Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups


Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are one of the best products TJ sells. These chocolate goodies frequently show up on “Best Things At Trader Joe’s” lists, and for good reason, they’re fantastic, not too mention dangerously addictive. I think of these as “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups For GrownUps”. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Reese’s cups on occasion but not like these peanut butter cups, because, let’s face it, these things are FAR, far better quality. These are the “adult” version of Reese’s. For one, these have better chocolate (and its real chocolate, the dark kind! Everyone knows Dark is the only chocolate if you are a real chocolate lovers (count me in). These have better peanut butter stuff inside too.

These cups are irresistible. I have an internal fight all the time, (eating one) Oh, that was really good. I need one more…” (I usually can stop at 2 or 3….or god help me, 4)… But its not easy, they are that delicious.

Sometimes you need a treat. Especially these days?

A one pound tub is $4.29.

Would I buy them again?

Just try and stop me!

Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


In the Dried Fruit section at TJs, I’ve always liked a package of dried bananas that Trader Joe’s has sold. A few days ago, this bright yellow package caught my eye. Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS. Not sure if product is new, replaced those, or I just never noticed them before but they stoked my curiousity to review for the site so got a bag. DRIED BABY BANANAS are tasty! Some people might think they look a little scary, almost like little dried cut off fingers. Taste-wise they are just what they sound like, baby bananas, which I am guessing are sun or air dried.  They are a bit moist, a bit chewy and have an intense banana taste as the flavors are concentrated. And “baby bananas” are a different variety than your normal banana. So did I like them? Here’s the answer. After I tasted one, then another, I basically couldn’t stop eating them! Delicious. They were quite tasty as-is right out of the bag. But then I had a bright idea, “Hmm, I wonder if they would be good match if I dipped them in peanut butter!?” Needless to say, great combination…  of course if you put some out with a little bit of PB to dip them in on the side I have a feeling kids would love these like that as a snack. Though when they first see them no doubt they will say something like, “ewww gross, these look like dried fingers off a dead monkey” – which they do to some extant, though they look exactly like what they sound like, dried baby bananas all shrunken up. The package says they come from Thailand. INGREDIENTS: “DRIED BANANAS”. So I call that a pretty “Natural” product. A package costs $1.99. The bag I got yesterday seems to have only 4 little bananas left when I just checked them…. so you could say they went down easy and way too fast. Next time I better buy 2 bags. In short, another very good dried fruit snack from TJ, well worth trying so check them out.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s CARAMEL APPLE GRANOLA


 

This seems to be another of Trader Joe’s Fall/Winter seasonal products.

This is actually a terrific granola and excellent product, despite the very so-so name (“apple flavored”??) and pretty lousy package design (4 fonts used in the name and every letter in apple ??!)  I can’t tell if the name and package design is geared towards kids – or designed by a kid – but this isn’t a kiddie product. Its an excellent, delicious granola, maybe the best granola TJ’s sells. This is a cereal which I’m sure both adults and kids would love.

From the package: “Sweet and tart crunchy clusters with apple slices, peanuts and pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds”

Despite the words about pumpkin spice, actually this isn’t another TJ “pumpkin spice” thing. In fact if they didn’t mention it I wouldn’t even know there were any pumpkin spices. Whatever spices are in this, they are subtle and blend in perfectly with all the other flavors (apple/cinnamon).

The particularly great part about this granola is it that it contains (dehydrated) bits of whole apples, with the skin on even! The apple bits are what makes this a super granola. The clusters with apple bit are especially tasty, a bit chewy and very apple yummy. The granola is a tiny bit on the sweet side (hence the “caramel” part of the name) but I don’t find it overly so, especially when I eat it with plain yogurt and milk which balances out the sweetness.

Its great as a snack on its own, when you get those big clusters of granola. Its super as a cold cereal. I haven’t tried it warm but the package suggests its good for that, and I have no doubt it wouldn’t be wonderful and smell great when served a bit warmed up. They recommend garnishing it with some fresh diced apple. I tried it with fresh apples and its even better with them. Also with dried cranberries, they match quite well.

So I give this granola a big RAVE and suggest its worth trying while you see it. A 12oz package is $3.49. The bag is resealable to keep it fresh and crunchy as long as possible. You might even buy a couple of bags while you can get keep a few in the pantry for the “off-season”. They should carry this year-round.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/caramel-apple-flavored-granola

RAVE


TJ’s ROSEMARY HAM


Trader Joe’s Sliced Rosemary Ham

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RAVE

Oh yeah this Good Stuff. Wonderful aroma, flavor and and truly excellent texture. I find this to be a superb, high quality, out-of-the ordinary sliced rosemary ham. It doesn’t say exactly where its produced so I imagine in the U.S. but to me somehow its got an Imported kind of taste and quality. The back of my mind says “Italy” but they would state that if it was true. I’m pleased to know WE can produce this quality too here at home! This is what I would call really good “adult ham”. Its not too salty nor sweet. Has just the right salinity and sweetness. Oven roasted with rosemary. ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS. MINIMALLY PROCESSED. No Nitrates, Nitrites, its cured with all natural, real ingredients on the label that you can recognize without a dictionary, such as : Sea salt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar cane, and of course rosemary. You get a pronounced aroma of rosemary as soon as you open the package but the rosemary flavor does not overpower the flavor of the ham, it enhances it with a lovely little rosemary coating on the outside edges. Sliced super thin, it has a super tender, fall apart, melt in your mouth, texture. Probably cooked for a long time, low and slow. Its so tender and comes apart so easily into shreds that if you don’t want to rip a slice as you remove it, you will need to do it carefully.

I love this, its a really great TJ product. It’s a little more expensive than the other ham I usually buy (Black Forest) at TJ ($3 for 8 oz). This one is $3.29 for a 6 oz. package, which is 6 slices. But for this quality, a bit less than $9/lb for a sliced ham this good, is not untoward and certainly worth trying. I would imagine if you are having guests and put this out on a plate rolled up into little bites with a toothpick….you would get a lot of “hey where do you get this ham ?”

rosemaryham2

Trader Joe’s JERK-STYLE PLANTAIN CHIPS


RAVE

My newest “Love It” item at Trader Joe’s are their new spicy flavored JERK-STYLE PLANTAIN CHIPS.

Warning: SERIOUSLY SPICY (and SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS). No kidding. I mean mouth on fire level SPICY! You’ve been warned. Now taste these, if you dare.

I’ve always loved the regular Plantain Chips. They are one of the best products at Trader Joe’s. Only $1.69. Amazing snacks.

trader-joes-roasted-plantain-chips-6oz-pack-of-6-B005E7AY50-500x500

The Jerk-Style chips are the same delicious plantain chips but with lots of seasonings added to them. I’m talking highly spicy Jamaican Jerk Seasonings. They got that Jerk flavor kind of right on the nose with this spice mix blend:

Each individual Chip is covered in a generous dusting of jerk cooking-inspired herbs and spices, including allspice, garlic powder, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and ginger extract.

What you’ll likely notice above all other flavors, however, is the increasing heat of spicy red chili pepper powder. As you snack, the spice builds steadily (but not altogether overwhelmingly) to an exhilarating crescendo of heat, making it a perfect treat for the real spice fans out there (you know who you are.)

Try ’em if you can take the heat. Also, try them with some kind of dip to go with these chips (guacamole? hummus? greek yogurt and garlic? Tsastiki?) They were delicious even with just some greek yogurt that I dipped each chip in. The Greek yogurt of course tames down the heat.

Put out a dish full of these chips with some cold beers and I think you will be in heaven. They cost $1.79 a bag.

Buy both kinds of these chips, regular and the Jerk-Style. These spicy ones are for when you want your mouth to tingle with some major, spicy Jerk spices.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/jerkstyle-plantain-chips

TJ’s Chile Spiced Dried Mango Slices


chile_mango

RAVE

Ingredients: Dried mango slices, sugar, paprika, salt, citric acid, and cayenne. 

This is a “love it or hate it” item. The cashier at TJ’s might even ask if you’ve tried this already, and if not warn you. But you may just love these as much as I do. Really! These dried fruit snacks are amazing!  In fact its one of the best snack treats TJ sells as far as I’m concerned. Sweet and very spicy are great together and these are just fabulous. Imagine dried mango just covered with a spicy/sweet/salty/tangy red mix of chiles and spices (and when I say covered just look at the picture, they have a heavy coat of the red spice mix).

Also when I say spicy…these are quite spicy! With a fire in your mouth that hits you 30 seconds after you finish chewing it and are absorbing the sweetness of the mango. So, if you don’t like spicy and can’t handle the heat, this may not be for you. However if you do, you will probably find these to be a flavor bomb exploding in your mouth, totally drool worthy. For me these are totally addictive. I eat one piece and just can’t stop putting my hand in the bag to eat “just 1 more” getting that red spice powder all over my fingers. Whereas my wife, tasted these once and just thinks they’re horrible. So to each, his own.

In Mexico, and many other locales, of course something sweet with chile and spices are one of the most beloved of flavor mixes (See link: What is TAJIN and why you should be eating it). In the street, on every beach, even in New York in some neighborhoods, you will find Mexican fruit vendors selling freshly cut mango, melons, cucumbers and other things, that the vendor will season before giving it to you with a very spicy chile mix, then sprinkle lime juice all over it. This product is in that vein. So yes probably no middle ground with these snacks. You will either love them or hate them. But if you can take spice and heat and love to discover new flavors, I highly recommend trying these CHILE SPICED MANGO fruit snacks as you just may just find these as addictive as I do.

BTW, can you pair these with something? I tried these cut into small pieces with some jack cheese and cheddar cheese and I thought they went amazingly well together with cheese. So try and experiment. A 7 oz bag goes for about $2. Find this in the Dried Fruits section at TJ’s.

Of course the great thing about TJ’s is if you do hate them, after you try them, TJ will of course refund your money upon asking without a blink (use the refund to get the regular dried mango slices instead – you can’t take the heat wimp!)

MORE TO READ: GREAT NYT PIECE ON TAJIN

TJ Coffee Lover Espresso Beans (candy)




I love chocolate covered espresso beans. The best ones that I’ve had are from Porto Rico imports, one of my favorite stores in New York City. I used to work a few blocks from Porto Rico and could pass by twice a week.The chocolate espresso beans they sell are two things for me. 1) Heaven. 2) Crack

If you love chocolate and love coffee they are too die for. They are $10 a pound but on occasion you catch them on sale for less.

So I saw these new product Coffee Lover Espresso Beans candies at Trader Joe’s and for just 99 cents (!) I said give ’em a try. Naturally not equal to Porto Rico’s masterpiece espresso bean candies which are their excellent freshly roasted espresso beans coated with dark chocolate.

These are “Not Bad”. The beans don’t have great flavor, they are not top quality at this price but they have some coffee/chocolate combo flavor. These are a bit on the too sweet for me. The brown ones in the package are OK. I was not crazy about the light color ones (cappuccino?). But still for under a buck, these are worth trying yourself to see what you think. Neither a rave or a rant, I’ll give these a “meh”.

ONLY 99 CENTS

 

Trader Joe’s FLATBREAD


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UPDATE: These were Discontinued! ARGH!!

archived just for posterity

Trader Joe’s Flatbread
These are soft and quite chewy Middle Eastern style flatbreads. Kind of like a thick flour tortilla. They are great for sandwiches, kebabs, gyros, rolls…

I find these flatbreads are useful for so many things. Naturally they are perfect to serve with Hummus or any kind of dip.

They are convenient to keep on hand in the freezer as they freeze well and can be defrosted pretty quickly just by taking the package out for 1/2 hr. They are best warm so you should heat these before serving them, of course. I throw them right on the gas burner of my stove turning them with tongs quickly and until they get a few more brown spots (but be careful they can get burnt quickly). Or pop them in a toaster oven or oven for a few minutes, or in the microwave.

You can use these as the base crust to make a super easy instant fresh mini pizza, done in a few minutes. Or lots of other flatbread with topping variations. Here’s a easy mini-pizza I wanted to try using these as the base (pic shot before I baked it).

SUPER EASY FLATBREAD PIZZA “no recipe, recipe”

Spread a flatbread with some of your favorite tomato sauce, grated or sliced mozzarella, and anything else you fancy. A drizzle of EVOO can’t hurt. Bake them on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Fast, easy and delicious. I can eat 2 no problem.

Other pizza / flatbreads? Spread with a little ZHOUHG and a splash of good olive oil for an herby spicy treat. Olive oil and TJ’s DUKKAH and greek yogurt would be great too. Or Zaa’tar. Everything bagel spice. TJ’s artichoke spread. Sausage. Prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula… you name it, the list is endless, you can dream up all kinds of things to try to make a nice baked flatbread using these. When cooked, just cut them into half or quarters and serve. Guests will flip.

TJ Flatbreads sell for $2.29 and come 6 in a package, sold in the bread section at TJs near tortilla. I usually have a pack in my freezer at all times. Super handy to have on hand.

Been reported MIA by at least one reader besides me.

Trader Joe’s RICE CRACKER MEDLEY snacks


These are very tasty, very crunchy cracker type snacks. I would say these are one of my very top Trader Joe’s products. I usually buy a bag whenever I am there.

A favorite snack food in Japan are SENBEI (pronouced Sen-bay).

Senbei are a variety of snacks made from rice which is baked into a crunchy cracker and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. In Japan there are probably hundreds of kinds. I’ve been to special Senbei shops in Kyoto that are over 150 years old (the shop, not the snacks!)

These “Rice Crackers” that TJ sells are a mixed variety of typical Japanese Senbei snacks. The package says that they are Made in Thailand. If I didn’t see this I would swear these were made in Japan as they are exactly like Japanese Senbei, of which I am really fond of and have tasted plenty!

In the bag are a mixed variety of shapes and sizes as you can see in the photo here. There are both the flat cracker style ones, some short stick type ones, some plain and some coated with “nori” (seaweed). You don’t get more Japanese than these! There are even some of the typical spicy “Wasabi Peas” you probably have tasted, in this Rice Cracker Medley. Every different kind is tasty. My favorite ones are the biggest round crackers, which are a little thick and SUPER crunchy.  Trust me, when I say “super crunchy” you may not believe how “crunchy”, crunchy can be until you eat these. I’m talking LOUD, noises going off inside your head, you can barely hear, turn up the tv 10 notches, that crunchy, dig?

These rice crackers have a great deal of “umami“, the “5th flavor” that Japanese covet, and which every chef in America is currently interested in. These crackers go great with beer, they match well with cheese, or you can just eat them on their own. To me, they’re so good, I classify these as a “dangerous” TJ product – meaning a bag in my house can go really FAST between myself and my wife (who’s Japanese, aha!). I could almost eat a whole bag (but I don’t). If you try these you will probably also love them, and want to buy them every time you visit TJ’s. A bag costs $2.29, not a bad deal.

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