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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Podcast Episode 5: Favorite Summer Products




In this episode we share the products that have helped us tolerate the Dog Days of Summer. Visit us on iTunes and Stitcher. And if you like this podcast, be sure to also check out The Nosh Show and Candyology 101

Download: MP3 (23.1 MB)


Show Notes: www.letstalktjs.com/5/

Opening Music: www.bensound.com

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trader Joe's Brownie Crisp

It started off innocently enough last week, and devolved pretty quickly from there. Who knew the question of "Is a Fig Newton a cookie or not?" could be hotly debatable? Generally, we try to avoid controversy and be some lighthearted fun here, but...In my review last week of Trader Joe's Fig Bites (basically, Fig Newtons), I referred to them once or twice as "cookies" which a few readers didn't agree with that classification.  Now, granted, when I think of the word "cookie," Fig Newtons aren't the first thing that comes to mind....maybe it's something like these or these, but if the word "cookie" can encompass decadent treats like these, well, there's room for a Fig Newton or two, too. I was about to laugh about it with some coworkers when I found that there's nearly a 50/50 split at my workplace, with those disagreeing with cookie classification agreeing more towards "pastry bar" because they were akin to NutraGrain bars, just smaller. This was despite the fact that Fig Newton packages say they are "fruit chewy cookies" and the Nabisco website even states that Fig Newtons are, in fact, cookies. I'm glossing over a lot here. This is how we make it through our nearly 50 hour weeks every week. Just glad we weren't called into the principal's office for all the ruckus this caused.

Well, if a Fig Newton could cause so much controversy, what can be wrought by Trader Joe's Brownie Crisp? God only knows.

These can be classified easily as a brownie based solely on their taste. To be honest, it's fairly surprising how much rich flavor gets packed into each bite - these are some powerfully chocolatey bites, in both the batter and the chips that are fairly sprinkled throughout. In fact, Sandy and I though we'd be clever and spread a little knockoff Nutella on them, and the brownie flavor completely overpowered it. Fierce cocoa here. But isn't part of the brownie experience texturally based? Whether cakey and dry or a little wet and smushy (the way I prefer), there's a little somethin'-somethin' to make a brownie a brownie, which these dry, crunchy, crispy critters just don't have. They're not even like the slightly burned edges you invariably get in a brownie pans - it's more like every drip of anything moisture related got slurped off, leaving behind only a crunchy, hard shell. That makes them lean more towards cookie but I'm not quite comfortbale calling them that, nor would I called them "crisps", per se. Crisps imply to mean thin crispy-crunchy bites, like a potato chip, while these are decidedly thicker and crunchier.

So...I don't know what I'd call these brownie-ish bites, except good. Really darn good. There's some added bonuses which kick them a few notches on up. First, check out the nutritionals: That's not that bad for such a decadent treat! Just one or two crunchy cookie crumbles get me my chocolate fix. Plus, these are both vegan and gluten-free, meaning even more folks can enjoy them. Fairly inclusive, mostly guilt free, and pretty tasty? Yes please! These facts make me happy enough to rate them a little higher than I would otherwise.

We've gone to TJ's a few times a week, and thus far it seems like these fellas may have the nasty habit of mysteriously jumping into our cart. Sandy's enamored with them enough to give them a perfect five. I'm close to that. The chocolate, although pretty good, seems a little one note on repeated bites, so I wish these had a little more variation, or had some nuts or mint or sea salt or some other kind of flavor put on in. Also, the brownie flavor was enough to make me wish I were eating an actual slightly goopy moist brownie, and I just couldn't shake that.

So are these brownies? Or cookies? Or crisps? Something else? Let's discuss this below in the comments. Much like the second package we got this week, I'm open for a good time.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brownie Crisp: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons





  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trader Joe's 5 Cheese Greek Spiral

Every once in a while, someone makes the assertion that I am a talented writer. Even more every once in a while, that someone is not my mom. And then, yet even more every once in a while, I get the question of why I basically only write about Trader Joe's products, and not things like politics or social issues or other weighty, important muckity muck like that.

Easy. We all need a break from that. Just check your Facebook newsfeed. And just consider me pretty hesitant to add yet another clamoring voice to that festering noise pile of opinion, when really, at the end of the day, I'll either agree with you, or we'll balance each other out, so either way we're good in my opinion. Let's talk happy stuff like food instead.

That's why in this review of Trader Joe's 5 Cheese Greek Spiral, I'll avoid all that Greek/EU economic WTFery going on (that's a Greek spiral in its own way). Instead, revisit my classic 5 Cheese Frusta review here, because perfect segue...

Much like that frusta, all the cheeses in this spirally guy just kinda melt all together in an indistinguishable meld. And instead of cheesy, I'd say it tastes more salty and perhaps even gritty. I know for sure what gouda is supposed to taste like - not there. And I've been to enough Greek food festivals to be confident that I'd be able to identify the others, even if I'm not 100% sure what either "semi-hard" (flaccid?) or "blue" (not "bleu") cheese is...and no feta? Hrmmm.

That's not quite all, either. The phyllo roll seems to be one long, long section of dough sheets rolled up, but no base to hold them together, so cutting the pie-shaped section like the one picture on the box front results in multiple crescent-shaped sections. Plus, while baking in the oven, the whole thing was just kinda spewing out grease and stuff, which dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. It's not like that should have been unexpected, but still. The end result is a greasy, crispy, kinda bland, yet kinda salty dish that would be okay alongside some other, more successful Greek-inspired TJ's products, but don't make this one the star of a Greek feast.

 Not too much else to say. Sandy seemed indifferent when we ate this about a week ago, so I was surprised when she decided to give it a four. "Just so crispy!" she exclaimed. I'll give it that....but not much else.  It takes a little more to get my zorbas dancing.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 5 Cheese Greek Spiral: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Fig Bites

I like to think I'm pretty good at guessing what's inside packages and wrapped gifts. Sort an annoying habit for all of those around me, I know, but I've just always been that way. There's a whole routine - a little shake, a couple taps or a knock (depending on size), another few wiggles. Usually I'm pretty close - the only significant, way-off guess I can recall is when I thought I was going to get a bike as my big Christmas present one year, but I'll chalk that more up to my then-five year old mind not being able to comprehend the magnitude of awesomeness that a G.I. Joe aircraft carrier is.

This is mentioned in relation to Trader Joe's Fig Bites because on our latest podcast, Sonia mentioned seeing them in store and not knowing what they could be. Sure enough, when I found them a few days later, there's the opaque packaging, with very few (if any) clues on the write up on them. But I can feel a plastic tray....with rows?...yeah, there's rows...with little squares inside of them that most be the aformentioned Fig Bites....

"They're just Fig Newtons," Sandy blurted out. "Stop making a spectacle."

Sigh. Was just about there, but you beat me to it, wifey. Thanks. And I wasn't making that much of a spectacle, either.

Anyways, yes, take a look at the product shot on the left. "Just Fig Newtons" is about the most accurate description possible for them. Now, it's been a long time (years?) since I've had an actual authentic Fig Newton Fig Newton, so I may be a little off base, but there's not too much distinction I can draw between the two. The cookie casing might be a little cakier and not quite as chewy, with the fig portion a slight bit different too...but really, they're just about the same. Nutritionally, they're about the same, as well, but with the Trader Joe's advantage of no high fructose corn syrup. If there's any built-in advantage to a Turkish fig, well, someone will have to fill me in here, I'm ignorant. Really, if someone made me do a side-by-side comparison, I'm thinking I'd be hardpressed to tell them apart.

All of this makes for a kind of "meh" experience for me. I have nothing really against them....but there's nothing for me to loove here either. The best enjoyment I got from these cookies was my eight month old baby girl smacking her lips while she watched me eat them, as if to say "Daddy, pleasepleaseplease, can I have a bite?" I'd be inclined but we're trying to save the sweets 'til her first birthday. Our toddler seemed to like them, enough to ask for seconds (and maybe thirds), while Sandy kinda joined me in the meh-ish middle. For the couple bucks pick up, we'll probably get them again, but we won't go out of our ways, either.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fig Bites: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Bread Pudding

It's time for the long-awaited sequel to Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Pudding

As Russ pointed out a while ago, other than some notable exceptions, sequels usually aren't as good as originals. And as was mentioned in our most recent podcast episode, bread pudding isn't necessarily what the WG@TJ's team is craving when it's 90+ degrees and extremely humid. This is definitely more of a fall food in our minds. Yet for the sake of our loyal readers, and to be ahead of the Trader Joe's brand food product reviewing curve, we have boldly decided to check it out right now, in the middle of July...because we're intrepid criticasters like that. I just learned that word this morning. Thanks, Dictionary.com Word of the Day.

The preparation instructions for this product are very similar, if not identical, to that of the above-mentioned Pumpkin Bread Pudding. There's an optional overnight refrigerator thawing period, and then the preferred instructions have you heating this product in the microwave, although the oven is also listed as a viable alternative. 

I think the microwave is preferred because there's less danger of overcooking, and therefore less risk of drying out the product. On the other hand, it has recently come to my attention that some people prefer bread pudding to be crispy on the outside. I've never had it that way—TJ's or otherwise. I think the beauty of bread pudding is its unique gelatinous suppleness from top to bottom. 

And along those lines, this product was moist, soft, and nearly perfect texture-wise, just like its predecessor. That's probably the best feature of this product—that a period of thawing and a few minutes in the microwave can yield such amazingly authentic texture for a dessert that's fairly easy to mess up. I ate one piece straight out of the microwave, and it was great. It melted in my mouth. But like the pumpkin flavor, Sonia and I both agree that refrigerating the cooked bread pudding and snacking on it straight out of the fridge is also legit.

What isn't as legit is this product's flavor. Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad at all. But neither of us think it tastes like salted caramel. Sonia says it reminds her more of vanilla than caramel. I just think it's a vaguely sweet flavor, comparable to other "plain" bread puddings I've had. Maybe we were spoiled by the delectable pumpkin spices in this product's forerunner, or maybe we're just used to being bowled over by salted caramel flavor with goodies like TJ's Salted Caramel Gelato or Salted Caramel Chai, but we think the name of this product is slightly misleading in this case. We just want more salt and caramel. Is that too much to ask? What do you think?

Each of us gives this product three and a half stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Podcast Episode 4: Unexpected Cheddar




In this episode we talk about Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar, Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt, Salted Caramel Bread Pudding, and a few other new products we’ve seen on shelves. Plus, Russ shares his experience with TJ’s Ghost Chili Grinder.

Download: MP3 (25.4 MB)
Links to the products we talk about are available at www.letstalktjs.com/4/.
You can also listen by subscribing to Let’s Talk TJ’s on iTunesStitcher, or via RSS.
Opening Music: www.bensound.com
Special thanks to Marvo at The Impulsive Buy and thank YOU for listening!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt

On our last TJ's run, Sonia and I wanted something dessert-ish. And who knows—it might have been that very tiny part of me that's Jewish exerting some subconscious desire to be kosher again, but a pork candy bar just didn't sound all that appealing to me. Graham crackers, dark chocolate, and sea salt sounded like a much more promising option, so when we saw this brand new product, we quickly snagged it off the shelves. (But if you're a smoked salt and sweet swine fan like Russ, by all means, knock yourselves out.)

The title of this product says it all, at least as far as constituent parts go—but I think it's the sea salt in particular that rounds out this snack in a very special way. There are large granules on the outermost portion of the cookies, embedded in the dark chocolate, but big enough that you can clearly see them protruding from the otherwise smooth surface. In fact, I believe they're visible in our pic of the product. And flavor-wise, the sea salt crystals are very much a part of the attack. Upon first bite, the saltiness is present in spades, and it provides this beautiful balance to the bitterness of the cacao and the sweetness of the cane sugar and honey graham base. We've seen TJ's do great things with sea salt and dark chocolate before—quite a few times, actually—so many times that it would be difficult to link to each one individually. So I'll throw you guys this bone and link to the "Search This Blog" results for keywords "Sea Salt Dark Chocolate."

Sonia shared this product with her co-workers and got pretty much universally positive reactions. I, on the other hand, work from home and have no co-workers I can share with, unless you count the dogs. And they can't have any chocolate. Just as well. I'm selfish and don't like sharing anyway...particularly when it's something this tasty.

Texture-wise, the product is moderately crispy. Even under all that chocolate, the graham cracker still feels like a cracker. The sea salt actually adds a bit of extra crunch into the mix. Sonia tried an experiment with some leftover marshmallows we had, and she sandwiched them between two of these chocolate covered honey grahams to create a makeshift s'more. She enjoyed it much better than a traditional s'more and liked the added soft texture of the 'mallow.

Maybe it's because they were only sitting out on the counter for a few short hours, but the dark chocolate didn't melt that much in this summer heat. I'm not usually a huge fan of any chocolate in the summertime, particularly dark chocolate—but one thing I do crave is salt. I sweat like crazy and I always want salty snacks this time of year. And along those lines, these unique little cookies deliver.

Sonia liked them even more than I did. 4.5 from her. I'll throw out 4 stars.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar

Do yourself a favor, and hear me out on this:

Whatever you do, do not buy Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar.

Instead, allow me to buy each and every one of them out there. Heck, for only $1.99 each, it's at least a somewhat dreamable way for me to utilize the extra bedroom.

Believe me, this would be a service to all of you out there, because in all seriousness, there's only two viable outcomes. You will either: 1) fall totally in love with this candy bar, ruining all others for you for now and ever more, or 2) be totally and completely repulsed by them.

I'm in the first camp, in case that'd be a surprise to any of you. Once I caught wind of these, I knew I had to make a special trip to TJ's just to procure a handful for me, Sandy, and my coworkers to testdrive, and first chance I did, I skeedaddled right on over.

As among the first tasters (as of the time of writing this review, the bars have been available for less than 48 hours), I'm going to guess that these bacon boys will be a true love or hate item, with very few folks in the middle. Bacon and chocolate have been a known combo on the festival/flea market food circuit for years, but this is truly a unique item as far as I can tell.

Here's what I like: First, the dark chocolate. Most bacon/cocoa combos feature milk chocolate instead of dark, in order to play up the sweet/salty dichotomy. While generally I prefer even darker chocolate, 70% is still pretty nib-laden, and goes more for the savory jugular. Love it - it's about time someone pulled it off. Also, the "hint of smoked salt" - it's alderwood smoked salt, at that. That's a pretty nifty little touch that adds a great flourish at the end of the bite to make each nibble even that much more decadent.

What's going to make or break the bacon bar for you is the ganache filling. My original photo didn't do a great job capturing it, so here's a great one courtesy of Facebook superfan Amarantha Medici - each square there's a goopy, caramel-y ganache reservoir that remained soft and fluid even after chilling it in the firdge for over an hour. It's also where the bacon resides, but taste carefully. There's little itty bitty bacon shards, adding a slight, occasionally granule-y crunch, but that's not quite it, either - it's more baconlicious than that. After a few tastes and consulting the ingredients list, it became apparent to me what it is - bacon fat. Chocolate ganache, after all, is basically chocolate, cream and butter - replace the butter with bacon fat, did we? I think so.

The result? In my estimation, there's a well balanced flavor all the way through - savory dark chocolate, a little salt, a little smokiness, with some bacon undertones that hold it all together without overpowering it all. I had some coworkers try it, though, and some were outright repulsed, stating it was too bacon-y/too weird/too out there. There was more love than hate - one of them called his bite "piggy crack", while another one cracked a smile and declared his unabated happiness for the first time in three years I've known him, but I did get a few pretty adamant thumbs down as well.

As for Sandy....she'll be one of the few in the middle, I think. "It's not bad, but I wish this were more like a Nestle Crunch, with bigger bits of crunchy bacon, instead of like a Caramello," she said. I agree, more crunch would have been a welcome addition...but I really, really like how the flavors all came together that it's hard for me to argue too ardently. I haven't been this excited about a debut of a new Trader Joe's product in possibly all of eternity, and by in large, the bacon bar lived up to the hype I made up in my mind. I'm going 4.5, while the wife is going a few notches below.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trader Joe's Israeli Couscous

Prior to spying this box on the shelves of a local TJ's, I wasn't aware of the existence of Israeli couscous. Regular couscous, yes. But I didn't know this other special version existed. Otherwise known as "pearl couscous" for it's shiny, spherical form, this type of couscous is popular in—you guessed it—Israel, where it is known as "ptitim." 

And since I'm fond of celebrating my 1/16th or so Jewishness, as I've mentioned before, I decided this inexpensive box ($2) of grain/pasta was a suitable selection for my next misadventure in foodie-hackery.

I was about to heat up the saucepan on the stove top when Sonia stopped me and encouraged me to go tend to our animal friends while she did the cooking. I'm pretty sure that's a subtle commentary on my culinary abilities, but she insisted that she just felt like cooking. And wow. Not only did she cook the couscous properly with a bit of olive oil, but she made a whole lovely Mediterranean-themed meal, complete with cucumber salad, hummus, and meat, as shown in the pic to the right.

Strangely, I enjoyed this "Ben-Gurion rice" significantly more than any normal couscous I'd ever had, while Sonia expressed the reverse. I liked the larger size, chewier texture, and lightly nutty flavor of these, while I've always felt as if regular couscous were just a notch above seasoned sawdust. Sonia just prefers her couscous smaller and less chewy I guess. Or maybe she's just not as in touch with her inner-Jew.

It's cheap, shelf-stable, kosher, vegetarian, and relatively high in fiber. It's most definitely not gluten-free...and it's not exactly a party food by itself. But it goes great with vegetables, hummus, fish, or poultry. If you're looking for a wheat-based alternative to rice or regular couscous, I've gotta say, I'm a fan. Four stars from me. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Trader Joe's Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies

Hrmmm, let's see. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Indiana, California, Utah, and now Michigan. Sandy and I have started a somewhat odd tradition of checking out Trader Joe's in different states when we have the chance just, well, because, I guess. As Pennsylvania residents under the regime of olden blue laws, there's some obvious privileges to out of state trips (especially NJ), but that's not completely it, either. There's the little, smaller differences, the unexpected stuff that makes it a little fun. Prime example: our trip to the Salt Lake City store seemed like it'd be ho-hum until it turned into perhaps our most memorable ever (you can hear the full story on our first podcast episode here!). Or sometimes it's just finding stuff that the local TJ's don't carry, like my favorite store bought tortillas which every TJ's except Pittsburgh carries, apparently.

We tacked Michigan on to our list with a stop at the Royal Oak store last week right before a Detroit Tigers - Pittsburgh Pirates game to grab a quick bite without being gouged at the stadium* and to procure some goodies to keep our adult and kiddie tummies happy for the night and next day for the way back home. Huuuge store there, biggest I've been in - almost the size of a regular grocery store! A stroll through the baked goods revealed the Trader Joe's Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies, and having never seen them anywhere else, we couldn't resist.

An excellent call. I've always been a sucker for those Little Debbie oatmeal creme cookies, and these are in a very similar vein, except better. The cookie portion is a pretty classic carrot cake confection - shredded carrots, with some ample raisins and I swear there walnuts in there, too, even though they are not listed on the ingredients list....maybe I'm making that up, but if nuts are a concern, doublecheck before buying these. Of course, since the cookie has to do it's part to hold together with some cream filling, it's a little more rigid of a texture to the bite than regular carrot cake, but still, it's soft and chewy and fairly delectable in its brown sugary-cinnamony-carroty goodness. The sweet vanilla cream filling is pretty good and refreshing, as kind of an odd choice, perhaps. There's part of me that would have really liked more of a cream cheese frosting filler, but that'd make a pairing that's been done over and over again, so I'd like to say that vanilla was an inspired choice...but it's vanilla. Granted, it's really good vanilla, and definitely sweet, and melds well with the carrot cake cookies, but if going for something different than the tried-and-true. go all out. Maybe something like butterscotch and pecans. Vanilla's playing it pretty safe, I guess.

Speaking of nuts, that's what the product name drives me. There's nothing "inside out" about these cookies....because primarily, first and foremost, IT"S A COOKIE. Sandwich cookies are supposed to be exactly of the same structure as these - cookie outside, cream filling. It's cake inspired, and not a cake, where it's the frosting on the outside and cake inside the frosting. Maybe they were just naming these as "inside out" cookies in some sort of weird attempt to get a crossover marketing ploy with Eve 6, I don't know.

Anyways, the wife, the toddler, and I all greatly enjoyed these cookies. The six pack cost us something like three or four bucks, which for a bunch of tasty cookies the size of these is a pretty good deal. I mean, look at the picture...these are big cookies with a huge swath of filling. On a few occasions I had only half of one, which was more than enough. Sandy gives them a four, noting she also wishes the filling was a different flavor while acknowledging its tastiness, while I concur with her assessment completely. just hope we don't have to drive back to Michigan to find them again.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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* Quick note: Comerica Park - what a stadium! I've been to at least a dozen different ballparks now, some of them pretty ho-hum (like Nationals Stadium in DC or Citizens Bank Park in Philly), while Comerica Park rivals maybe only PNC Park here in the 'burgh for overall awesomeness. Loved the tiger statues, and as a family we also really enjoyed the carousel and baseball Ferris wheel. PNC Park has a clear location/viewing advantage - from inside the stadium you can easily look out over the Allegheny River, the Clemente bridge, and right into downtown Pittsburgh where when the evening light hits it just right, it looks unreal. Kinda better than just glaring at Ford Field. - but other than that, and some hometown pride, Comerica is just as good if not better.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Trader Joe's Vegan Tikka Masala

It's never been the taste of vegetarian or vegan foods that's kept me from swearing off animal products entirely. It's primarily the cost and lack of availability of viable meat-free alternatives. And although arguments can be made that vegetarian diets may even be cheaper than meatful diets, we're a long ways off from being able to purchase meat-free corn dogs from the average street vendor or chickenless nuggets from the Mickey D's on the corner.

That being said, Trader Joe's is one of those rare places where meaty foods and meatless foods are pretty much on a level playing field. There are plenty of options in both camps, and strict vegetarians probably don't feel like they're missing out on all that much. This product is a prime example. TJ's is a great place for meat eaters to discover that Meatless Mondays won't kill them—or that they can be "part time vegans." In fact, we've already reviewed a vegetarian tikka masala dish on this blog, as well as a non-vegetarian one.

Like the previous two tikka masala dishes, this one has some amazing sauce. It's full of Indian spices and flavor, it's creamy, and it's mildly hot. It's almost as good as masala sauce I've had from actual Indian restaurants. The rice is your basic basmati—the kind we usually see in these frozen Indian dishes from TJ's—flavored with oil and cumin, and as always, it blends very well with the sauce and other elements. 

The vegan meat substitute was fairly neutral in flavor, which allowed the sauce to be the dominant taste of the dish. If anything, the vegan chunks tasted just ever so slightly soy-ish, with a breadiness about them as well. It wasn't an unpleasant flavor at all—on the contrary, it was delicate and satisfying, despite a decided lack of potency. 

Texture-wise, the meatless chunks did a decent job of imitating white meat chicken pieces, if but perhaps a mite bit more chewy—certainly not to the point that I would complain. In fact, I've definitely had actual chicken that was far more rubbery than this on more than one occasion. I should note at this point that I did heat my entree in the microwave, although conventional oven instructions are given. Even though I've become far more proficient at traditional cooking in the past few years, my rule of thumb is that if it comes in a plastic tray with clear film on top, I'll go ahead and nuke it...or if I'm really hungry and don't want to wait the extra 20 minutes. In this case, it was both.

$3.49 at our local TJ's, six minutes in the microwave, and a reasonable calorie count for tikka masala...this gets a thumbs up from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

Marriage is a great thing. Certainly, it can be challenging, but usually, for Sandy and me, at least, it can be pretty funny. Especially the things we squabble about. As of the night I am writing this, we have been married for 2049 days. This means that at least 2000 times, Sandy has glared and me and growled "You know, I WILL organize the pots and pans cupboard, and YOU WILL learn to put them away properly." The only days she hasn't said this: vacations, Christmas, anniversaries, one or two of my birthdays, the days our kids were born, and a random Tuesday in 2012. This morning, when I got the traditional stinkeye yet again for just tossing something in wherever, I can't help but look at her and smile as she got madder and madder. "It isn't funny!" she exclaimed as she walked across the room to give me a well-deserved peg in the arm. Of course this just made me laugh harder, which finally got her to crack. Love it.

Another thing I did that made her mad recently: I ate her baggie of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds. Didn't matter it had been in the fridge for two weeks and I thought I made the safe assumption she had forgotten about it. Didn't matter that, when busted, I was hard at work patching up the plaster on our third floor so it'll soon be the TV/family room. She wanted her bath with her book, her iced water and her chocolate almonds, and HOW DARE I deprive her of that. Guilty.

Eh well. These are some pretty tasty little choco-nutties, well worth the spousal ire I drew. That being said, they're pretty straightforward, without any fancy little wrinkles. Chances are, if you're imagining a typical dark chocolate almond, that's exactly what these TJ offerings taste like. There's a thin soft coat of bittersweet chocolate enveloping each crunchy nut, presenting a smooth bite that's pretty palatably pleasing. To my taste, the chocolate seems a lot more sweet than bitter, but I've grown pretty accustomed to the super dark stuff, going as far as beginning to enjoy raw cocoa nibs, so my scale might be a little off from yours. Regardless, for a potent little snack that satisfies some candy craving with some protein oomph to keep you going, it's tough to beat these, especially for just 99 cents.

Quick word: Nuts + dark chocolate = lots of fat and calories. Including saturated. These are no exception. My take: I've lost significant weight in the past year on a Paleo diet, which these kinda almost fit into, sort of. It depends on what camp you put dark chocolate in - I give it a pass. Not once in the past year have I sat down and counted calories or doublechecked how much fat I'd eaten in one day, and there's been numerous times I've had more than the couple handfuls of almonds or more chocolate than what's covering these nuts in a day. If the fat and calories concern you, make note and choose consumption accordingly. But for me I don't consider them a dietbreaker, or even that much of a cheat, as long as (like anything else) I consume them in moderation.

Anyways, both Sandy and I love them, and to try and keep the peace, last shopping trip I bought four bags of them, two for me, two for her. So far, so good. I might even be nice and share my last bag with her, especially when she starts up about those pots and pans again. Distraction is key for survival. Double fours from us.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons