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Monday, March 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Milk & Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn

Growing up, most of us were aware of Whoppers—the candies, not the burgers. They weren't super high on my list of preferred treats, nor were they highly sought after by most of my cohorts. There were one or two oddballs in our class that liked them, but by and large, they seemed to be a snack favored by older generations. 

I can even remember my father talking about "malted milk balls" to some of my young friends and I when we were kids. All of us youngsters looked at each other asking, "What the heck is a 'malted milk ball'?" "That sounds gross," we unanimously agreed. It wasn't until much later that when aged folks would refer to malted milk balls that we youngsters would reply, "Oh. You mean Whoppers." I'd reluctantly consume them when they'd show up in my annual bag of Halloween spoils, but it was rare that I actually wanted or craved a malted milk ball.

These coated popcorn pieces are obviously not malted milk balls, per se. However, they remind me of them somewhat in terms of size, shape, color, flavor, and texture—and I feel very much the same about both types of candy in the end. It's hard to hate candies like this completely, but for Sonia and I, it's also hard to wholly embrace them.

The crispy inner portion—where the malted milk would have traditionally hidden—has been replaced with popcorn. It's not the first time we've seen this kind of thing at TJ's. Those reindeer dealies come to mind. In this instance, though, we see both milk and dark chocolate. Half of the pieces are just a deeper shade of brown. It takes a bit of discernment to distinguish the two flavors, though, predictably, I do prefer the milk chocolate version slightly if I really pay attention. Sonia didn't care to declare a favorite, although in general, she likes dark chocolate a bit more.

There is a thin layer of caramel between the chocolate and the popcorn, and there is, of course, salt, but both Sonia and I think the chocolate overpowers any "salted caramel" aspects of the candy. I'm not saying it's not there. I'm just saying if you want something to register as "salted caramel," you shouldn't slather it with a bunch of chocolate necessarily. Sonia doesn't even think the popcorn element is prevalent enough.

If you're craving something chocolatey and don't mind that popcorn and caramel aren't all that prominent, you still might enjoy these little guys. $2.99 for the bag. Sonia likes the packaging. It's all Eastery and springy and vernal and stuff. I guess Trader Joe's is replacing the Easter Bunny with an Easter Bear because they come out of hibernation this time of year...? Also because bears eat tons of chocolate...? And they hide in fields of daffodils...? 

Sonia said it was cute. She didn't say it made sense.

In the end, these candies just aren't very memorable in our opinions, and we probably won't buy them again. Double threes.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal

Just as in childhood, there are subtle yet unmistakable steps of maturation in adulthood, right? Or at least, definite benchmarks of getting old. Like...

...realizing your bald spot is, in fact, pretty bald.

...waking up and being sore for no apparent reason.

...turning down the volume while blasting '90s music alone in your car because it's "too loud."

...realizing the only reason why you're listening to Pearl Jam is because only God knows what the kids are listening to these days but my goodness it sounds like garbage. Drake? Post Malone? Cardi B? Who are these people?  Are they people? Or robots? Because robots make music these days. Crazy.

And most pertinent to this review: realizing that some cereal tastes much better without any added sugar.

Such is the case with Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal.

That's a lot of natural goodness here. The inherent earthy graininess of the flakes. Tasty toasty almond slivers. Light coconut flavor all abound. If anything there's a lack of chia seed clusters, at least in the top half of the box thus far...maybe them little buggers worked all their way down.

Listen to me. Complaing about not enough chia seeds in my cereal. I do sound old.

It's tasty, tasty cereal for sure. And I'm not usually a cereal person. The flakes are solid and crunchy enough to be fully submerged in milk and still maintain a high factor of munchitude. Probably, if you're a yogurt and cereal person, this would work. And even adding some banana wouldn't be the worst idea.

My one small complaint, though: When I added milk, some of the bites tasted almost vaguely buttery. I'm wondering if it was the wetness unleashed/embellished some of the coconut and oil a little bit. It's not noticeable when dry, and I didn't taste it as much the second time around...but it was a little weird.

All those grains...and proteins...and fiber...and calories...this is hearty, filling cereal for sure! A few small handfuls killed my hunger for quite some time.

Anyways I mentioned the "tastes worse when sugar added" thing to Sandy, and she gave me one of those "well duh" looks before stating many cereals taste that way. It's worth noting she's almost exactly two years older than me and females mature quicker than males and all I'm catching up, love. But yeah, extra sugar kinda kills off half the good stuff about this cerea. Which is a shame because it's pretty darn good in fact. 4.5 from me, 3.5 from the older, maturer missus.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Almond Chia Cereal: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis

Ah, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "Sandwiches." Did I ever tell you guys that when Sonia and I first started dating, I noticed she pronounced "sandwich" funny? I learned quickly that it's basically the same word in Spanish as it is in English, and she was pronouncing it the Spanish way. It's almost like "sandweech" in Spanish. Also, the "a" sound in the first syllable tends to be enunciated more when a Spanish-speaker says it. I mean, maybe that's just my opinion, but the bottom line is that I immediately seized the opportunity to make fun of her to no end like a good boyfriend should. I began exaggerating her odd pronunciation more and more every time sandwiches would come up in conversation. "Saandweech" became "saandoweech" became "saandamoweeacha" and so on. At first, she was slightly miffed but then eventually succumbed to the absurdity of my annoying attempts at mocking her and started smiling when I said the word. To this day, I can't say the word "sandwich" around her normally, and we both kind of chuckle when I find a way to butcher the word even further.

However, like its 2013 predecessor, this candy is definitely NOT a PB&J sandwich, nor is it trying to be one. It's just a one-of-a-kind candy—well, I guess it's a two-of-a-kind candy now...sort of.

Let's start with the similarities. Both this candy and the PB&J chocolate bar have peanut butter, raspberry jelly, and chocolate. Both are snacktastic, TJ's-esque, and have exactly one thing in common with a PB&J sandwich: peanut butter—two if you're a weirdo that makes PB&J sandwiches with raspberry jelly. 

As far as dissimilarities go, there are quite a few. The product is organic now. It's miniature and individually-wrapped. They're using dark chocolate here instead of milk chocolate and—it's been a while since I've had a PB&J chocolate bar—but I think there's a bit more jelly in this mix. Sonia thinks the extra bit of jelly works since the sweet and tart of the jelly is balanced by the bitter aspects of the dark chocolate, as opposed to milk chocolate. Also, she wished for more jelly in the bar version—and now she got her wish. 

I agree that dark chocolate works better when there's more jelly, but I still prefer the combo of milk chocolate and not that much raspberry jelly. Another gripe about this product: I feel like these are way too big for a single bite, but they get quite messy if you bite them in half. In short, I like the bar a tad more, Sonia likes these minis a tad more. At $2.99 for the bag of eight squares, it's definitely a fun snack worth a purchase or two. 

The little missus gives these four stars. I give them three and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.