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The Best of Trader Joe's 2016

I get so nostalgic reading through the posts from this year. Oh the feels. The memories of post-nightshift trips, trips with friends, trips for no reason at all. Am I sad to see 2016 go? Not really. Time hasn't passed too quickly or too slowly for me. I have much to look forward to in the new year, but it's nice to take a moment to reflect and recount the blessings of the year. And what better way to recall 2016 than by Trader Joe's products? :D

Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Almond Beverage

It is still the most wonderful time of the year. The air is palpably distinct from the rest of the year.  But do you feel it slipping away ever so slightly? Next year is around the corner, and again we wonder how time flies. Do lights, sweets, and family gatherings make things that much different? Maybe. Maybe not. May we never lose the sense of wonder, of community, of calm, and of peaceful yet joyful expectancy

Have you OD'ed yet on all things chocolate? And candy canes? And other generic holiday sweets?

Trader Joe's Turkey Pot Pie

Hello, it's me. I was wondering after all these years you'd like to meat...

Trader Joe's Umami and Ginger Paste

I'm a big fan of the condiment section at TJ's, not because everything is ridiculously good but you can really find some hidden gems and get a good bang for your buck. ;D 
I cannot vouch for all of the spices and condiments - like salt, soy sauce, sriracha (no I haven't tried TJ's brand sriracha) I would buy elsewhere. However, because most of the spices have the same $1.99 flat price, you can get decent deals on things like curry powder, turmeric, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks, and ground ginger. 

Trader Joe's Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea

It wasn't the chocolate or the idea of a chocolate-flavored tea. It was, as usual, the packaging. That is one creepy looking bear. He could pass for a crazy uncle at Christmas. Claws, mug of "tea," , and creepy stare. Maybe a plaid flannel instead of the ugly sweater. Just sayin. 

Trader Ming's BBQ Chicken Teriyaki

No, this is not a holiday exclusive. It's another episode of I-am-too-lazy-to-cook, courtesy of a quick lunch from a few weeks ago. Fish apparently does not count as meat, according to A. Chicken qualifies albeit as a lower tier meat. Mission? Feed husband dinner with minimal effort.  

Trader Joe's Half-Baked Idea French Rolls

Generally speaking, half-baked ideas are no good. If you're going to do something, commit! Go big or go home! But if you're a lover of good food, too lazy to feed a starter yeast and bake your own bread, and a TJ's aficionado - half-baked is good news y'all. 

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Waffles

"We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work is third." ~ Leslie Knope

Trader Joe's Soft Baked Drizzled Gingerbread Oat Bars

In an ideal world, we would all naturally wake up each morning with a pep in our step, oodles of time, and a piping hot breakfast. Eggs and bacon. Avocado toast. My mother-in-law's congee. Oh we can dream. Most mornings, I'm blessed if I get 20 minutes between getting up and getting out the door. :P

Trader Joe's Autumn Apple Rooibos Tea

We here in the Northeast are only starting to face a real winter and less of an autumnal winter. But since it's not QUITE winter yet..it's still kosher to squeeze in one less pumpkin spiceless (lol computer autocorrected spiceless to "spineless") fall review. 

Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets

THE PACKAGING THO. HOW CAN I RESIST THAT. 

I immediately thought of School of Rock of course. What nuggets have to do with a band, I don't know. Is this another attempt at cultural appropriation? Perhaps not! Leave it to the Japanese to connect random things together usually in an ingenious way. Also, the singer says "Crispy" while the drummer says "Crunchy." THAT IS TOO CUTE. GAHHH I'm sold. 

Trader Joe's O Tannenbaum Crispy Potato Snacks

Leave it to Trader Joe's to bring in something foreign and exotic. Except that it's not actually foreign and exotic. How about O Christmas Tree Crispy Potato Snacks? Doesn't have the same ring, I'll admit. 


Trader Joe's Ugly Sweater Cookie Kit

This cookie kit needs no introduction. It was simply love at first sight. 

Trader Joe's Turkey Kit

If you're anything like me, turkey is more of a ceremonial food for the season. I take a tiny sliver of dark meat and move onto the rest of the stuffing, mashed potatoes, pomegranate kale superfood salad, etc. And if you're anything like the rest of America, y'all are still elbow-high in turkey. So why not give yourself a break and build a gingerbread turkey? It's a nice transitional piece to move you from too much pumpkin to too much gingerbread. And it's vegetarian. :P

Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee & French Vanilla Cold Brew Coffee

How did I end up grabbing cold brew after cold brew season has been long over? I know not how or why. Call it hypnotism. Call it brand loyalty. Call it whatever you want. It was the packaging and the fact that there were two of them. I gotta stop that. Maybe after the holidays. :P 

Trader Joe's Creamy Toscano Cheese [Soaked in Syrah]

While the vast public distracted themselves with everything pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon, my friends and I turned our attention to the finer things in life. Namely wine and cheese. And if you're me and can't really appreciate alcohol, just the cheese. My friends, this is Trader Joe's answer to the merlot-cheddar-shaped hole in my palate. And no, not a boozy pumpkin-spice-apple-cider cheese. That's overkill y'all.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream

Well at least they were kind enough to not name this Pumpkin Spice Mochi Ice Cream. There is something...unsettling about mentioning pumpkin spice and my beloved mochi ice cream in the same sentence. We have already established that pumpkin spice sits low on my hierarchy of seasonal foods.  This is the last pumpkin spice review for 2016 y'all. 

Trader Joe's Organic Moroccan Mint Green Tea

That's it. I'm leaving the country. Perhaps many of you are thinking that. I am too. For travel. Except I need to get a new passport. Homegirl has never been to any non-Asian country, including Canadia. I'm thinking all the Canadian National Parks are free in 2017 (Hellooooo BANFF!). And now I"m considering somewhere where I can try authentic Moroccan mint tea. 

Trader Joe's Harvest Salad with Grilled Chicken

In a world where life is increasingly predictably unpredictable, it is nice to fall back on the reliably predictable. Some might say boring. I say dependable. That's what lunch is supposed to be. If not terribly exciting, something decently delicious that will power you through the rest of the day.

Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce

I basically jumped for joy when I saw this in the new products section a few weeks ago. 

And then I saw "style" in brackets and calmed down a little. Let's not jump to skewer (harhar) this product about how un-Korean it is. It's STYLE. Like a Halloween costume. It's supposed to be cool and fun and cute and not taken so seriously! Everybody calm down. 

Trader Joe's Harissa Salsa

These days there's a fine balance between voicing your opinions and being arrogant out there on social media platforms. We live in a day and age where anyone with a computer and a handful of things to say on a particular subject can become self-proclaimed "experts." And somebody out there will listen. And if you give your opinion on something that the public, or some subset of the public, judges you to be unqualified to espouse your opinion on, you can get lambasted. Completely torn UP. Sometimes, the outrage is arguably justified, particularly when hot-topic issues such as racism are involved. Other times, perhaps we need to show each other grace and recognize that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. Does a Chinese person have more to say about the authenticity of a product claiming to be Chinese? More likely than not.  Does this mean that the non-Chinese person's thoughts and opinions are worthless? Not necessarily. 
I've been thinking abou…

Trader Joe's Quadruple Almond Butter Cookies

You can't always trust what you see, because sometimes our eyes are dumb. That's what we learned while frolicking at the Franklin Institute. Also, I have this problem where I sometimes read a sign or something and interpret it as something totally different than what is actually said. Which is exactly what I did here. 

Trader Joe's Buenalba with Paprika Cheese

I recently went on an adventure to Lancaster, PA with my friend KK. Because why not. It really appeals to my inner grandma, and for the record - old people have a lot of fun too. After all, what is age but a number? 
Anyhoo, one of the perks of Amish country - CHEESE. SO MUCH CHEESE. We sampled cheese to our heart's content. My favorite? The merlot-infused cheddar. If TJ's is listening, please make that happen. If any of y'all find a merlot-infused cheddar at a TJ's, LET ME KNOW. 

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix

I know I semi-renounced pumpkin spice during my last post. But I keep making exceptions, especially since I'm mourning the loss of the Great British Bake-Off. First, Mel and Sue. Next was Mary Berry. The final straw? NETFLIX. IT'S GONE. WHYYYYYY.
This show inspired me to tackle the swiss roll. Except now it's gone. Aside from reminiscing my favorite bakers, the show actually teaches you a thing or two about baking. What to do now about my swiss roll...

Trader Joe's 100% Pineapple Juice

The leaves are falling. Fall is definitely in the air, but we take a break from the PSL hype for some pineapple juice. Today's post was requested by our resident Tony Stark (no, not that Tony Stark).

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark

I thought I'd be able to make it through pumpkin spice season without buying anything pumpkin spice. I gave up on that faster than my New Years Resolutions. I don't hate pumpkin spice. Hate is too  strong of a word. I just happen to semi-agree with Anthony Bourdain that the mainstream public obsession with pumpkin spice (PS) is highly highly overrated, although I suppose expressing that the pumpkin spice trend should be "drowned in its own blood" might constitute hate. *shrug* You won't see me repurchasing too many PS products around here, precisely because I think it's overrated. However, there are still some decent PS things that are worth trying and enjoying with friends and family during the autumn months. 
And guess what, canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree, which is used in most "pumpkin spice" foods is not actually pumpkin. So most pumpkin spice things probably don't have very much pumpkin at all, if any, just the mixture of cinnamon, ginger,…

Trader Joe's Ghosts & Bats Crispy Potato Snacks

We have arrived at my favorite month of the year. The foliage. The crisp autumn air. The pumpkin spice-less Trader Joe's stuff. How thrilling!

Trader Joe's 3 Cheese Wafers

Never judge a book by its cover. Which I try not to do. I also try not to judge people either because that's a sure fire way not to make friends. :P  Trader Joe's products on the other hand? I can't help it. 

If you've ever taken communion or seen communion, chances are you thought the same two words that A and I both thought on separate occasions. Communion Wafers. Cheese Communion Wafers. Yes, really. 

I might be overanalyzing the packaging, but it does give me some religious vibes. Look at that outstretched hand. Does it not invite you to partake of the cheesy thin crisp bread wafer thing? Come all ye who are hungry. Or munchy. Or crunchy because you can eat the whole box like I did and not suffer any guilt afterward.*
*Disclaimer: I'm sure the product does not reflect any actual religious views of Trader Joe's, any New Zealander, or Mantou Joe for that matter. I jest. 

I missed the fine print on the box that says "actual size." A bit smaller than…

Trader Joe's Natural Buffalo Jerky

Welcome to the travel edition of Mantou Joe, where I eat snacks and other foods I normally wouldn't bother spending money on otherwise. $5.99 for a pack of jerky isn't TERRIBLE but boy the damage I can do with $6 at Trader Joe's. Just sayin.

And in any event, $5.99 for a protein-packed snack is a bargain compared to what you'll find at an airport. Or along the Pacific Coast Highway. Which is almost nothing except virtually dead vegetation on one side and gorgeous jewel-toned ocean on the other.

Trader Joe's Sulawesi Coffee

1) It was the hipster packaging that got me. The only thing that would have impressed me more is if it were once a Trader Joe's grocery bag. 
2) I ran out of coffee beans. 
3) That "limited supply" called out to my inner impulsive shopper. Oh yes, the $7.99 price tag was such a good deal considering you would probably pay at least 50% more per pound at a hipster coffee shop or even more at hipster coffee roaster. 

Trader Joe's Coffee Mochi

Hohoho. I was just commenting the other day that TJ's comes out with the most random things between summer and premature pumpkin spice season. Let's try vegan mayo! Oatmeal! Brand name candy dupes! Coffee mochi! There's a reason why I walk up and down every aisle y'all. ;D

Trader Joe's Shredded Bite Size Wheats (Original + Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar)

Shredded wheat is about as exciting as laundry. Or going to work. Is it Friday yet? Fortunately for me, YES TODAY IS FRIDAY BECAUSE I'M OFF TOMORROW. Happy Monday to everyone else. :)

Anyhoo, I found myself in a cereal mood not too long ago and picked this up because it's out of the box. My usual cereal box that is. Not the worse pun I've heard, but pretty bad. It's Friday y'all. Hear me roar. 

Trader Joe's Avocado Oil

There was once a time where I found myself in scintillating discussions about vitamin toxicity, the most nutritionally balanced breakfast, and the monounsaturated vs polyunsaturated fat content of certain cooking oils. Before weekly community group. Because when you find yourself socially awkward and don't know what else to talk about, you talk about what you know. Which at the time was food and nutrition. This product reminds me of those good ole days. 

Trader Joe's Bollywood Popcorn

Well here's something really new. I haven't seen ethnic cuisine-flavored popcorn on the market, really anywhere. I'll be honest, the name "Bollywood popcorn" fascinates me and also kinda makes me cringe at the time. I get it. They were going for something avant garde. But there's something about it that's a little too kitschy for me. 

Trader Joe's Somewhat Spicy Dill Flavored Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

This product name though, what a mouthful. It's pickle chips y'all. Except pickle chips would probably turn away anyone who dislikes pickles. Smart move, TJ's. 

I'd like to take this time to acknowledge my one-year anniversary with the other delicious pickle-flavored snack. Unlike this dude in the orange and green plaid (what is up with that color combination?), for me everything changed the day I discovered pickle popcorn. True story. I'm not sure which packaging is creepier - the metallic orange-haired man dressed for golfing on St. Patrick's Day or a headless dancing pickle. Stuff of nightmares.

I got a kick out of the potato pickle interaction. That pickle is playing hard to get. Sounds like me in the early stages of dating my now-husband A, LOL. 

Trader Joe's Salad Palette with Mango

Mango Mania gets fancypants y'all. Not just a salad. It's a salad palette

This looked promising, especially with mango and GOAT CHEESE. Don't worry - I consumed this salad long before the expiration date. There's no way A would allow me to save a month old salad in the fridge. :P 

I'm impressed by how many vegetables they managed to cram into this palette. Peas, watermelon radish (never heard of that. is it because it's green and purple/red?), snap peas, mango, red onion, arugula, spring mix...we could be here for a while y'all. The fat content looks horrifying as usual for a salad. It's okay though because unless you want a salad drenched in dressing, it's perfectly fine to use less. 
This was a pretty decent-sized portion. I was amply stuffed having this for dinner one night at work, and I shared this once with A and once with D

Like I said, I only used about half the dressing, maybe a little less, just to coat the leaves so that they aren…

Trader Joe's Whole Grain Crispbread

I have a confession. Sometimes, I actually like eating bird food. Not actual bird food that you feed to birds but health food that is so darn healthy and perhaps even tasteless that it might as well be bird food. Such was the case here. I mean just look at it. Bird food baked into a cracker. Polly want a cracker? 

Trader Jacques' Mango Macarons

As much as I love me some mango, I'm kind of glad that this mango mania madness is dying down. Too much hype creates too much expectation. Too much expectation ruins the enjoyment of trying stuff for the sake of trying stuff, which is what this blog is all about. Yes, this might be another (spoiler alert) ambivalent 5 out of 10 rating, but I still like trying new stuff and writing about it! And apparently y'all like reading my thoughts! Thank you! 

Trader Joe's Rice Cracker Medley

If you've sampled Asian snacks, chances are you've had something similar to this. If you are part of an Asian family, you might even have a Costco-sized bag of this in your basement somewhere. Rotting for the past 10 years. Wait a minute...that's not normal. That Costco-sized bag of rice cracker snack medley in Mantou Mom's basement is what I think of when I see this snack. There was one point in time where I wanted to eat it. Then I realized..omai that expiration date passed like three years ago. No thanks. =X

Trader Joe's White House Cookie Kit

By the time this post goes live, Fourth of July will be long gone. I saw these White House Cookie kits at TJ's in the pre-July 4th frenzy of watermelon and cookout food. There was no way to justify this purchase then. Also, I just don't associate White House with 4th of July for some reason, maybe because construction didn't start until 1792, 16 years after Independence Day. Liberty Bell cookie kit would have made more sense. But whatever, that's a technicality. I'm wondering why this product wasn't hyped more in the Fearless Flyer. It just kind of flew into the stores and hung out. In fact, you can probably still find them, still $7.99 and not on clearance though because TJ's doesn't roll like that. :( 

Trader Joe's Mango Black Tea + Mango Iced Tea Recipe

My gut instinct here is that there's nothing particularly special about this tea. Which is why I've never picked it up, even though it's a Trader Joe's classic. Just check out the old school TJ's packaging. 

Trader Joe's Seafood Paella

No pot pie. No fried chicken. These were the usual constraints for picking up a quick TJ's lunch with A. We do this occasionally where neither of us feel like cooking or plopping down cash for takeout. When do I ever say no to a gratuitous TJ's trip? 

Trader Joe's Muesli

This is a newish product in the cereal aisle, although it's been kind of hard to find amidst all the mango madness. I debated picking it up, because let's be real..I can put together a mixture of dried fruits, oats, and nuts for way cheaper than $3.99 per pound. Perhaps it was the overload of salty crunchy snacks, all-you-can-eat-sushi, or other delicious food stuffs. I needed something healthy for breakfast to get me out of my toast rut. 

Trader Joe's Parsnip Chips

I'm taking a break from Mango Mania to catch up with my recent non-mango TJ tries. Also, let's acknowledge that basically everything else is bound to be a letdown after that near perfection. More or less. Moving on now.