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Friday, February 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Crispy Vegetable Pouches

Who wrote the rule book that says bite-size little fried dealies have to be served before the main course of a meal? Why do salads have to be eaten before the main course? Why dessert after?

Just to spit in the face of such tyrannical traditions, I've eaten appetizers as the main course of my meal as often as I have had the opportunity to do so. I've also eaten desserts first and salads last...because I'm a rebel like that. I've upset many a waitress pulling such stunts, which, incidentally, is why I don't eat out very often anymore. Except Cracker Barrel. We eat there a lot...because they let us stay overnight in their parking lot. And even then we don't eat in the restaurant, but we get take-out and we eat at the dinette in the RV, where I'm not likely to upset our server with my unorthodox dining practices like consuming those tasty biscuits at the end of the meal rather than the beginning.

All that to say: it just goes to show you how woke TJ's is—they specify on the side of the box that this extremely appetizer-esque product can be served "as a light entree." Right on. Free the app. Free the app from its predetermined role on the dinner table. Let it be whatever it wants to be. Free your mind first. Then free the app.

So free the app we did when we had these as our main course for dinner the other night.

They're basically crispy little egg rolls, but served in a different configuration. They contain many of the same ingredients as a typical egg roll, all rolled up into a mini pouch-shaped wonton, with a funky little flower-like bundle at the top. The veggies have a nice flavor, with plenty of oomph from the spice blend, which includes garlic, ginger, and salt. They might even be a little too salty with the soy sauce already added to the vegetables. 

That was Sonia's main complaint: there was no dipping sauce included. I wish they'd have refrained from adding soy sauce to the product itself and left a little packet on the side. Yes, yes, I know...more packaging is bad for the environment. But at least we could have administered the amount of soy sauce of our own choosing. These probably would have been killer with a bit of sweet chili sauce, too.

There's not quite enough in the package to serve as the main course for two people. It says there are 2.5 servings in there, but that's if they're acting as an appetizer, methinks. I probably could have polished off the whole pack myself. We ate it with a little leftover catfish from Cracker Barrel, and that worked out nicely. Southern-Asian fusion isn't a thing as far as I know, but perhaps it should be.

Sonia gives these vegetable pouches four stars. I give 'em three and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal

The word "neapolitan" means to be "of the city of Naples". Simple enough. Though to be honest, I always that it was neopolitan, not neapolitan...did this change at some point of time without any of us knowing? Is this another Berenstein/Berenstain Bears glimpse into a parallel universe? I'm pretty sure it is.

How this word also came to mean "chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream altogether" is, of course, purely American. Three flavored desserts like spumoni became popular in the good ol' U S of A back in the 1800's, and since those three flavors just so happened to be also the 'merican tastes of choice, well, it became nearly synonymous.

So, a little confusing, and of arguably two origins? Sounds about right for the new Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal. Let me explain.

First - this is supposed to be fun cereal, right? It's three flavors of puffs! Words fall short of how excited my girls were to see the box when this definitely looked like more like a treat than an actual breakfast to them, bless their hearts. And it is fun. Out of the three, only really the vanilla kinda falls flat flavorwise, which is to be expected. High quality vanilla taste isn't really expected to be conveyed well via breakfast cereal. The chocolate and strawberry, though somewhat muted, still come across pretty well in a not-too-super-sugary kinda way.

So we could identify this is as a junk or special treat cereal, maybe kinda like Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms.

But then - look at the ingredients! Beans and rice! No corn! No wheat! None of those regular ol' breakfast grains. Rice isn't that odd - Rice Chex and Rice Krispies, amirite? - but beans? For breakfast? Odd, weird. It gives the cereal a kinda a healthyish vibe - I mean, look at all that fiber! And naturally then this is also gluten-free which is a plus.

So could this be a healthy cereal?

Maybe both?

Two origins, and kinda confusing. I'm kinda stuck on that beans thing.

No matter. This is a good, munchy cereal. There's a slightly shiny shellacky coating that seems to really help the neapolitan puffs maintain a good crunch even after sitting around in milk for quite a while. That's a big plus. Plus, all that fiber - usually, I avoid breakfast cereal in the morning as I feel that somehow it only makes me hungrier. Not here - a bowl kept me reasonably filled til lunch!

Plus, as an added bonus, the pinkish/brownish milk it leaves behind is pretty decent. My kids loved having "chocolate milk" in their cereal. Again, bless their hearts.

I don't do cereal often, and I'm not sure I'd really go for these tri-flavored puffs over and over again, but they do make a nice little pick up. For a gluten-free fun cereal, why not? The box runs $3.99 which is a little high on the TJ's scale, so there's another slight knock. If it were up to our kids, these would be a surefire pantheon pick, but to us more reasonable adults, some matching threes will do.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Neapolitan Puffs Cereal: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, February 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Lemon Creme Sandwich Cookies

Some of you who've been shopping at Trader Joe's for a while probably remember when they went nuts with a particular commodity and released a bunch of similar products all at once. I'm thinking of Coffeepalooza and Mango Mania in particular. There were a couple years there when they released an unhealthy amount of new cookie butter products, although they spaced out those releases a little better than the other two incidents I just mentioned. And of course, fall after fall, we were inundated with pumpkin spice offerings, although that seems to be tapering off, as TJ's is now balancing PS with apple, butternut squash, and maple offerings a little better than they did in previous years.

But Sonia and I have always wondered why they haven't done "Ludicrous Lemon" or "Lemon Lunacy." They have plenty of lemon products, including lots of cookies, bars, tarts, pies, and beverages. Lemon Lunacy could include the re-release of Trader Joe's Lemon Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream. And that would not only make the WGATJ's team very happy, but it would please every connoisseur of fine ice creams in the country. Why do you hate your loyal customers so much, Trader Joe's?

These cookies would make a fine addition to Lemon Lunacy. They're lemony and sweet, and they're pretty satisfying. Flavor-wise, they're basically sugar cookies with moderate lemon flavor. They didn't go crazy with lemon here. I wouldn't have minded just a tad more lemonosity. Both the cookie elements and the filling are lemontastic, but not to the point where tartness even has a chance to overpower the product's dessertiness. They taste fresh, pleasant, and enjoyable.

However, in the texture department, our cookies were a little too stiff. I expected them to be soft. And they, sort of. I figured they might be soft like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies are soft. They're not. They're simply not crispy or crunchy. They're chewy...but, I mean, they're a little too chewy in my book. I wanted them to be supple and malleable. But...I dunno. "Stiff" is the only word I can think of to describe the texture. Ours weren't stale. They weren't more than a couple days old when we opened the package. Perhaps somehow their vegan-ness makes them stiffer than cookies that can use butter and/or eggs...?

At $4.29 for four cookies, these aren't super cheap, either. But at least there are eight servings in the bag. Wait. What? Yeah. You do the math. 

Worth a purchase for vegans and lemon fans, but there are better lemon dessert options in the store. Again, flavor-wise, these cookies are sublime, but because of the stiff texture and overall value, I don't think these will be a repeat purchase for us.  

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.