own use.

The only preparation required besides assembling the ingredients is to brown some TJ's Soy Chorizo in vegetable oil. I usually use TJ's Grapeseed Oil, but any will do.

Now take a TJ's Handmade Flour Tortilla. Spread on it a layer of TJ's Fat-Free Refried Beans. Sprinkle on some of the browned Soy Chorizo. If I happen to have some leftover cooked rice from something else I've made, I'll sprinkle a little of that on, too. Sprinkle on any shredded cheese. My default is TJ's Shredded Sharp Cheddar, but I've used many others from TJ's cheese line-up with good success. Finally, top it with a handful of TJ's Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Microwave for about 2 minutes.

Fake chicken strips on rice

The second thing I make over and over and over again doesn't really have a name, but consists of four ingredients.

First, cook up any rice you like. My go-to staples are TJ's Brown Jasmine Rice From Thailand and TJ's Basmati Rice From India. (On occasion, I'll go crazy and use quinoa or lentils or couscous instead of rice.)

Plunk on top of the bed of rice some fake chicken strips, prepared per package directions (some oven, some browning in a skillet). I used to use TJ's Chicken-Less Strips often, but, sadly, they have been discontinued. My current favorite is the grilled strips from Beyond Meat, but I'm just about as happy with similar products from Gardein, Boca, or MorningStar. Breaded varieties (strips or nuggets) work fine, too, such as TJ's Chickenless Crispy Tenders.

Finally, this needs a sauce. I liked TJ's Mango Ginger Chutney the first time I tried it, but it really came to life when I followed Nina's suggestion of turning it into a sweet-and-sour sauce by adding some lemon juice (which, unfortunately, TJ's doesn't sell). I use roughly a 2:1 ratio of chutney to lemon juice, but of course you can vary this to taste. Pour or spoon this over the strips and rice. I like to use an amount of sauce that Nina considers excessive, but again, vary this as suits you.

If you were to drop by my house on a randomly selected lunchtime, which is when I eat my only real meal of the day, you would find me tearing into one or the other of the above things at least half the time, and maybe 2/3 of the time. All of the other things I sometimes prepare together make up the rest.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Flour Tortillas With Whole Wheat

I didn't actually purchase an empty bag, as it might appear. But I did manage to forget to take a picture of this product, and realized it only when it was time to write this review, after I had eaten all of the tortillas.

These are large tortillas, nearly the size of dinner plates. They're the same size as the Handmade Flour Tortillas, the Habanero Lime Flour Tortillas, and the Handmade 100% Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas. The first of that trio is not only a Top Ten list member, but one of my staples; you will rarely find me without a package in my refrigerator, because I eat an average of about three of them a week.

In fact, I was trying to buy another bag of the same when I was foiled by the store being temporarily out of them. So I picked this one instead.

They work fine as the base for my tostadas--probably the single most common main dish I make for myself. But I prefer white flour to wheat flour tortillas, and they lack the thickness, excellent texture, and charmingly unique shapes of the handmade varieties.

Will I buy it again? 

Only in a pinch, when my favorites aren't available.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Extra Sharp Canadian Cheddar Cheese

First, apologies for the photo above. I was halfway through the cheese when I sat down to write this review and discovered that I had forgotten to take a picture of it before I opened it.

Of the dozens of cheese varieties I've tried from Trader Joe's, I have found only two really first-rate white cheddars. There was Mull of Kintyre, but that appears to have been a limited-run item--or perhaps it will be back periodically, but either way, it's not one you can buy just any old time. Then there's the Lite Sharp Celtic Cheddar. It's superb, but its unusual sharpness and low-fat formulation make it kind of a special category of one.

I think I've finally found the definitive always-available, classic white cheddar, hiding in plain sight in this rather undistinguished label.

It's richly flavored, sharp without being harsh, smooth, and slices neatly and cleanly. It is, as far as I can tell, perfect, and much deserving a place on my Top Ten list.

For several other white cheddars, I've given an unenthusiastic "yes" or "maybe" to the question of whether I would buy them again. They were all good, but not outstanding. (See, e.g., here, here, and here.) Those answers will now all effectively change to "no," because I would always choose this Canadian variety over them.

Will I buy it again? 

Absolutely. This and the Lite Sharp Celtic will now be my cheddar mainstays when I'm not investigating something new.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


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

How I shop at Trader Joe's

Healthiest foods at Trader Joe's

The only 6 Trader Joe's products worth braving the parking lots for

Best tweets of the week:

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

A post shared by Mona Olszewski (@monao991) on

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Sparkling Mandarin Orange Spring Water

This is the second of four flavors in Trader Joe's new line of sparkling waters. I reviewed the raspberry-lime version here.

I did not like this one as much. This is probably attributable to nothing other than my general preference of raspberry over orange. Nina said she liked this one better. De gustibus, etc.

It has the same heavy carbonation as the raspberry. I found it had less of the false sensation of sweetness.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Gone Bananas!

I've occasionally seen folks on Twitter rave about this product, more than seems justifiable from its description. It has made me roll my eyes. I mean, come one--it's banana slices dipped in chocolate. Sure, it's probably good, but it cannot be a transformative life experience.

OK, so maybe it's not a transformative life experience, but I will confess that I seriously underestimated how good it is. I love these things. Eating them straight out of the freezer, as the package sternly commands, makes them pretty amazing. One doesn't often encounter chocolate and banana together outside the realm of banana splits at the ice cream shop. Add to that the unusual texture imposed by eating them frozen, and you've got a surprisingly delightful dessert experience in store--and with zero work of preparation!

After Nina and I had each eaten a couple, she looked up at me and asked, "Are these going on your Top Ten list?"

Yes they are, my love. Yes they are.

Will I buy them again? 

Oh my yes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pizza Crust

People have been going gaga over this item since it first hit the Trader Joe's shelves a couple of months ago. It sells out everywhere about as fast as they get it in. I've seen the space for it in my local store's freezer case, but it had always been empty until about two weeks ago, when I was finally able to nab one.

The cooking directions are a little peculiar: 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes on one side, then flip it over and repeat, then add toppings and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes. I did it, using TJ's excellent pizza sauce, TJ's organic mozzarella shreds, and Morning Star fake bacon pieces. The result was one of the best homemade pizzas of my life.

Surprisingly, the crust was almost completely neutral in flavor, not nearly as distinctly cauliflower as I had assumed it would be. It basically served as a physical vehicle for the toppings, rather than as a key ingredient in its own right. I'm going to try the same toppings with a more standard crust soon, and I suspect the result will be even better.

Will I buy it again? 

No, not unless some occasion arises in which I will need to make pizza for guests who are avoiding carbs and/or gluten. Those are really the only reasons one would pick this over a traditional crust, and since neither applies to me, I don't have any need for this special product. But if I did, I'd be happy to have it available.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

This is the best-tasting shredded mozzarella I've ever had--fresh and flavorful. It's my new standard. On those occasions when I'm making a pizza at home, this is what I will put on it, abjuring all other similar products.

Will I buy it again? 

Most assuredly yes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Just Coconut Chunks

As you'd expect, the contents of this bag are just chunks of raw coconut, cut away from the shell, but otherwise unprocessed. No added sugar, preservatives, etc. You just pour out what you'll want to use, let the chunks thaw, and eat them--or add them to a fruit salad, or whatever.

The chunks are quite uniform, about an inch square, and maybe a third of an inch thick. I think they're excellent for just munching on, but not everybody shares my affection for unadulterated coconut.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. The main factor limiting my snacking on coconut is the work involved in cracking open the shell and separating the meat from it. This completely eliminates that barrier, and makes eating plain, raw, delicious pieces of coconut easier than I've ever known it could be.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


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

16 best cheeses at Trader Joe's

Back-to-school favorites from Trader Joe's

Some Trader Joe's suppliers unmasked

Trader Joe's puts the private in private-label

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Raspberry Chevre

This has the same basic problem as the blueberry vanilla chevre: Though the fruit flavor is nice, it totally overwhelms the cheese, and the stuff ends up tasting like a fruit spread rather than like a cheese with an added accent flavor.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Manchego Anejo Cheese

I've previously tried and liked Trader Joe's Spanish Manchego cheese. This is not quite the same. It's Manchego Anejo--i.e., aged.

Perhaps I would be able to tell some difference between them if I tasted them side by side, but this one exactly matches my memory of the regular Manchego. It's just as tasty and interesting as the one I had before.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's a favorite. I might buy another chunk of both of them just so I can try them together and see if I can detect what difference the extra aging makes.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches

When I lived in Minnesota in the 1990s and early 2000s, I remember frequently buying ice cream sandwiches from a convenience store near my house, and they were the best I've had--huge, completely decadent. I no longer remember the brand name.

These from Trader Joe's come close. They are, I believe, the second-best ice cream sandwiches I've ever had--and it's possible that if I compared them directly against the ones I'm remembering, instead of against a decade-old memory of the same, I'd judge them to be the best.

In any event, they're essentially perfect. I honestly can't think of a thing I'd ask TJ's to change about them. The size, thickness, texture, sweetness, ratio of the components--they're all exactly right.

When I was buying them, the TJ's cashier commented that they were the best ice cream sandwiches in the world. I'm used to the TJ's cashiers talking up random items, and I don't put much stock in their salesmanship. But for once, he may not have been exaggerating, at least not much.

By about the third bite of my first of these four, I knew they were headed to my Top Ten list. They're that good.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm already on my second box. May they never be discontinued.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Sparkling Raspberry Lime Spring Water

This has a surprisingly strong raspberry flavor. Surprising, that is, based on my experience of other sparkling waters, which tend to be quite lightly flavored. The heavier dosing of flavor here produces an unusual sensation of sweetness, even though it contains zero sugars and zero calories. It's also more heavily carbonated than any other such product I've had before--right up there with sugary sodas.

The claimed lime, however, is absent from the flavor profile.

Will I buy it again? 

I did like it, but it's just not a product category for which I have much use. When I want water, I want just water. When I want soda, I want soda. This is sort of halfway between, and I think I would never pick it over the two things it's sorta trying to be.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Satay Peanut Sauce

I'm often more adventurous in buying unfamiliar things than in actually using them once I get them home. So it was with this. I bought it over a year ago, and it just sat in my pantry, because I didn't know what to do with it. I finally asked Nina, and she suggested putting it over fake chicken strips with rice. And that's what I did.

And it was pretty good! For something that I knew zero about and had never even heard of before, just being not-awful is a win; being "pretty good" is a major victory. It means that there's a small sector of the food spectrum--satay sauce--that is now open to me when it was effectively closed before.

The taste mostly follows the ingredients list: peanuts, soy sauce, and chili peppers. Coconut extract is supposedly there, too, though I couldn't taste it.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, once in a while.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


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

33 delicious Trader Joe's recipes

Top 5 favorite Trader Joe's items

16 paleo-friendly snacks from Trader Joe's

33 underrated Trader Joe's products

A week of Trader Joe's dinners for $25

Trader Joe's dinner for two for less than $10

Proximity to a Trader Joe's could boost your home value

Best frozen Japanese foods from Trader Joe's

14 secrets of Trader Joe's employees

5 products from Trader Joe's versus Brandless

10 Trader Joe's beauty buys

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in on a Trader Joe's grocery bag. Hmmm--she looks familiar. Oh, hey, that's MY cat, Lucy! We moved to a new house last week, and she promptly found a safe place to hide from the moving-in chaos: in a cupboard, on the shelf on which I had placed my used bags.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Peach Bellini Jam

This is excellent peach jam. As for the Bellini part? Not so much. Frankly, I wouldn't know prosecco if you hit me in the face with it; my experience with all wines is extremely limited, nearly nonexistent. But I don't taste anything here that suggests white wine--sparkling or not.

It doesn't matter to me, though. I care only whether it's good peach jam, and it most certainly is, with big chunks of flavorful peach, not overly sweetened.

Will I buy it again? 

I eat more strawberry and raspberry than peach jam, but yes, as a once-in-a-while change from my routine.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Sambal Matah Indonesian Salsa

And yet again I have misplaced the photo I took of this when I bought it. I'm not getting senile. (At least I don't think I am.) But I did have a computer meltdown that required a fresh installation of Windows, followed by trying to restore my files from backup. This was followed by a move to a new house last week. All sorts of things got misplaced in July. The photo you see is from an page.


Nina and I tried this a few days ago. Taking a hint from the "salsa" in the product description, and from the explicit claim elsewhere on the label that it's great as a dip, we ate it as if it were regular ol' salsa, with tortilla chips. 

The effect is basically one of hot pepper pieces floating in way too much oil. It's excessively hot and excessively oily. Both of these are unpleasant characteristics. I powered through maybe ten chips dipped in some of this stuff, and then I just couldn't do it anymore. I think Nina stopped after the first one. 

Will I buy it again? 

No. Did not like it at all. Besides, I hear it's been discontinued. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Tiramisu Torte

This time I'm using a Trader Joe's photo instead of one of my own because I didn't buy this product. The people in my little 4-unit apartment building had a potluck dinner party last week because I was moving out, and one of my neighbors brought this for our dessert.

Nina immediately predicted that I wouldn't like it because I don't like coffee. This was a perfectly sensible projection from a true fact. But it proved to be wrong. I did like this, though I would have liked it even better if the coffee flavor had been absent. As it was, it was mild enough that I could pretty much ignore it and enjoy the chocolate, cocoa, and cream.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not for myself, but it seems universally liked, so I might well take it to a gathering of people like last week's.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries

I liked these, but did not love them. There was too little of real cranberry flavor in them. In fact, I had a couple handfuls one night while watching TV, and kept thinking I was eating chocolate-covered raisins. Now, I love chocolate-covered raisins, so that doesn't mean they tasted bad--but it does mean that they didn't taste like chocolate-covered cranberries.

Will I buy it again?