Friday, April 28, 2017

Truffle Mac & Cheese

Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese
Price: $3.49
Rating: 4/10

I loved TJ’s Mac & Cheese with Green Chiles, so when I saw this new Truffle Mac & Cheese, I was psyched! I was going to make it as an appetizer for a get together with some friends at my apartment, but we ended up making some other things instead, so I had it for dinner one night. I followed the directions exactly, and what came out was so unappetizing I threw about ⅓ of it away. It came out rubbery with a sauce that was super thick and not-at-all-creamy. I’m not sure if maybe I should have tried stirring it sooner so the pasta would get more coated in sauce while it was cooking to avoid the rubberiness or what, but it seemed like the main problem was just not enough sauce to cover the macaroni. Whatever the issue was, I won’t be buying this again to try to solve the issue.

Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese


Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese Nutrition Facts

Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms

Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms
Price: $5.99
Rating: 7/10

I was super excited when I saw this sauce at TJ’s since I’m a fan of creamy sauces as well as mushrooms. I was a little skeptical about the scallops since they can be a bit rubbery, but decided to try it out anyway. 

Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms
I ate mine over pasta, but you could probably also have it over potatoes or rice and it would be just as good. The bag is pretty small and only contains 2–3 servings or so, but it’s pretty great. When you open it, it looks like there isn’t any sauce since it’s all stuck to the scallops, so it only turns into actual sauce when it heats. It has a good, creamy flavor, although I wouldn’t have minded some extra peas. The sauce itself is good, but I did add some pepper and some truffle salt to up the mushroom factor though. Despite these few issues though, I thought it was pretty great and I’ve bought it a few times since I originally tried it. 

Saucy Scallops with Mushrooms Nutrition Facts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dark Chocolate Hearts

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Hearts
Price: $2.99
Rating: 9/10

Just when I thought that TJ’s couldn’t come up with a covered shortbread cookie that compared to the Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars, these came along! They’re bigger than the Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars, but with the same super-chocolatey flavor that I loved, just minus the mint. There’s also some nonpareils on top which give it a nice texture. I ended up eating only one box of these because they sold out so quickly in NYC. But if they have them again next year, I’m going to be stocking up (assuming there’s any room left not occupied by the Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars)!

Trader Joe's Raspberry Hearts

Price: $4.99
Rating: 9/10

I’m a little late on posting this as they’re no longer in stores, but I loved them so much I just had to write about them anyway. They don’t look like too much, but I thought they were fantastic! The cookies themselves are a shortbread, which is super soft and crumbly, and a just a little sweet. The raspberry jam filling is great, although I do wish there was just a bit more of it. The only downside was that they did get a little hard/stale if you didn’t eat them fairly quickly. I ended up eating 3 boxes total before they sold out, and I’m hoping they bring them back again next year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Traditional Tunisian Harissa

Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa
Price: $2.69
Rating: 8/10

When I first moved to New York, I quickly developed a love for gyros, eating at least 3–4 a week for the entire first year that I lived here. Most gyros here are served by street vendors with hot sauce and “white sauce” (a mystery sauce that’s sort of vinegary and definitely isn’t Tzatziki, but no one really knows what it is, so it’s just called “white sauce”) on top, in a more North African/Middle Eastern version of the gyro than the Greek version that most Americans are familiar with. When I’ve tried to replicate these on my own before, I’ve never been able to get a hot sauce that tastes as good as the sauce you get from street vendors, so I was psyched when I saw this harissa, knowing that it would probably be pretty close to what I was used to getting from street carts. Harissa, if you’re not familiar, is a paste made from chili peppers. While it’s not actually a sauce, it does have a similar flavor to a Middle Eastern hot sauce.

Trader Joe's Traditional Tunisian Harissa

I whipped up some Trader Joe’s Gyro Slices to make myself a gyro from these, and slathered on a rather generous helping of the Traditional Tunisian Harissa. I thought I was going to breathe fire when I bit into it. Make no mistake, this Harissa is HOT. My eyes might start watering just thinking about it. I should have known to take it easy since it’s not actually a SAUCE, but a PASTE, and therefore is much more concentrated. I ended up whipping quite a bit off of the gyro, but once I got it down to a reasonable amount, I’m happy to say that I really loved this stuff! It is indeed an acceptable substitute for the hot sauce used at street carts. I’m sure there’s a way to actually turn this into a sauce by pureeing it with something else, but I don’t think I’m going to be quite that dedicated to figuring it out.

This goes great with gyros, but could also go great mixed with cream cheese or goat cheese and used as a dip, on sandwiches (maybe mixed with mayo to temper its spiciness), mixed with chickpeas, or with eggs. And since the stuff is so strong, you can probably make one jar last a long time. I’ve used it several times already and when I open the jar it doesn’t even look like any of it’s been used since I’ve used so little each time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar

Trader Joe's Pita Chips with Cinnamon & SugarPrice: $1.99
Rating: 7/10

I got these to eat with the Apple Cinnamon Goat’s Milk Cheese Log, and they paired pretty well. On their own though, I’m not as big of a fan. They look like there's a lot of cinnamon and sugar on the chips, but I thought the flavor was a little weak. The flavor was definitely more pita, and less cinnamon and sugar. The texture was pretty good though. I remember reading someone say once that these chips reminded them of leftover bits of pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon, which does sound pretty accurate. But since crust is always my least favorite part of every pie, that probably explains why I was a little underwhelmed by these. Also, if you’re looking for a sweet snack that’s still relatively healthy, this is probably a good choice.

Trader Joe's Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar

Apple Cinnamon Goats Milk Cheese Log

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Goats Milk Cheese Log
Price: $4.49
Rating: 7/10

I’m a big fan of goat cheese, especially with dessert type flavors, so I was excited to see this Apple Cinnamon log at TJ’s. It has a good flavor, with the cinnamon mixed throughout the cheese instead of just on the apples.

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Goats Milk Cheese LogThe cheese is a little on the sour/acidic side, which seems to be especially noticeable next to the sweetness of the apples, but the apples give it a nice sweet flavor. It goes great with cinnamon pita chips. Overall, I liked this, but I’m not sure I would get it again since I definitely like the blueberry version of this way more.

Trader Joe's Apple Cinnamon Goats Milk Cheese Log


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce
Price: $2.99
Rating: 6.5/10

I'm a huge fan of apple flavored things, as well as barbecue, so when I saw this sauce, I was super excited. Unfortunately, after trying it, I was a lot less excited. The good news: this sauce is AWESOME if you want to eat it with pork. The bad news: this sauce is only okay if you want to eat it with chicken. I originally tried it on chicken and was disappointed by it. There was something about it that was too sweet, without much smokiness, tanginess, or spiciness that I could get into. I actually considered throwing it away, but I kept the bottle around, and a few weeks later when I had some pork I ended up deciding to try it again. I actually really liked it on the pork. It didn't seen as sweet, and the pork seemed to bring out some of the smokey flavor from the bourbon. I think if I'd have tried it on pork to start out, I'd have liked the sauce a lot more overall, but I didn't. That being said, while I'd buy it again if I was making a lot of pork, my odds of realistically buying it any time soon are low considering there are more versatile sauces I could opt for instead.

Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Monday, February 6, 2017

Party Size Mini Meatballs

Trader Joe's Party Size Mini Meatballs
Price: $4.79
Rating: 7.5/10

These meatballs are a mix of beef and pork and are great for party appetizers, or just a quick meal. I've bought them several times, and I usually use them for BBQ meatballs of some kind, along with one of TJ's barbecue sauces. I've never tried them in pasta, but I assume they'd be good there too. My only beef with these meatballs (see what I did there?) is that you can easily overcook them in the over or toaster oven if you cook them too long, or don't turn them over in the middle of cooking. But if you're looking for something quick to whip up, making some of these and then tossing them in some barbecue sauce is a great way to make a fast meal.

Trader Joe's Party Size Mini Meatballs

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tzatziki Creamy Garlic Cucumber Dip

Trader Joe's Tzatziki Creamy Garlic Cucumber Dip
Price: $3.49
Rating: 9/10

If your read the last post about TJ's Gyro Slices, you'll know that I'm a pretty huge fan of gyros. In New York, most street vendors sell them with "white sauce" which is a vinegar-y type sauce that a lot of people incorrectly call "tzatziki". I've read dozens of articles of NYers trying to crack the secret of what's in the "white sauce" every vendor has huge bottles of, but no one seems to know for sure (other than the guys who make it, and they're not talking). So since I can't duplicate the flavor of a Middle Eastern style gyro like we have on the streets here without a good "white sauce" recipe, I usually use this Tzatziki sauce to try to get a good Greek style gyro when I'm making them at home.

Trader Joe's Tzatziki Creamy Garlic Cucumber Dip
I've tried several types of tzatziki, from homemade, to kinds made at Greek stores in the city. Out of all of them, I think I'd rank this as the best. It's got a nice consistency that's not too thin or too thick, and has a creamy, tangy flavor. You can taste the garlic in it, which goes nice with gyro meat or falafels. But the really great part are the thin slices of cucumber in the sauce. It adds a nice texture to whatever you put it on and tastes fantastic. My only complaint about this sauce is that I can't think of more things to put it on!

Gyro Slices

Trader Joe's Gyro Slices
Price: $3.99 (makes about 3–4 sandwiches/wraps)
Rating: 9/10

I've always been a fan of gyros. Any kind of gyros. Greek gyros, North African style gyros, Middle Eastern style gyros. If it's a gyro, I will eat it, and I will eat it with great excitement. The first year that I lived in New York I would eat gyros eat least 4–5 meals per week from my favorite street card in Herald Square (we mostly have the Middle-Eastern inspired kind here). So when I saw a photo of these hit the Frequent Flyer last summer I almost lost my mind with excitement. I went to Trader Joe's multiple times before I finally scored two glorious packages of Gyro Slices after probably 3 weeks of searching every TJ's in all of New York City.

Trader Joe's Gyro Slices
Did they live up to the hype I'd created in my mind? Oh my god, yes! These gyros are a mix of beef and lamb, and taste exactly like what you'd get at any good Greek place. If you're skeptical about the beef part, and thinking "aren't gyros usually lamb?", most places in the US seem to mix the two since lamb in the US can have a gamey flavor due to the breed of lamb raised here (they use a different breed in North Africa and the Middle East that doesn't have that gamey flavor). I made mine with some pita bread, three gyro slices, red onion, tomato, and some Trader Joe's Tzatziki Creamy Garlic Cucumber Dip. Tip: Be careful not too cook them too long so they don't get hard and burnt since they're super thin slices.

I bought two boxes of these when I first found them, and ate them both in less than two weeks. I actually would sit at work and think about how excited I was about going home and making one for dinner. I've since starting keeping them stocked in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

100% Pure Maple Syrup

Trader Joe's 100% Pure Maple Syrup
Price: $4.99
Rating: 9/10 

I’d always grown up eating that fake maple syrup that you buy for only a few dollars at the store, and thought it was great–right up until I went to visit my aunt and uncle in Virginia when I was 10 and my aunt gave me real maple syrup with my pancakes. That was the moment that my pancake-eating life was forever changed. I still spent quite a few years eating fake maple syrup until I eventually reached adulthood and could shell out the big bucks for the real stuff.

Unfortunately, the real stuff is pretty expensive to buy regularly, so I was excited when I realized I could buy it pretty cheaply at Trader Joe’s. This syrup, like most real syrup, is pretty great! It’s got a nice sweet (but not too sweet), earthy, maple-y flavor. It’s got a nice warm flavor, and is amazing on the standard breakfast staples like pancakes, french toast, and waffles. It’s also great in oatmeal or on ice cream. But my favorite thing to put it on is coconut pancakes from TJ’s Coconut Pancake mix.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chili Chocolate Collection

Trader Joe's Chili Chocolate Collection
Price: $4.99
Rating: 7/10

Sweet and spicy has become one of my favorite flavor combos over the past few years, so I knew I had to pick up this box of chili chocolates when I spotted them. The box consists of 16 chocolates, with 4 of each flavor. The Milk Chocolate Guajillo is allegedly the least spicy of the four, but my boyfriend and I both agreed it was actually one of the spiciest. It starts off with a sweet milk chocolate flavor and then gets super hot starting at the front of your mouth and moving towards the back. It actually became painfully spicy toward the end. The (supposedly) second spiciest is the Jalapeño Ganache, with starts with a rich chocolate flavor and then gets super hot. I’d say it’s as hot as the Milk Chocolate Guajillo. 

Trader Joe's Chili Chocolate Collection After trying these two I was a little terrified of what kind of pain I’d be in for with the two hotter chocolates, but somehow the two “spicier” chocolates (according to TJ’s, at least) were the least spicy in our opinion. The Chili Lime is supposed to be the third spiciest, which we found to be the smokiest and most mild. It has a light spiciness with a sweet caramel flavor. And lastly, the spiciest of them all (again, according to TJ’s), is the Habanero Milk Chocolate. We found this to be the second least spicy, with a gooey, almost jelly like filling in the middle, and a warmth that balances the sweetness without overpowering it like the first two. 

Trader Joe's Chili Chocolate Collection

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

Trader Joe's Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
Price: $3.49
Rating: 9/10

Apparently I’ve been on a winning streak with TJ’s products recently, because almost everything I’ve reviewed has gotten either an 8 or a 9. This Raspberry Chipotle Sauce is no exception. It starts off with a sweet, fruity flavor, followed by a spicy and smoky kick from the chipotle. When I first saw this in the Frequent Flyer, I wasn’t sure how it was meant to be used, but when I saw that it could be used as a barbecue sauce, I knew I had to get it. I tried it on TJ’s Cocktail Pups, and will also probably try it on meatballs eventually. It would also probably go great as a salad dressing. It does have a very strong flavor though, so depending on how you’re using it, it might drown out most other flavors, which is the only possible downside I could see to this. However, I did find that if you mix it with a bit of Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Onion Jam, it does bring the heat level down a bit, which is helpful if you’re not a big fan of big spice.

Trader Joe's Raspberry Chipotle Sauce