Advertisements

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream 1

Trader Joe is a genius.

I’ve been hammering Trader Joe’s pumpkin-flavored frozen treats hard recently. We looked at TJ’s Pumpkin Ice Cream, we’ve looked at their (even more delicious?) mini pumpkin and ginger ice cream sandwiches, surely you’re thinking we’ve got nowhere to go from here.

Ranking: 5 stars 5 stars

What it is: Pumpkin ice cream balls, wrapped in tender mochi.
Price: $3.49 for 6 mochi
Worth it: Yes. These are awesome!

That’s where you’re wrong, friend, because I’ve saved the best for last, with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream. Just go out and buy some right now and then eat them in your car. Frequently commenter Mara revealed recently that Trader Joe’s mini pumpkin ice cream sandwiches winked at her so delectably that she had to eat the entire box in the parking lot. This is an activity I understand all too well. What I’m saying to you now is, when it comes to Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream that’s not even optional. In all seriousness I want to open the box up, in your car or on the bus or while roaring down the road on your ‘roided up hog, and pop one in your mouth.  Don’t even wait, just do it.

What Trader Joe’s has done is taken their delightful pumpkin ice cream to the next level. Any ice cream is improved by enclosing it soft mochi, but TJ’s pumpkin pie ice cream – with it’s warm, delightful notes of cinnamon and nutmeg – really becomes something amazing.

Mochi, for those who may not be familiar, is a traditionally Japanese food. What it is, literally, is rice. Cooked rice that has been pounded over and over again until it forms into the sticky, chewy, malleable and unspeakably tender blob called mochi. In Japan it’s closely associated with festivals and big holidays, and is used in all sorts of sweets or just eaten by itself. The masterstroke of mochi, though, is in using it to hold little pockets of ice cream. A thin layer of soft, gently floured mochi (to prevent sticking) is wrapped around a good sized scoop of ice cream. As a result, you can hold it directly in your hand without worrying about it melting, while also enjoying the pleasant chewiness of the mochi-ice cream combo. It is, essentially, the Japanese take on the ice cream sandwich – only better.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream 2

Most Trader Joes’ carry the Mikawaya brand of mochi ice cream in a variety of common flavors (vanilla, strawberry, and green tea). Only Trader Joe’s, however, offers something as crazy as Pumpkin Pie Mochi. Surprisingly, TJ’s doesn’t just use their premium pumpkin ice cream in these mochi, but instead has formulated a slightly different version (referred to in the name, as you may have noticed, as pumpkin pie ice cream). The main difference seems to be that the mochi ice cream freezes harder than the notoriously soft pumpkin ice cream, although I’d swear that the pumpkin pie ice cream actually tastes a little more pumpkin-y than the pumpkin ice cream itself. (This is another instance of a weird quirk at TJ’s where offshoot products sometimes taste more authentic than the progenitor product. Cf. TJ’s Sriracha hot sauce vs. TJ’s Sriracah Ranch) It’s also worth noting that they got the fat content under control in these mochi bites – only 20 calories from fat per ball.

In any case, you can’t go wrong with these. If you’ve never had mochi ice cream before, do yourself a favor and pick one up. If you have had mochi ice cream before, you’ll want to add these to your arsenal. Of all the pumpkin products I’ve had at TJ’s this October, these mochi balls might be the most surprising and delicious.

By the way, one last tip – if you’ve never tried it, leave one of these out for a few minutes to melt slightly. The mochi will safely keep all the ice cream inside. Taking a bite of a partially melted ball that’s approaching room temperature is a heavenly experience.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Yes, a great combination of chewy and chilly.

Would I Buy Them Again: Yes, I’ll be crushed if they don’t have them again next year.

Final Synopsis: Mochi improves any ice cream.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream – Nutrition Facts

Advertisements

Pilgrim Joe’s (Trader Joe’s) Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream

Your choice for a surprisingly pumpkin-free taste.

If you’ve made it this far through October, and you haven’t tired Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream yet, I would be surprised. Who could resist the unusual appeal of that bright orange tub winking at your from the frozen food section? It may only come around once a year, but Trader Joe’s sweet and creamy Pumpkin Ice Cream is an annual must.

Ranking: 4 stars 4 star rating

What it is: Cinnamon and nutmeg flavored ice cream.
Price: $3.99 for 1 quart
Worth it: Yes, it’s hard to stop eating!

The fact that Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry strawberry ice cream, but it does carry pumpkin ice cream encapsulates the feeling of the store better than anything else I could write. Of all the products Trader Joe’s shoehorns pumpkin into it, brilliantly or otherwise, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream must have the broadest appeal and biggest fan base. Classic and unexpected at the same time, pumpkin ice cream just seems like a natural accompaniment to any harvest time festival you can name – from corn husking to Halloween.

I’ve written before that you never quite know what you’re going to get with a Trader Joe’s pumpkin-infused product. Sometime it will be absolutely bursting at the seams with pumpkin taste, while other times it will be pumpkin-y in name alone. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream falls squarely into this second camp. It might be rich, creamy and decadent soft serve – but is it pumpkin flavored? Not really. Even in spite of the inclusion of “pumpkin” as one of the ingredients listed ingredient (as one part of the “pumpkin base”), there isn’t much pumpkin flavor to be found. Savor it on your tongue, let it melt there, and you’ll detect maybe a hint of pumpkin-ness around the edges.

More correctly, Trader Joe’s should call this Pumpkin Pie Spice Ice Cream, which is much more what it tastes like – like a very creamy vanilla ice cream infused with cinnamon and nutmeg, tempered with a hint of cloves and ginger. It’s a broad, warm, mouth-filling taste – the soft, mellow flavor of the cream taking all of the bite out of the spices but keeping their warm, harmonious flavor.

Trader Joe’s compares this ice cream to pumpkin pie filling on the side of the carton, and that’s not really true at all. There’s nothing like the rich taste of pumpkin in this confection – but that’s not to be held against it. I, for one, would love to have a slice of warm pumpkin pie with a scoop of this ice cream decadently melting across the top.

Long story short – there isn’t much pumpkin to this pumpkin ice cream, but that’s not the end of the world. Think of this as “cinnamon and nutmeg” ice cream instead, and you won’t be disappointed.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Yes, sweet and tasty.

Would I Buy It Again: Sure, I’ll get some more next year.

Final Synopsis: A soft, creamy, cinnamon and nutmeg ice cream.

Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream - Calories

Pilgrim Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls

Trader Joe's Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls 1

Simple and yet complicated – a classic TJ’s confection

Fresh madness, straight from the howling bowels of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Innovation Labs (TJPIL), but oh, what sweet madness this is.

Take a quick poll of your friends and co-workers and ask them to name a spice they naturally associate with pumpkin. Ginger? Did they say ginger? Probably not – not unless they’re in the habit of whipping up their own pumpkin pie spice from scratch. Despite the seeming disconnect between pumpkin and ginger, it does make a subtle appearance as a traditional pumpkin pie spice, along side cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

Ranking: 4 stars 4 star rating

What it is: Small, pumpkin-ginger ice cream sandwiches.
Price: $3.99 for a 12 tiny sandwiches
Worth it: Yes. Pumpkin and ginger works, baby!

For some reason, the TJPIL decided to pass right by those more likely ice cream companions and go straight for the ginger. And you know what – I’m delighted that they did. Trader Joe’s Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls are exactly right – a perfect balance of sweet pumpkin ice cream with a dash of tingling ginger, sandwiched between two soft, ginger cookies.

I think we can all agree that it’s hard to screw up an ice cream sandwich as it is. Cookies are great, ice cream is great – putting the two together is pretty much going to be a grand slam. And yet, TJ’s mini ice cream mouthfuls go above and beyond. This seasonal ginger pumpkin variety is a fall addition to their mini ice cream sandwich line, which already includes a mint ice cream version for the summer. All of the varieties show the same attention to creamy delicious detail.

Miniaturizing ice cream sandwiches down to finger food form is actually a bit of a brilliant idea. Often times the “worst” part of an ice cream sandwich (“worst” here, in the sense of the “worst” part of winning the lottery, or the “worst” part of all your wildest dreams coming true) are the bits where they cookie is too thick and dry, the ice cream to far away. With these mini ice cream mouthfuls, you never find yourself in such a predicament. Like the inverse of Trader Joe’s Mini Pumpkin Pies, or Chicken Pot Pie Bites, you actually get less crust and more filling.

Speaking of that filling – Trader Joe’s uses they’re usual, delicious pumpkin ice cream. If you haven’t had it, rest assured that it tastes far more like sweet and creamy than pumpkiny. On the other hand, there’s plenty of ginger in these frosty bites. If pumpkin puts you off, you might well still enjoy these. If ginger puts you off, however, you’ll probably want to give the a pass.

As for me, I couldn’t get enough of these. Each box holds a dozen of the little bites, but I could have eaten twice as many and not been satisfied. Ginger and pumpkin ice cream – who knew they’d work so well together?


The Breakdown

Would I Buy Them Again: Sure, if I could trust myself around them.

Would I Recommend Them: Absolutely, very tasty.

Final Synopsis: Tiny ginger and pumpkin ice cream sandwiches that taste even better than they sound.

Trader Joe's Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls

Trader Joe’s Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato

Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Gelato

Man, doesn’t that look delicious? How could that not be delicious?

Oh, what a disappointment you are Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato. Trader Joe’s has brought so many wonderful things into my life, I try and not get too let down when something falls flat. They dream big, and for that, at the very least, they deserves our every consideration of leniency. And yet I am simply crushed by overwhelmingly lackluster execution of what could have been a mouth-melting delight.

Deserts, like everything else in life, can be broken down into closely detailed hierarchy of what-beats-what (this is the sort of thing usually done by bored nerds. For instance, me, right now). The way I see it, frozen deserts generally beat baked deserts (ice cream beats cake). Within the domain of frozen treats, we have ice cream at the bottom, then sherbet, then sorbet, and finally, at the very top, theoretically you have your gelato.

Unfortunately, what we have here is a failure of gelato. What I look for in a good gelato is something creamy, dense and bursting with rich, overwhelming flavor. For something like salted caramel it seems like this should be a grand slam. Salted caramel, so simple but under-appreciated for so long, is one of the most satisfying flavors on the market. When it comes to intense, tongue pleasing tastes, there are ways to get fancier with it (and ice cream makers certainly twist themselves in knots coming out with convoluted, over-the-top flavors), but you just can’t beat the simple blast of savory and sweet you get from a well executed salted caramel. My tongue tingles just thinking about that rich buttery sugar melting into flashes of brilliant salty bursts.

This is the first gelato Trader Joe’s has ever brought to market, and it makes sense to choose such a decadent flavor – so why does Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato fail so badly?

Mainly, there really isn’t anything interesting going on here. The gelato is creamy, but lightweight – more like a scoop of Rite Aid Thrifty brand vanilla than a premium ice cream experience. This wouldn’t be such a failure if the gelato itself was as rich, sweet or salty as you might expect it to be. Instead of being blasted by a tongue-grabbing saltiness or charmed by impossibly sweet and creamy custard, you’re presented with a blandly “meh” sort of middle of the road flavor. Less creamy than their vanilla, less sweet and savory than their cookie butter ice cream, there’s no reason to come back to this mediocre confection.

In fact, Trader Joe’s has a plethora of delectable ice cream treats to choose from. Despite the name on this bucket, don’t expect it to beat out any of the other ones. I’d buy much more likely to buy another half gallon of Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Frozen Desert before I bought more of this – not just because it’d be healthier, but because the vegan soy milk is at least doing something interesting with flavor.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: No way – go for the Cookie Butter ice cream first.
Would I Buy It Again: Not so long as I have any other choice.
Final Synopsis: “Salted” “Caramel” “Gelato” that fails to live up to any part of the name.

Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Gelato - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s 0% Frozen Vanilla Greek Fat Free Yogurt

Trader Joe's Fat Free Frozen Vanilla Greek Yogurt 1

Same purple packaging as the non-frozen variety. Consistency – I like it.

Sometimes Trader Joe’s nails the names, as with their Avacado’s Number guacamole, other times, as with Trader Joe’s 0% Frozen Vanilla Greek Fat Free Yogurt, they’re just being confusing. I dare you to parse that mangled phrase.  0% frozen, vanilla Greek, fat free yogurt. So obviously we’re talking about a 100% melted, fat free yogurt with the flavor of vanilla Greeks, right? This isn’t the first time Trader Joe’s has been syntactically confusing in their product titles (see Italian Blood Orange SodaThai Lime Shrimp, and French Berry Lemonade) but it is probably the most egregious. Just call it Fat-Free Greek Frozen Yogurt, you guys!

At any rate, I was excited to see this on the shelves because, like my father and his father before him, I love that froyo! The low calorie, low fat version of ice cream, frozen yogurt is the salvation of anyone craving a frozen treat.

Trader Joe’s offers ordinary non-fat Greek yogurt in vanilla already, and this frozen variety is incredibly similar. It’s as if they took the yogurt available in the refrigerated case and just cooled it a few more degrees. I’m a big fan of TJ’s non-fat Greek Yogurts, going so far as to live my life by a yogurt clock, so I was basically won over as soon as I saw this.

The frozen Greek yogurt capitalizes on all the best qualities of the non-frozen variety – it’s creamy, dense, and sweet (but not too sweet!) with a mellow tone of vanilla set against the yogurt tang.  It certainly isn’t the sort of sweet creaminess you’d get from a dairy vanilla ice cream, but frozen yogurt isn’t trying to be that. And at a scanty 100 calories per 1/2 cup and no fat, it doesn’t have to be.

I enjoyed this frozen yogurt in its own right, but it’s a basic enough taste that it can easy be dressed up with all the usual ice cream toppings, bits of crushed candy sweets, or even strawberries, raspberries, ripe peaches or plums. I mean, anything really, man. We live in a free and crazy age of bold experimentation – I can’t think of a reason not to pick up a tub of this and go completely nuts.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: For sure – no fat, few calories and sweet frozen goodness. That’s all good.

Would I Buy It Again: Well, I finished eating this one already, so yeah.

Final Synopsis: Pretty much exactly like the frozen version of TJ’s regular 0% fat Greek yogurt.

Trader Joe's Fat Free Frozen Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Trader Joe’s Fat Free Frozen Vanilla Greek Yogurt – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Humana humana humana- COOKIE BUTTER?!?!?

We all know about Cookie Butter. We all know that it’s a semi-divine creation that has melted hearts across the nation and, in fact, the world – lighting  up the taste buds with the decanted taste of pure Christmas from here to Belgium. If, and it saddens me to even spin the hypothesis, you don’t know what cookie butter is, you had better educate yourself.

Now, it has long been my firm stance that cookie butter is like an edible form of elemental gold – pure and perfect in and of itself. We’ve seen that mixing it with anything else, even Nutella (?!), merely dilutes it’s purity and introduces imperfections.

So it was with a great deal of excitement, but also skepticism, that I picked up Trader Joe’s latest, greatest development – Cookie Butter Ice Cream. On the one hand, how could cookie butter ice cream possibly be better than cookie butter by itself. ON the other hand, it’s ice cream! Maybe “Nutella” couldn’t do the job, but if there was ever anything that could improve on CB it’s a good helping of heavy cream and sugar.

These are high stakes to be sure. Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Ice Cream is sure to either elate me to previously imagined heights of ecstasy, or deliver a crushing blow to the solar plexus of my soul – there is no middle ground here.

It is to my elation that I can report Trader Joe’s really knocked this one out of the park – an undeniable master stroke. How did TJ manage it? The answer is as simple as it is brilliant. Starting with a nice, creamy vanilla they mixed in a plenty of crushed speculoos – permeating the medium with that cookie butter taste. On top of that, is this is what carries  the day, they wove ribbons of pure cookie butter, caramel like, through the whole thing. The result is a sweet, delicious ice cream that alternates moments of low-key, pleasant cookie butter taste with bursts of intense, uncut cookie butter. I don’t see how heroine can be illegal while this isn’t, but regardless you and I get to reap the windfall.

There’s not much more to add, really – the ice cream is as good as you want it to be. If you’re still reading at my post at this point, you should obviously stop and go out to buy some cookie butter ice cream. Eat some of that, then come back and we can finish here.

The question of how to incorporate Cookie Butter Ice Cream into a recipe is may well be as futile as asking that question of cookie butter itself. It’s hard to improve on eating it straight from the bucket – sometimes even the spoon seems like a cruel impediment standing between you and sweet, sweet cookie butter. Nevertheless, I took my best shot at it with this week’s recipe for Salted Cookie Butter Ice Cream Shakes.

Is it better than the straight ice cream? I can’t look you straight in the eyes and say that. It might be better to think of the recipe as a remix of a song you really like, as another way to experience that initial rush over again.


 

Trader Joe's Salted Cookie Butter Ice Cream Shake

Trader Joe’s Salted Cookie Butter Ice Cream Shake

Salted Cookie Butter Ice Cream Shake

Ingredients:

  • ~ 3 cups of Cookie Butter Ice Cream
  • ~1  cup milk
  • A pinch of Trader Joe’s Pyramid Salt

 

Directions: 

  • Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree to your heart’s content.

 

I would recommend using whole milk, or even Trader Joe’s Organic Top Cream Milk, for the creamiest taste.

Also, a note on the salt. I used the pyramid shaped flake salt we’ve looked at before. The advantage is that even after blending there are small flakes of salt suspended in the shake, meaning you get little pleasant moments of saltiness to highlight the sweetness. If you don’t have flake salt on hand, consider just throwing a tiny pinch of salt on top at the end, instead of blending it in.


 

The Breakdown:

Would I Recommend It: Yes. If I met the President, I’d probably recommend it to him.

Would I Buy It Again: Sure, whenever they’re not sold out.

Final Synopsis: Cookie butter meets vanilla ice cream – and it’s as good as you’d hope.