Trader Joe’s Mango! Mango! Fruit and Yogurt Gummy

Trader Joe's Mango Mango Fruit and Yogurt Gummies

The sophisticated man's choice for gummy candy.

Mad mango-rama continues with Mango! Mango! gummy candy. Other than being a big fan of the bag’s enthusiasm for it’s contents, I wish I had more to say about these. They are gummy candies that come in a three flavors – mango, mango-yogurt and passionfruit-mango. As is usually the case, the flavors names promise a little more than the factory can put out, and the candy’s actual taste bears only a passing resemblance to their namesakes. Not that I blame them – only some sort of insane simpleton would expect a gummy candy to taste just like the real thing – I’m just saying is all.

Is this good gummy candy? Yes. Is it the best gummy candy you’ll ever taste? No, but it’s reasonably excellent all the same. Does the stupid name put me off? A little.

All three types of gummy are pleasantly fruity and flavorful, and the pieces are large and thick enough that even one makes for a nice mouthful. The texture leans a bit more toward rubbery than gooey, which is what I personally prefer from a gummy candy. In fact, after munching on these for a few minutes I started getting sore temples from the vigorous chewing action. Now that’s a substantial gummy.

What makes these gummies stand out in the battle for your recession dollar? Not a whole hell of a lot, but what they’ve got they do well. They exist mainly to fill that niche in the life of adults who still love the unique, addictive qualities of gummy candy, but feel self-conscious about buying Haribo’s tiny pouches of cartoon frogs and peach rings, or whatever.

Joe can also proudly boost that his Mango Mango gummies are made form real fruit, with passion fruit and mango juice concentrate being the primary the flavorings in the mix. We can add to that one other interesting ingredient – elderflower berry juice – not as flavoring, but as the source of coloring to give the candy it’s fruity hue. Like our Italian Blood Orange Soda, no red 42 is to be found here – just wonderful, all natural secretions of Earth.

How cool is that. Though it may be outlandishly nerdy to admit as much, Trader Joe’s use of non-artificial coloring agents is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to look out for.


Would I Recommend It: For you’re gummy dollar, it’s worth it.


Would I Buy It Again: Though gummy is not my first candy choice, I can forsee these in my future.


Final Synopsis: Mango(od)


Trader Joe's Mango Mango Fruit and Yogurt Gummies - Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies

Such deceit hidden behind such alluring words

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking what I was thinking. “Oh man, dark chocolate with peanut butter on a crispy wafer? That sounds good.” And it does sound good, it sounds really good, but it’s just not the case. It is simply alright.

Now, in all fairness much of the fault here has got to go to the packaging. In general, you can rely on Joe to come up with clever packaging that’s as effective and efficient as it is eye-catching. Not so here, just a jumble of snack squares tossed into a bag. This is a fine approach for animal crackers and dog food – foods that are heat and crumble resistant. Not so much for chocolate, peanut butter and wafer. The first time I opened the bag I was presented with a gooey mess – peanut butter and chocolate slumped messily over irregular bits of wafer.

In a perfect world this probably could have been avoided, I would have kept the bag perfectly level upon purchase and placed it in a cool, spacious drawer. As is all to clear from the wars, famines and imperfect snack goods that assail us – this is no perfect world. My food cabinet is crowded and located above the stove. Things get cramped and warm from time to time, and there’s not much I can do about that.

The reality of the situation is that there’s no way around ending up with this mess. I stuff my snacks in my cabinet with everything else and the house heats up during the day. I treated these guys no different from anything else I buy, and the end result is a mess that’s as technically difficult to eat as you’re liable to find.

Even if they cookies hadn’t come to me melted, there’s no way they could be indulged upon outside or exposed to the mild heat of a house in summer – we’re talking about chocolate for god’s sake, known to melt at the drop of a hat. Seems to me like ol’ Joe should have taken that one into account. If he knew what he was doing, these’d come in a little, sub-divided plastic tray (like most cookies), and I’d have nothing to complain about but the taste.

What’s wrong with the taste? Not much, to be honest. They taste fine, but fine isn’t all that I expect from a chocolate-peanut butter cookie. The main issue, I believe, is that dark chocolate does not go as well with peanut butter as we’d all hope. That may be shocking to hear – we’ve been conditioned to spring energetically from our seats at the mere mention of chocolate and peanut butter combined, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s time that we, as a nation, start to break from our all-encompassing, slavish acceptance of the peanut butter-chocolate duo and start examining each instance on its own merits. In this case, I’m sorry to say it just doesn’t hold up that well. If we were talking milk chocolate, sweet and smooth, that’d be another case entirely. As it stands, the strong, slightly bitter overtones of the dark chocolate fight against the peanut butter and render the whole experience average at best. All in all, it’s enough to make you wonder why you even bother sometimes.


Would I recommend them: By no means.


Would I buy them again: Only as a tool of retribution.


Final Synopsis: Your hands will look like you pooped on them.


Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies - Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Dried Fruit – Green Mango

Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Green Mango

The little temptress.

This one’s is easy to explain. Imagine you are eating a piece of dehydrated mango. Now imagine it’s a little more tart than usual. That’s about all there is to say for this simple snack. Green mangoes are, as they sounds like, mangoes which are harvested before maturity. In the wild these would be unedibly tart, but after the miracle of dehydration and with the liberal addition of sugar they hit the spot.

I loved these and ate them up at a pace so dangerously quick that I’m putting a prohibition on myself from buying them again too soon. If I didn’t, there’s more than a small chance that my diet would quickly slide into a sort of all-dehydrated-green-mango binge, and that my friends would soon find me, naked, fat and dead, in a room littered with empty mango pouches, a fistful of dehydrated mango wedged half-way in my mouth. The fact that, if at all possible, I would marry a mango and engage in passionate love making with my mango bride probably makes me more susceptible to the sweet and tangy wiles of this fruity snack than others, but I don’t hesitate to recommend it all the same.

The tangier green mango provides a nice change of pace from the super sweetness of normal dehydrated mango, and does so without losing any of that potent mango flavor. The only small issue I had was that I was hoping for a tarter zing than the green mango delivered. The pack-promised tartness manifests as a subtle undertone rather than a pyrotechnic blast, but it’s hard to get too bent out of shape over a product that tastes as good as this.


Would I recommend it: Yes.


Would I buy it again: Yes, but only while carefully self-monitoring.


Final Synopsis: Like regular dehydrated mango – but better!

Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Green Mango - Nutritional Facts


Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack

Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snack

Seaweed, served to you in a cocktail glass

So good, but so far from food. Eating these is like eating firecrackers – a hot, spicy pop that vanishes into empty air.

If you don’t think you’d ever eat a sheet of roast seaweed, try these. Now I, personally, love eating sheets of roast seaweed, giant unflavored sheets that I fold into my mouth like wallpaper, but I can understand that this maybe isn’t everybody’s bag. These f—ckrs are a totally different beast– tiny, bite size seaweed snackers dusted with an invisible layer of burning hot wasabi flavor. They are absolutely addictive, as soon as I got up off my ass after eating the first one I dove for another, and another, until there were no more. The wasabi practically stings when it hits your tongue, then vanishes in a flash leaving just a limp, little flap of seaweed to slide mundanely  down your throat.

With a snack this original and tasty and all together rad, it’s a brutal blow to the solar plexus that they’re sold in almost infinitesimally small packets. Trader Joe’s isn’t exactly packing the value into this one either. Popping open the pack, you’ll see that it isn’t exactly packed to the gills. A judicious spacing is alotted each sheet, like a seaweed condo, so that you only get about 20 of the teensy slices.  A whole serving (1/2 the pack, by the way) accounts for only 30 calories – about the nutritional content of a gumball.

It’s a shame that such an awesome product is parceled out in such scanty portions; it renders the product nearly purposeless. The flavor is too intense to sit and crunch on all day, and too airy to justify packing jut a couple with your lunch. Short of stocking up on 5 cartons at a time, the only use I can see for these is either as an unusual snack spread at a party, doomed to be gobbled up in a flash, or as a small, critical component in some sort of homemade Asian-Fusion cuisine.


Would I recommend them: To seaweed lovers and the seaweed neutral alike.

Would I buy them again: If I was holding an Asian-Fusion cuisine party.

Final Synopsis: All sizzle, no steak.

Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snack - Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper

Trader Joe's Flower Pepper


Whoa-ho-ho, now you’re talking Trader Joe – a product so seemingly mad that I would never have dreamed of its existence.

Pepper – and FLOWERS?!? This is already well beyond the range of even the craziest food mash ups I’ve ever heard of. I mean, we’re talking about a food mashed up with a decidedly non-food product. That I’ve got to respect. Let’s just look at the ingredients: Black Peppercorn (natch), Rose Petals, Calendula, Lavender, Cornflower. I don’t even know what calendula is.

I’ll be honest; this is exactly the sort of product I go to Trader Joe’s every week hoping to find. Something so outlandish that no sane buyer could ever be expected to purchase it, yet marketed right next to the brownie mix. This is where I, Trader Joe’s Taste Tester, come in – give me the goddamn desiccated flowers, I’m ready to rock.

But first, a digression.

I am amazingly slow to learn, but a few lessons have slowly crept their way into my brain over the last 28 years, and one is that product mash ups which sound like they may be terrible almost invariably are. Case in point: the Red Eye (1/2 tomato juice, ½ beer) and the Ditka Burger (peanut butter on a hamburger). I tend to assume, over and over, that these concoctions are only being sold because a gauntlet of testers have engineered the flavors to magically fuse into a symphony of taste. I have come to appreciate that this assumption may be a bit naïve, and the real source of these products are just bored gluttons and drunks. Hope springs eternal however, and the very few big wins (Salt and Vinegar?!? On a chip?!!) continue to spurn me on to self-abuse.

So, flowers in pepper – what’s up with that? I gave my flower pepper a try in two big ways – ala garden salad and ala some chicken breast I had lying around. Both delighted me. I don’t want to get onto a whole digression on pepper here, so let’s suffice to say that a little pepper brings out flavor and a lot of pepper chokes you with it’s fire. We know these things – we are not fools. What flower pepper brings to the table is a moderation of both ends of the equation – for the better. The hints of flower petals are far less subtle than I would have guessed – even in a small quantity over a large salad they lent a distinguishable, pervasive flavor that never got to heavy or clashed with my veggies and dressing. It enhanced goddammit, it went in there and did what it was supposed to do, then it went and brought a whole new herbal flavor to the mix. (Loving my italics right now, by the way. Lovin’ them.)

The chicken went down plain, save for a dusting of the titular spice, and I’m happy to say the flowers seemed to dial back the more peppery part of the pepper – retaining the bite while losing the fangs, if that makes any sense.

While I’m sure flower pepper can’t substitute for ordinary blackcorn pepper in every instance, there’s no real need for it to. I can easily imagine keeping a happy larder with both peppers side by side, taking on all comers. The only criticism I have is a weak one, that due to the pervasive use of floral scents in household cleaners it could be said that the pepper tastes how soap smells. There’s nothing unpleasant about it, tastewise, but the conditioning against eating cleaning products is so strong you might find you have to mentally push past it.

Would I recommend it: To try, at the very least.

Would I buy it again: I think I will, when I eventually run out.

Final Synopsis: A rare win for Team Strange Food Mash-ups!

Trader Joe's Flower Pepper Ingredients

Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Brownies

Trader Joe's Ready to Bake Brownies

That's actually, exactly how mine came out looking.

So here’s one for you – a bag of pre-made brownie mix that you literally just pour into a pan and bake. Coming across it in the Joe’s, I was shocked by the simplicity of the audacity. “Oh,” I thought, my eye passing it by, “Some of that pre-mixed, instant brownie batter.” The idea seems so natural, so expected, that it took me a moment to realize I was looking at something I had never seen before.

This quaintly colored sack of delicious batter is a world apart from that multitude of utterly mundane boxes proclaiming their how “E-Z” their dry powders are to whip up into brownies, cakes, muffins etc. We’ve all bought them, we’ve all used them, we all know that we must provide the butter, milk etc, not to mention the mixing bowls, spatula and bake pans. It’s not a great burden, Lord knows, but He also know that I’ve had a box of Sara Lee brownie mix sitting in my cupboard for 3 months because the thought of the whole involved production overcomes my quite low threshold barrier for desire of brownies.

So this pre-made mix, to me, is dangerously appealing. I lightly butter a cooking a pan, split open the top of the bag, and spend a few minutes watching the batter slowly plop out into it. Unless someone invents a brownie batter that spontaneously springs into your mouth, fresh-baked, the moment you open it up this is as convenient as things are going to get.

So how does it taste? How can anything, even brownies, possibly be delicious after spending untold weeks or months in vitro?

Certain words tend to pop into your head when you consider pre-made, wet food in sacks. Rank is one; rancid is another. Pre-made, zero-prep amorphous food sludge is almost always the domain of the bottom shelf-dwelling, off-brands at the grocery store. Items that push the definition of the word “food” to its extreme, marketed to those too destitute to eat anything better or too depressed to summon up the effort.

I am as startled as I am happy to say that these brownies are completely delicious. After twenty minutes they came out of the oven perfectly sweet and tasty. I was expecting a dense, heavy brownie, still a bit mucky, but they were uniformly light and fluffy – almost cake like. A better brownie, even, then the box mix brownies which I used to labor over myself. Truly, we live in an age of wonders.


Would I recommend them: Oh yeah, no doubt.


Would I buy them again: The next time I want brownies.


Final Synopsis: Betty Crocker better go run and hide.


Trader Joe's Ready to Bake Brownies - Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Apple And Carrot Fruit Crushers

Trader Joe's Apple Carrot Fruit Sauce Crushers

Not pictured – the crushing.

What’s behind the intriguing and slightly extreme name? (“Get yourself a CRUSHER!”, Gen-x advertising copy might read, or perhaps “CRUSH it!”). The answer is, basically just applesauce.

Trader Joe looks like he’s trying to straddle the line between kid’s snack and adult snack with this product. As such, I’ll give my review for each demographic.


For kids: A good applesauce source. The pouches are engagingly colorful, the carrots in the apple sauce are all but undetectable, and the bags are fun to squish and play with (both in the titular crushing activity and in the fun of having a built in straw to blow and suck on). Also cool, the sleek, over-sized caps are very satisfying to twist off. The self-contained packaging also means not having to worry about where a spoon will come from, or where it will go afterwards. One small downside, the bag design is abstract in the ugly way, not the interesting way. Overall, an easy add to the sack lunch bag.


For adults: Not really happening. The pouch is just small enough that it doesn’t quite qualify as an adult-sized snack – you can basically just slurp the whole thing and not even notice it. The box of four lasted me two days and even then failed to make a lasting impression. The feeding tube combined with the bag’s soft sides means that you’ll suck the thing dry in about two seconds. With a cup of applesauce there’s the possibility of dawdling over dawdling over it during break time; with the fruit crusher there’s not much else to do but slam it and go. Unless you’ve really got your heart set on carroty applesauce, there are better choices for your snacking dollar.


Would I recommend it: If you had a small child.

Would I buy it again: If I had a small child.

Final Synopsis: Fun to play with, but leaves you hungry.

Trader Joe's Apple Carrot Fruit Sauce Crusher Pouch

The wee pouch.


Trader Joe's Apple Carrot Fruit Sauce Crushers - Nutrition Facts