For many, the official start of Fall isn’t the Autumn Equinox or the changing leaves. It’s when Trader Joe’s Fall Finds hit the shelves. For a limited time, the store is chock full of orange-colored packages filled with pumpkin, apple, and maple goodies that we simply can’t resist!

If you prefer video, watch the full episode 21 YouTube video version.

Jim and Tara in pic with Trader Joe's and Best Fall Items in letters above.

While Trader Joe’s isn’t by any means a one-stop shop for our family’s groceries, there is one thing they do particularly well: capturing the spirit of the Fall season and getting their patrons excited to shop there.

Visiting a Trader Joe’s in the Fall means loading up on items you can’t usually find at other times of the year, such as pumpkin brioche bread, pumpkin pancake mix, and pumpkin kringles to name a few.

Scarcity seems to be a key motivator for these purchases; the idea that in a few weeks, these items will no longer be available so customers may feel compelled to “stock up now”.

Another likely contributor to the success of Trader Joe’s Fall Finds is the popularity of pumpkin spice as a flavor.

Essentially, humans love to be reminded of Fall and the feelings of home, family, and nostalgia, and according to Matt Johnson, a psychologist who specializes in marketing psychology, pumpkin spice is a flavor that’s closely tied to the arrival of these feelings.

In this episode, we discuss our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Fall finds and how we feel about shopping at Trader Joe’s in the Fall.

Note: we did not receive any compensation from Costco and the opinions expressed in this podcast are solely our own.

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Transcript

Intro

James (00:00):
Welcome back to the Sip and Feast Podcast. Today we’re talking Trader Joe’s and specifically, the fall seasonal items at Trader Joe’s. You can see I have my fall seasonal shirt on. What do you think about that?, Tara?

Tara (00:15):
Looks very different from all your other flannels, which are also, could be fall seasonal.

James (00:22):
The ones that I have from my cooking videos, I don’t want to get dirty, so these are the ones maybe that I wear out.

Tara (00:29):
This is the one you don’t want to get dirty.

James (00:30):
That’s right.

Tara (00:31):
Yeah.

James (00:31):
No, the cooking video ones, they actually act as aprons.

Tara (00:35):
That’s right.

James (00:36):
That’s why they’re on the dark side like that darker blue flannel because if they’re black and blue, when you get some sauce or something on there, you can’t even see.

Tara (00:45):
I’m going to jump right into a question right now.

James (00:47):
Okay.

Tara (00:48):
It’s not an audience question, although, I’m sure it’s on their minds. Do you wear anything other than flannels?

James (00:53):
Yes, I do. A few people recognize me because I’m famous. They recognized me at Pottery Barn out east in Long Island. It was multiple people in one day, and I had a T-shirt on that day, so they got to see me in a T-shirt.

Tara (01:10):
Oh, I don’t even remember. Were you wearing a T-shirt?

James (01:10):
I was.

Tara (01:11):
Oh, wow.

James (01:12):
Yeah.

Tara (01:12):
Lucky for them.

James (01:13):
Yeah.

Tara (01:14):
Sun’s out, gun’s out, huh?

James (01:15):
That’s right. Yeah. Sun’s out, belly’s out. All right, so enough of that. Let’s get into it right now.

Background and pumpkin spice history

Tara (01:23):
So Trader Joe’s is known for their seasonal finds, right? It’s like for us, not so much you because you don’t really go there with me, but every year when the air starts getting a little bit cooler, Sammy and I get really excited about going to Trader Joe’s because we want to see if there’s any new fall things. But we also know that those tried-and-true fall food items specifically are going to be there, and it’s going to be an exciting time when we get it. It’s just going to make everything great.

James (02:03):
I think it’s exciting for a lot of people, I do. I think that’s part of the allure of Trader Joe’s. Seasonality is huge at Trader Joe’s, probably bigger than any other store as far as I can think. Food Supermarket, Costco, really anything, Trader Joe’s, their business is really… a huge part of their business is selling seasonal items. They rotate the shelves. Because the stores are so small, they’re constantly rotating what they have. They can’t fit everything in one store.

Tara (02:35):
I think that almost works to their advantage, too. I think part of their business model is founded on that seasonality concept-

James (02:45):
And scarcity.

Tara (02:45):
I was going to say, it creates that feeling of scarcity where you’re like, “If I don’t get this pumpkin pancake mix right now and buy three or four boxes of it,” guilty, done that, “I’m not going to be able to get it for a whole other year.

James (03:01):
Well, and they run out and then they stop… it won’t be there anymore. So it could be a limited run, so maybe you have to go to another Trader Joe’s to find it. It could also be where some person goes in there, and I’m not naming any names, who ends up buying 30 of one particular item.

Tara (03:19):
That’s not me.

James (03:21):
It wasn’t you, but do you remember when we saw the mother load-

Tara (03:23):
Yes, okay.

James (03:23):
… at that person’s house that time?

Tara (03:24):
Yes.

James (03:25):
I’m not going to mention their name-

Tara (03:26):
Ah, yes.

James (03:26):
… ’cause I think they watch this, but I opened this cabinet. It was in their basement, and this person purported to make everything homemade. I opened the cabinet, and there was about 40 of their fall harvest sauce, which we’ll talk about that one in a minute, I’m not a big fan of. I know Tara likes it.

Tara (03:46):
That’s on my list of items we’re going to talk about later.

James (03:48):
But it looked like this person just cleared it out, cleared out a local Trader Joe’s.

Tara (03:54):
Hey, no judgment.

James (03:56):
We’re talking fall items here. Again, Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice, they go hand-in-hand, but believe it or not, Trader isn’t the company that’s responsible for the pumpkin spice craze. Right, Tara?

Tara (04:10):
Yeah. Actually, so we do talk about this in a Patreon podcast episode where the whole episode is dedicated to pumpkin spice, I think. What did we title it? What-

James (04:21):
Oh, yeah.

Tara (04:21):
WTF is Pumpkin Spice?

James (04:24):
No, no, I titled it The Pumpkinization of America.

Tara (04:26):
Oh, okay.

James (04:27):
Yeah.

Tara (04:28):
I wanted to call it WTF is Pumpkin Spice?

James (04:30):
So listen, we’re just telling you because we already discussed this on there, but we want to go over it a little bit again right now.

Tara (04:37):
Yeah. What we found when we did our little bit of research on the topic-

James (04:43):
You’re always guaranteed a little bit of research when you tune into the Sip and Feast Podcast.

Tara (04:47):
Well, I do like to fact check some things. I had a hypothesis and the hypothesis turned out to be correct. Humans basically love to be reminded of fall because fall creates those feelings of home, maybe turning inward a little bit, being with your family, nostalgia, you know that the holidays, like the Christmas holidays, Jewish holidays, et cetera, you know that they are around the corner once fall passes. So fall creates this cozy feeling in all of us. According to this gentleman-

James (05:23):
Cozy.

Tara (05:24):
… yes, Matt Johnson, who is a psychologist specializing in marketing psychology, he says that pumpkin spice flavor triggers all of those feelings. So pumpkin spice doesn’t always have pumpkin in it. It’s usually the spices that are associated with pumpkin pie. So like All spice, clove, cinnamon, sometimes ginger, nutmeg, any combination of those ingredients, those trigger those feelings. As Jim mentioned, it was not Trader Joe’s that started this craze. It really can be attributed to Starbucks in 2003 when they released their pumpkin spice latte and that essentially kickstarted the pumpkin spice craze that endures to this day.

James (06:13):
Again, we spoke more about it, but Starbucks’ market capitalization probably prior to pumpkin spice latte coming out was probably under $10 billion company. Now they’re $100 billion market capitalization. Obviously, there’s other factors involved for their success over these last 20 years. It has been 20 years now, since 2003 we’re talking. They did that and then you started seeing the beer coming on into your distributors and into your stores a couple of years later. It wasn’t that the tail wagging the dog essentially, Starbucks started it all. Now you can’t find a beer company or really any company that doesn’t have a pumpkin spice product.

Tara (06:54):
That’s right.

James (06:55):
So again, that’s more there. I think now let’s just get back into Trader Joe’s.

Tara (06:59):
Yeah. Before we start even going down this path, similar to Costco, we are not sponsored in any way by Trader Joe’s, so these opinions are completely our own.

James (07:11):
Yeah, damn right, we’re not sponsored. I don’t even really like Trader Joe’s. All right?

Tara (07:14):
I do.

James (07:15):
That’s part of the dynamic here that we have going on today-

Tara (07:17):
Yeah, we’re going to have-

James (07:17):
… which-

Tara (07:17):
… a spirited discussion-

James (07:19):
Yeah, we’ll have a spirited-

Tara (07:20):
… here.

A few facts about Trader Joe’s

James (07:20):
… spirited debate. So before we get into the actual items in Trader Joe’s, I just want to state a couple facts about it. I have it bulleted here, but it’s apparent to, I think even to the casual observer of these stores, Trader Joe’s are small. They are small, tiny. They’re like stores built for people that live in a tiny house almost. Their average store, and I looked it up, is 10,000 square feet. In America, your average supermarket, and this is just the moderate size supermarkets, these aren’t like the mega supermarkets, average store for them is about 45,000 square feet. So you’re talking a third or a quarter of the size. In my experience, supermarkets are even bigger than that. The ones that we have here are about seven or eight times the size of a Trader Joe’s. Would you agree with that?

Tara (08:09):
Yeah. I think so.

James (08:11):
I often see, you’ll see a vacancy for a supermarket it’ll be like 70,000 square feet available. Trader Joe’s, 10,000 square feet. So Trader Joe’s simply cannot have the size of and variety of things that a supermarket has. That’s part of my thing that I’m not too big of a fan of the place because I feel like you can’t get everything done there. It’s really, in my opinion, the place is meant for a single individual living in an apartment or maybe you have a newborn. So maybe it’s like three people in the family, get a couple of things at Trader Joe’s. But I’m always like, when Tara gets something, I end up eating the whole box of whatever it is. I’m like, “Okay, this would’ve been great if it was four times the size because then the kids could have had some,” or vice versa. It’s often my daughter who’s eating all the items, and I don’t get to have any of it.

Tara (09:03):
Well, to be fair, she did come and help shop for it.

James (09:06):
So you can’t do most of your regular shopping there, that’s my contention. You might disagree with me. You might say, “Jim, I get all my regular shopping done there.” I find that hard to believe because even their shopping carts are about half the size of your typical shopping cart at a regular grocery store. Everything is just smaller there. In fact, their parking lots are smaller. So I looked that up as well. The spacing between the parking spot lines is smaller. Is that meant to deter your F-150 driver or your Suburban? I don’t know. There’s definitely a method to the madness of the lots that Trader Joe’s is picking. By us, they are typically in a strip mall, like an old strip mall. Maybe there was a Borders, that’s a bookstore for you young’uns that went out of business about what, 10 years ago, and maybe a Circuit City parking lot too? Basically, they take over where the old big box stores were and then-

Tara (10:07):
The one by us, there’s a Bed Bath & Beyond, which is closed or closing in that parking lot and-

James (10:13):
That’s another company that’s going to go out of business or is going out of business.

Tara (10:17):
I think it is.

James (10:17):
Yeah.

Tara (10:18):
That location is closed. I’m trying to think, ’cause when we lived in Minnesota too, that was also in a strip mall.

James (10:26):
It’s always the same.

Tara (10:26):
Yeah. Yeah.

James (10:29):
I looked it up. It’s the same thing everywhere in America. There’s not a lot of these places in America, yet, they have a very loyal following. So I believe there’s only roughly 500 stores in America. I actually did read too that the average size of new Trader Joe’s stores that are opening are much larger. So that comes down to everything getting larger and bigger, supersized in America.

Tara (10:54):
Yeah.

James (10:54):
So they’re probably as a company needing to adapt a little bit to that.

Tara (10:58):
Well, that’s the thing, for anybody who listens to this, you know I’m constantly saying I don’t have one store that I can go to buy everything for all of the needs of our business, which is cooking. So I usually shop at a combination of different stores. It’s usually Costco, Whole Foods, Uncle Giuseppe’s, Meat Farms. Rarely do I get anything at Trader Joe’s that’s for the Sip and Feast business. I go to Trader Joe’s for my own personal satisfaction because I enjoy going there. The people who work there, I think, enjoy working there because they always seem to be in a good mood.

James (11:40):
I agree with that.

Tara (11:41):
It’s one thing that I loved that they did in Minnesota that they don’t do here was they had a stuffed animal. It was a walleye fish and his name was Wally, and the kids were little when we lived there. So what they would do, the staff, they would move Wally to different spots every day. So when the little kids came in, they would have to find Wally, and they would tell the cashier on the way out. The cashier would say, “Did you guys find Wally today?” They would say, “Yeah.” James was so cute in his little voice. He’d be like, “Yeah, Wally was by the frozen food,” or whatever. It was so cute, and it was just an enjoyable experience going there. So I feel like it’s almost like the Disney World of-

James (12:25):
Tara loves this place.

Tara (12:26):
It’s almost like the Disney World of the grocery stores because they’re trying to, in my opinion, create a better, more pleasurable experience.

James (12:37):
We’re going on a lot about this here, but it is important. My experience again, and this is just my experience, so I might be wrong, Trader Joe’s obviously has the data on this, I would think that 75% of the people, 75% of the shoppers in that store that go into a Trader Joe’s in any given month or year are women. Do you agree with that? I never see men in there. Very rarely do I see a lot of men in those stores.

Tara (13:01):
I don’t know-

James (13:02):
Again, that could be confirmation bias that I’m suffering from. But yeah, I don’t see a lot. Contrast that with Costco, I see probably more men than women.

Tara (13:12):
There’s definitely men that shop there. It probably is, I would say, more women. I don’t know-

James (13:19):
I almost feel like the branding and everything-

Tara (13:22):
I know you say it’s for single people, but I think there are a lot of parents that shop there who have little kids. I think a lot of the products are targeted towards kids. I see men and women when I work there, and same with the employees. It looks pretty evenly divided.

James (13:38):
The last thing I’ll say is, the store that I like that’s similar to it, I actually like Aldi better than Trader Joe’s. You know that. I felt like Aldi, the portions were larger, and I felt like I could probably get most of the shopping done there. I think Aldi has probably better values.

Tara (13:58):
Aldi, to me, doesn’t have that same feeling. So when I go to Trader Joe’s, I know I’m going to get an experience. I don’t feel like going to Aldi gives me that same feeling.

James (14:09):
Tara’s right. So Tara, tell us about your experience and we’re going to talk about Tara’s, what, top 10?

Tara (14:16):
I don’t know if it’s 10.

James (14:16):
Well-

Tara (14:17):
But I’m going to go through some of my favorite things, and you’re going to tell me when you’ve had them if you like them, or I’m going to remind you that you did like them. I’ll just say some of the ones that I tried that maybe I wouldn’t buy again.

Pumpkin ravioli

Tara (14:33):
First on my list, pumpkin ravioli. I actually really like their pumpkin ravioli. They’re orange colored. I think they use natural coloring like annatto. They’re filled with cheese pumpkin and pumpkin spice, and I like them because they make a really quick and easy dinner. You can make it with a sage brown butter sauce, which is super simple. We actually have for our butternut squash gnocchi recipe on the website, that has a sage brown butter sauce-

Walnut spoon tossing butternut squash gnocchi in pan.

Butternut squash gnocchi recipe

James (15:08):
Yeah, and simple is just-

Tara (15:08):
… so you can use that if you pick up some pumpkin ravioli. They also do make a gluten-free version of the ravioli, which I have not tried. But I would say that as far as ravioli goes, they’re great, and they’re in the refrigerated section. They’re not a shelf staple ravioli. They’re fresh.

James (15:28):
Have I had these before?

Tara (15:30):
In Minnesota you did.

James (15:31):
Okay.

Tara (15:32):
I used to go there all the time in Minnesota. It was very easy to get to. It’s a little more difficult.

James (15:40):
Everything’s more difficult. Long Island has more population than most states in America, and it’s just a little island. Ravioli, I agree with Tara, as long as it tastes good. I take her word for it, that it tastes good. Ravioli is one of the best things to buy and not make. Making ravioli does not really go with the year 2023 and where everybody’s in the point in our lives. Ravioli is a long, time-consuming process no matter how fast of a pasta maker you are, because when you make your pasta, you got to let it sit, you got to let it rest.

(16:13):
Then you’re going to do your sheets, and you got to have a massive worktop. You have your damp towels over everything. Then you’re doing them, you’re pressing them. You’re like, “Oh no, I got air in my ravioli.” They’re going to open up and then in the end, your kids are going to eat those raviolis that you slaved over for seven hours just as fast as they are, or slow as the Trader Joe’s ones. So I do like to buy ravioli in the store, and I doubt you’re going to see ravioli made on our channel, our cooking channel.

Autumnal harvest sauce

Tara (16:45):
Well, never say never. All right. Next on my list, don’t hate me for this is, their Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce. So this is something that I haven’t bought really since we’ve been back in New York, but I did use to buy it all the time in Minnesota. I used to use it with pasta, but I would also saute ground turkey to make, I don’t want to call it a bolognese ’cause it’s not, but more like a turkey meat sauce. This sauce isn’t just made with tomato because I don’t like jarred tomato sauce period, and don’t use it. This has tomatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash, and I really did enjoy that sauce.

James (17:33):
I didn’t. I am not a fan of this product. It tastes extremely artificial to me. To be honest with you, it reminds me of some of the sauces when we had the vodka sauce taste test.

Tara (17:42):
Oh, yeah.

James (17:43):
That video.

Tara (17:45):
Well, I didn’t like those, but I do like the Trader Joe’s sauce.

James (17:47):
Now the ground turkey idea, was that like an expo they were doing in a store one day to give you an idea, or was that your idea to add that in there?

Tara (17:53):
No, we would get the frozen squares of ground turkey from Costco. It was an easy thing for me to make when I got home from work. I would just take out the turkey while still frozen, essentially.

James (18:07):
Yeah. You know what? I admit, I’m inherently biased for jarred sauce. I don’t like any jarred sauce. I feel bad when I use it. Now, Jim, you were just saying you use ravioli made by people. I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison. I really feel like garbage when I use jarred sauce and not a fan of any of them really. Even the regular marinara we did when I think it was Victoria and Rao’s got high scores. Those sauces still were nowhere near as good as making your own. Really, that’s the case. This sauce, I, not a big fan of.

Tara (18:41):
I usually agree with you. I don’t like jarred sauce, but this one, I give it a pass because it’s not just tomatoes. It also has butternut squash and pumpkin in it, which to make a sauce with all of that would be a little bit more complex.

James (18:54):
Try it out. Maybe you agree with Tara and you’re like, “Jim, this is better than anything you’ve ever made.”

Tara (19:01):
It’s good in a pinch and it’s for fall, so it’s fun.

James (19:04):
Moving on.

Pumpkin pancake mix

Tara (19:05):
Okay. Pumpkin pancake mix. I have never tried the regular version. I’ve only bought the gluten-free because the first time I bought it, it was the gluten-free version. I brought it home. I made it. You, the kids, nobody said anything about it not tasting… like it was missing gluten and everybody loved it. The batter is really, really easy to work with. I think it’s an egg, some water and oil that you mix with it, but for some reason, the pancakes are really easy to flip. It just comes together more easily than homemade pancake batter.

James (19:45):
Well, if you want to make-

Tara (19:46):
It’s pumpkin flavored, so it’s really good.

James (19:50):
If you want to make pancakes the easy way, just make sure you’re using a flat griddle. Don’t use a pan. It’s hard to get-

Tara (19:57):
That helps.

James (19:57):
… your spatula underneath there.

Tara (19:59):
Yeah.

James (20:00):
I agree with Tara in this one. I kind of like these. I know she’s going to say-

Tara (20:05):
Kind of?

James (20:06):
Yeah.

Tara (20:06):
You’ve been known to eat 10 plus of them. I would say it’s more than kind of.

James (20:12):
Yeah, but again, 10 plus how many… you’re really going to make 10 out of a box there? Those are probably like, what do they call them, nickel, penny? What are they…

Tara (20:20):
Silver dollar?

James (20:21):
Silver dollar. I’m like…

Tara (20:22):
You like them. Especially when I add chocolate chips to them, they’re really good.

James (20:28):
Yeah, chocolate chips are the perfect contrast for pumpkin anything. So that’s a win-win from both of us.

Pumpkin overnight oats

Tara (20:38):
The next item I do not love, this is the first year I’ve seen them. I don’t know if this is the first year they’ve come out, but they are Pumpkin Overnight Oats. I love overnight oats. In fact, I usually will make them homemade, but these were not good. They tasted weirdly tangy. I don’t know, maybe the batch I got was not good. I took one bite, and I made a really a face and Sammy was like, “Ooh, that’s not good.” She knew by my face that I didn’t like.

James (21:09):
Did you see what ingredient it had in there that made you think that, that made it taste that way?

Tara (21:14):
No, I didn’t even look.

James (21:16):
You didn’t even look. That’s the problem with a lot of stuff here, but the stuff in any store that’s in a jar or in a box, there are so many ingredients. Often it could just be one or two things that are really contributing to that bad flavor.

Tara (21:30):
It says it’s made with a mix of pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, almond butter and rolled oats. But I don’t know-

James (21:39):
That’s it?

Tara (21:40):
No, it’s got to have some sort of-

James (21:41):
It could be the pumpkin butter.

Tara (21:42):
You mean the pumpkin puree or the almond butter?

James (21:45):
Almond butter.

Tara (21:47):
I can’t find what else is in it.

James (21:49):
Often a spice can change, even if it’s towards the end of the ingredients can really change it.

Tara (21:55):
So it says it has water in it too. So usually when I make overnight oats, I’m using almond milk and Greek yogurt with it. This just has water pumpkin puree. Oh, dates, rolled oats, almond butter, cinnamon, sea salt and nutmeg and that’s it. I don’t know, it was just something maybe about-

James (22:18):
Maybe you’re going to give it another shot or not?

Tara (22:19):
I would maybe try their regular overnight oats. It was just something that I didn’t enjoy this one.

James (22:25):
Why are you buying it, though? Overnight oats are the easiest thing to make, right?

Tara (22:28):
Yeah.

James (22:28):
You just take oats-

Tara (22:29):
‘Cause it’s pumpkin. It said pumpkin.

James (22:31):
But can’t you just mix in pumpkin spice and make your own pumpkin spice overnight oats?

Tara (22:36):
Yeah, I guess I could.

James (22:37):
Am I insulting your cooking ability ’cause I’m telling you why are you buying overnight oats?

Tara (22:42):
No, you’re not.

James (22:43):
Okay.

Tara (22:43):
I bought it because I was having fun shopping.

James (22:45):
Yeah, you’re having fun. This is what happens.

Pumpkin butter

Tara (22:47):
Yeah. So in fact, you just gave me an idea because I could use my own overnight oat recipe, and I could use the next ingredient that I was going to talk about from Trader Joe’s in there, and that’s pumpkin butter.

James (23:01):
That’s the pumpkin butter.

Tara (23:02):
I could do that, add some of that pumpkin spice mix and make my own pumpkin overnight oats. But the pumpkin butter, I actually have been buying this for years. I love it. It’s good on top of toast. It’s good on a scone. I don’t know if you remember, this was from a long time ago. One of the drinks on the Sip and Feast website is a pumpkin mule and we use the Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter in that recipe.

Two pumpkin spiced mules on black slate tile.

James (23:32):
Oh, really?

Tara (23:32):
Yeah.

James (23:33):
Yeah. I don’t remember. There’s 400 and I think 50 recipes on the site now or some crazy amount?

Tara (23:40):
Mm-hmm.

James (23:41):
Getting very hard to remember everything.

Tara (23:42):
Yeah.

James (23:44):
Yeah.

Tara (23:44):
It’s in that one.

James (23:45):
I do remember specifically about the pumpkin butter. It’s extremely dark when you open it up.

Tara (23:50):
It is.

James (23:51):
It looks almost black, right?

Tara (23:54):
It’s not black. It’s almost like a deep orange.

James (23:58):
Deep orange. So I’m wondering how do you make pumpkin butter? You’re not just mixing butter and pumpkin puree together.

Tara (24:06):
I don’t know if there even is any butter in it-

James (24:08):
Oh, okay.

Tara (24:08):
… to be honest.

James (24:09):
Yeah, you’re probably right. There probably isn’t. It’s probably extremely reduced-

Tara (24:12):
It’s like a concentrated-

James (24:14):
… ultra concentrated pumpkin puree probably with some spices-

Tara (24:17):
Yep.

James (24:18):
… I’m guessing?

Tara (24:18):
That’s what it tastes like to me.

James (24:20):
Yeah, it’s the process of reducing it down.

Tara (24:22):
That’s right. In fact, it’s actually really good with butter on toast. So if you do toast-

James (24:28):
Yeah, I do remember that.

Tara (24:29):
… a little bit of the Kerrygold and-

James (24:30):
Kerrygold-

Tara (24:32):
… and then something with butter.

James (24:33):
Kerrygold, sponsor us. She keeps talking about you every episode

Tara (24:37):
I love them for years and years and years.

James (24:40):
Yeah, no Kerrygold is good butter. It is.

The kringle

Tara (24:43):
Yeah. Okay. The Pumpkin Kringle. Trader Joe’s usually carries some type of kringle, I think in the Christmas season-

James (24:54):
I love that word, kringle.

Tara (24:55):
Cringle. Yeah, in the Christmas season, they usually have a special one too, which is escaping me right now. But year round, you can usually find their Almond Kringle there. But around this time of year, they’ll sell a Pumpkin Kringle.

James (25:08):
Now is that Trader Joe’s? I feel like this is one item that they’re not making.

Tara (25:12):
They’re not making it. They’re importing it from a bakery in Racine, Wisconsin.

James (25:18):
Yep. I realized they don’t make any of their products, and a few people saw a fit to correct me that I was saying I love Kirkland paper towels. They were like, “Kirkland doesn’t make paper towels.” I realize that. These stores are having brands. I even heard that Kirkland’s coffee often is Starbucks coffee, just rebranded with the Kirkland Label. So yeah, it’s probably Bounty or whoever else is in the paper towel business. They’re probably the ones making those Kirkland, but those Kirkland ones have a higher spec. So that’s the thing. Costco’s specifying, “We want a more premium product than your other products.” So this one too, Trader Joe’s, obviously I know none of their products are made by them. But in this respect, I guess the deal with this kringle maker, the kringle maker in Racine, Wisconsin was probably like, “We want our name on there too.”

Tara (26:15):
Yeah, it’s got their name on there-

James (26:16):
Which is a little different than anything else in Trader Joe’s from as far as I can remember.

Tara (26:20):
For the most part. Yeah.

James (26:22):
Yeah. It must be a huge bakery because that bakery is making… again, they were in Minnesota, but the kringles are available here too. So how big is that bakery that they’re able to furnish kringle for 500 Trader Joe’s stores?

Tara (26:35):
Yeah. Maybe that’s most of their business.

James (26:38):
Well, maybe you have a Trader Joe’s in another state besides the two that we’ve been to that doesn’t have these kringles. Remember that cake that-

Tara (26:47):
The King Cake?

James (26:48):
Remember the King Cake that, Brants, if you’re listening, Brants, a longtime Patreon, Brants and Trish, they sent our whole family these King Cakes from a New Orleans bakery and they’re the ones that have the little baby Jesus inside of them.

Tara (27:06):
Yeah. Are they for Mardi Gras? I can’t remember when-

James (27:10):
I think for Mardi Gras. I’m not positive here. I wonder if the Trader Joe’s around that area of the country have those King Cakes inside of them.

Tara (27:17):
Maybe.

James (27:18):
It might be something like that.

Tara (27:19):
Yeah.

James (27:19):
Well, let us know if you have products that you think are specific to where you are in the country that we haven’t heard of, and maybe you haven’t heard of this kringle. But if you have access to it and you haven’t bought one yet, what the heck is wrong with you? It’s probably the best thing in Trader Joe’s.

Tara (27:38):
It is really good. I was going to say the pumpkin one, while it is good and I do enjoy pumpkin-flavored things, I am partial to the Almond Kringle. I think it’s far superior.

Picture of Kringle in wrapping.

James (27:49):
It’s almond paste, right?

Tara (27:51):
Yeah.

James (27:51):
Almond paste is such a unique ingredient. We use it in a recipe. I know-

Tara (27:56):
Pignoli cookies?

James (27:57):
Oh, the pignoli cookies. When we put that recipe out, it’s an expensive cookies for people to make because the paste alone-

Tara (28:04):
The paste is expensive and pignoli are very expensive. It’s a holiday cookie.

James (28:08):
If you go to an Italian bakery, they will often sell those cookies for 30 to $40 a pound.

Tara (28:14):
Yeah. Yep.

James (28:16):
They have to spend a lot of money on those raw ingredients too.

Tara (28:19):
That’s true.

James (28:20):
All right. Let’s move on to your next one.

Pumpkin ice cream

Tara (28:21):
Okay, the next one I have, and you just had this the other night, we all did, is the pumpkin ice cream.

James (28:27):
Yes, the pumpkin ice cream.

Tara (28:28):
What did you think of the pumpkin ice cream before I-

James (28:32):
Big thumbs down.

Tara (28:33):
And why?

James (28:34):
It doesn’t taste like pumpkin. It tastes like nutmeg.

Tara (28:36):
Okay.

James (28:37):
Not nutmeg, it tastes like eggnog. It was eggnog ice cream. Now if they called it eggnog ice cream, it would’ve been a really good ice cream.

Tara (28:44):
I agree. I think they went a little heavy on the nutmeg, and it’s not just the batch we got.

James (28:50):
Never go heavy on the nutmeg.

Tara (28:52):
Yeah. It’s not just the batch we got because every year, it tastes like eggnog. To me, it doesn’t taste like pumpkin. But is it still good? Did you still eat an entire bowl of it? Yes. You did.

James (29:09):
What are you talking about an entire bowl? First of all, this is what I’m going to talk about sizing with Trader Joe’s. So they have the oddest sizing. I’m such a moron here. It was odd-

Tara (29:21):
It’s the size of two Ben & Jerry’s.

James (29:22):
Yeah, it’s two Ben & Jerry’s. So Ben & Jerry’s are pints. So essentially what you’re buying in Trader Joe’s is a quart.

Tara (29:30):
Yeah, I guess.

James (29:30):
If you go to a supermarket, ice cream always comes in a half-gallon container.

Tara (29:34):
Not always.

James (29:35):
I’ve never seen it in a quart like that. That’s like a Trader Joe’s sizing.

Tara (29:39):
I think there are some brands that sell it like that,

James (29:41):
But yeah, you’re looking at it and you’re like, “Ah, this is good.” But you sit down there with your family of four and you’re eating the whole thing and then you’re not even… especially if you’re known to eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s, you think you got gypped because you’re like, “I needed two of those Trader Joe’s.” Not that we eat a pint each of Ben & Jerry’s all the time.

Tara (30:04):
No.

James (30:05):
Right, Tara? We don’t do that ever.

Tara (30:06):
No. Well, you do.

James (30:08):
I do sometimes.

Tara (30:09):
Yeah. Okay.

James (30:11):
What’s my favorite Ben & Jerry’s?

Tara (30:13):
Fish Food

James (30:14):
By far. Yeah.

Tara (30:15):
Fish Food is the best one.

(30:16):
In the same vein as the pumpkin ice cream, but it’s a little bit different. It’s the hold the cone, the mini cones and they make a pumpkin ginger hold the cone. I think it’s the same ice cream.

James (30:29):
But it works in these.

Tara (30:30):
But I think it’s got a maple coating on the outside, like a shell on the outside of where the ice cream is and it’s really good. It’s like a two biter or one biter depending on…

James (30:42):
They’re good. I give a big thumbs up for these. So if Tara’s right, it’s the same ice cream. It works for these.

Tara (30:48):
I’m excited for the Christmas holidays because they make a peppermint hole the cone.

James (30:53):
Oh, yeah.

Tara (30:53):
Those are really good.

James (30:54):
That’s what’s great about Trader Joe’s, they’re going to clear this pumpkin stuff out in a couple of weeks and then be onto the next thing.

Pumpkin brioche

Tara (31:00):
The next one on my list is my favorite. So I saved that for last because I think that the next few ones we’ll mention will just be quick, honorable mentions. But this is the pumpkin brioche bread and it is fantastic. I buy it, sometimes I’ll buy two or three loaves because it’s that whole scarcity mindset. I know that it might not be there the next time I go to Trader Joe’s, and I get it because the kids love it. James likes it, just a slice of it with some butter in the morning before he goes to the bus stop. It’s really, really good to use to make French toast.

James (31:43):
Yeah, it’s good.

Tara (31:43):
Really good. The way that the kids love it the most though, they get excited when I ask them if they want it is a toad in the hole. So where you cut out a little circle from the center of the bread, butter both sides of the bread, lightly cook it in some butter like you would a French toast, but you add an egg to the center of it, and let the egg cook and then the egg is over easy. Put a little bit of maple syrup on it and you have the whole sweet savory thing going on, and they love it. It’s probably one of their favorite things. So they get excited for this time of year because they know that the pumpkin brioche bread is going to be coming to the house.

James (32:21):
Yeah, I’m a big fan, so I have nothing bad to say about that one. What’s your honorable mentions?

Honorable mentions

Tara (32:26):
So quickly-

James (32:27):
What about that cinnamon bread? Is that on your… okay. All right.

Tara (32:28):
So I did want to mention that. So talking about bread, this is the first year I’ve ever seen this. I don’t know if it’s new, but it was new for me. It was the apple streusel bread, which was-

James (32:41):
That was good.

Tara (32:42):
It was really good. But I would almost say that that’s more like a dessert than a bread. I felt like that needed to be warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

James (32:50):
It reminds me of that cinnamon raisin bread.

Tara (32:52):
It does, but this was far sweeter. This reminded me of a dry bread pudding.

James (32:56):
Yeah, it was good.

Tara (32:58):
Yeah. Okay, so honorable mentions, I have pumpkin coffee. Not bad.

James (33:04):
I’m not a fan of that at all. You have it. It’s in the closet right now, and way too herb spicy, whatever.

Tara (33:11):
It is spicy, but if you like a pumpkin spice latte, but you don’t like the sugar, you can get this pumpkin coffee from Trader Joe’s and it doesn’t have any sugar in it. It just has all the pumpkin spice like the cinnamon and-

James (33:26):
You know what I would do if that’s what people like and they don’t want the sugar, I would just simply make coffee and then just put a little bit of pumpkin spice when you put your cream in. That, I think, is a better alternative than that. I didn’t like that at all.

Tara (33:38):
You could also, when you’re brewing your coffee and you have the grinds there, before you put it in the water, you could add a little shake of cinnamon and a little shake and it could filter through. That’s another thing instead of adding it straight into your coffee once it’s made. The pumpkin cereal bar, Trader Joe’s always makes these cereal bars. It’s called this whatever, walked into a bar. So it’s this pumpkin walks into a bar, those are good. The pumpkin granola bark, really good to just snack on as a somewhat healthy-ish snack. The Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, which are their sandwich cookies. It’s like a twist on an Oreo, those are really good. And the final honorable mention, which you loved last year, I don’t know if you remember the pumpkin spice mini pretzels. You couldn’t eat enough of them.

James (34:31):
Oh, those are delicious now. I think I ate too many of them and they started to taste bad to me. But no, they are. I think I liked them probably more than anybody else.

Tara (34:40):
You did.

James (34:40):
They’re like pretzels. They look white. They’re like white and cinnamon I guess.

Tara (34:45):
Yes.

James (34:46):
Like sweet.

Tara (34:47):
Yeah. But yeah, you enjoyed those.

James (34:50):
Yeah.

Tara (34:50):
That’s my list of fall hall items from Trader Joe’s. I’m sure there’s more that I missed, but that’s it.

James (35:00):
So that concludes our Trader Joe’s pumpkin marathon. I know we missed probably a bunch of them. Leave them down in the comments or send us an email, a comment to [email protected]. Tara, you have some questions for us right now?

Question 1 – mixing olive oil and butter

Chicken Francese featured image.

Mixing oil with butter is typically done with chicken francese.

Tara (35:14):
Yes. This one comes from Bob. Bob wants to know if mixing olive oil or any oil with butter will prevent the butter from burning.

James (35:24):
I do that. So Bob, there’s a lot of different recipes this will work for. Say you’re doing chicken francese, which chicken francese is typically done in butter. If you start with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, that’s safer because what happens is when you put your chicken down, it’ll start to get a little bit golden, then you can add your butter in. I find if you start with the butter right away, you have to be very precise with your heating and know your stove really well, or you might potentially burn it. So I will often mix butter and oil to prevent that problem. Exactly, Bob.

Question 2 – choosing kitchen knives

Tara (35:55):
Next question. This comes from Deborah. Deborah says she’s always wanted more information about good knives. She’s a home cook and would like some information on choosing good average kitchen knives and how to take care of them.

James (36:09):
Deborah knives is a huge, huge topic. There’s a lot of channels on YouTube that are just devoted to knife reviews. A lot of them are questionable because they’re taking money from different sponsors, which, if we ever have a sponsor for something like that, we would 100% be truthful. But since we don’t have any knives sponsors, we did have one in the past and that company is, we’re no longer working with that company ever again. So that’s all I’m going to say about that. But the ones I’m talking to you about right now are not sponsored. For the channel one that I like, it’s on Amazon. It’s the name of the brand is called Mercer. Mercer sells a lot of their knives to culinary schools. So a lot of, when you go to a culinary school, you’re not going to have a Kramer knife.

(36:57):
A Kramer is a very expensive knife. You’re going to have a utility knife, a utility chef’s knife in that 15 to $30 price range because they got to make things inexpensive enough for the students. So these culinary schools buy thousands of these knives. They’re great knives. They’re low on the Rockwell scale. The Rockwell scale is the scale that’s used to measure the hardness of steel. When you have something that’s like a Rockwell 57, which is what a Mercer eight-inch chef’s knife is roughly, you will be able to sharpen that knife easily. You cannot have good knives, any knives if you don’t know how to sharpen. This is a really important thing.

(37:35):
Any knife you buy, whether it’s a $300 Kramer or a $20 Mercer will need to be sharpened at some point. Now, if you don’t feel comfortable learning how to sharpen, Deborah, I would then make sure that you care for your knife. Well, that will prolong the amount of time before you have to sharpen. But once you need it sharpened, you bring it to a professional sharpener. One thing to keep in mind, I’ve done this in a bunch of my videos, and I’ll steel my knife. There’s so many people in their writing completely wrong comments in there. They’re saying about that I’m sharpening, and I’m doing over that. A steel does not sharpen a knife. A steel simply straightens your knife.

(38:13):
If you were to take a microscope and look at your knife, you would see the metal, the exact point where the two sides meet. That’s what creates a sharpness that cuts something. You would see it would be moving one side or the other. A steel will simply straighten that knife, that microscopic edge, allowing you to get a little bit better cutting experience. A steel works fine when your knives are sharp or have been sharpened, but when you need to remove metal, that’s when you have to either sharpen it with diamond stones or ceramic stones or sandpaper, whatever type of stones, or you have to bring it to a place that will do it for you. They will create a new edge, they will remove metal, and then you’ll then be able to steel your knife until the time again that it needs to be sharpened. Tara, am I making sense here or am I getting a little too in the weeds?

Tara (39:07):
No, I think it makes sense. I think as you’re talking through this, this could probably be an entire episode because there is a lot to know, and I think it is hard to maybe answer Deborah’s question in the best way possible in the question segment.

James (39:27):
I think that’s right. Listen, I just want to say one thing. As much as these knives, people who have channels dedicated to it are, quote, unquote, “an expert,” there’s one thing that they probably don’t do that I’ve done for a long time, and what is that, Tara? What have I done with knives for a long time?

Tara (39:43):
Wood carving?

5 carved cooking spoons.

So if you watch our videos, you will no doubt recognize a few of these. The ladle on the left is used quite frequently and the one on the right sits in my unused collection.

James (39:44):
Yeah. So it frustrates me immensely when people tell me I don’t know what I’m doing with knives. All those spoons that are in the videos have been hand carved by me, not just with straight knives, but with round knives called hook knives. If you want to actually really test your sharpening ability, try to sharpen a round knife. So a round knife is the knife looks like a hook. That’s what allows you to carve the inside of the bowl of the spoon. So I’ve been carving for probably 15 years. Now, I haven’t done it in a few years, but during that time, I became an expert sharpener. The knives that I was using, the steel that I was using on my carving knives is better than any steel that’s used on any cooking knife. A lot of times, just simply going back to the cooking knives, you’re better off with the not expensive knives and the not high-end steel.

(40:32):
The high-end steel will often be Japanese knives. That will be a Rockwell 63. Some of them go up to 67. The higher that number goes, the harder that metal is to sharpen and it’s brittle. If you drop a Japanese knife that’s an R 67, it’s going to probably break in half. So they need to be babied, those knives. So you’re better off with that Mercer, or there’s a few other inexpensive brands. Even Henkel makes some inexpensive ones that are like starter knives, Henkel and Wustuf. You’re set with those. You just need to learn how to sharpen them and use them properly. Never put them in the dishwasher. When you put it in a dishwasher, no matter where you’re putting it, even for the knife spot in your dishwasher, there will be micro movements in the dishwasher, the sharp edge of the knife will hit. Then it will become not sharp, and then you’ll have to steel it again to straighten it out. I hope this all helps. I probably confused you more than I helped you.

Tara (41:28):
No, I think it was helpful, but I think could definitely be fleshed out further in a full podcast.

James (41:35):
Thanks for tuning in. Leave your comments, and questions to [email protected]. We will see you next time.

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