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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread

Pumpkin spice? Where we're going, we don't need pumpkin spice.

*flips down sunglasses*

Yes, yes, I's that time of year. As sure as the turning of leaves and late summer into early fall, here come all the social media posts about pumpkin spice this and that and everything else conceivable. I see them all over the TJ's fan pages. I don't blame you...but I just can't join you. Not that huge a fan.

Give me maple all day every day instead. And if you can, give it to me as the new Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread. 

Oh. Mah. Goodness.

Let's not deceive ourselves here. There's nothing healthy about this. Even I cringed a bit looking at the nutritional stats the first time, and I'm no prude. Nor is maple truly an autumnal flavoring - mapling season runs late winter into early spring.

But still. Everything about this maple bread evokes fall. Warm up a slice and taste for yourself. Warm gooey maple ribbons, brown sugar swirls, maple glaze with buttery streusel around the perimeter, densely decadent dough with a hint of mild maple...oh man. Sensory overload. It's like every slice is a syrup-logged piece of French toast, except of being soggy and limp, it's dry bread. It's amazing.

And so, so rich. The first slice was so amazing I had to go back for more. About halfway thru the second, I questioned my judgement. Literally, this stuff sits like a brick in your gut. For a quick and easy breakfast-y kinda deal, I truly appreciate that to keep me going. Pick it up and you'll feel it - the loaf feels way more chunky than it looks.

I mentioned French toast. This streusel bread would probably also make awesome French toast, but man, it tastes so good as is I didn't try that yet. But I will. Ohhhhh I will.

No complaints from me. None. There's almost even a homemade quality to it that I'd love to try and pass off as my own. Your unscrupulous Aunt Millie just might. Sandy loved it as well, though she noted she wished it had even more maple. She's a mapleholic though on the level of Buddy the Elf.

It's $3.99 a loaf which strikes me as a very fair deal. And like squirrels readying themselves for winter, you better bet we'll be stocking up for a long winter ahead. Y'all stick to your pumpkin spice, we'll be quite happy, thank ya.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maple Streusel Bread: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Pita Chips with Sea Salt

There are instances in life when classic potato chips just won't cut it. Likewise, there's a time and place for tortilla chips...and a time and place to refrain from the consumption of tortilla chips. To everything, turn, turn.

Enter: the pita chip. Thicker, denser, more rigid than its commonplace counterparts, the pita chip has long been a friend of middle eastern condiments like hummus, tzatziki, and zhoug, as the back of this packaging suggests. 

But if there was ever an All-American pita chip, this is it. Made with wheat flour, these pita chips are thick, strong, and crunchy. They'd go great with dense cheddar cheese dips, onion dips, or, as Sonia and I can personally attest, spinach dips.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the product picture in the middle of this review is actually the exact same picture we used for the spinach dip review, although each is cropped differently, as you might have noticed.

We did also try these chips with some non-Trader Joe's hummus. Sonia has been purchasing little single serving packages of Sabra hummus as of late, and they go great with that stuff, too. I just feel like they were born to be paired with that spinach dip for some reason.

There's a fair amount of sodium in these bad boys. But hey, it's sea salt, right? Sea salt doesn't raise your blood pressure, does it? Actually it does. 

And that might be my biggest complaint about these chips. There's too much salt, and I'm not sure it helps the taste all that much. That rich bready flavor and big dramatic crunch are the reasons we'd possibly purchase this offering again. There's not many ingredients, and a thick and rigid texture. 

$2.29 for six ounces of snacky satisfaction. Not a bad value, either. Double fours here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers

Coming late a Trader Joe's near you...from the same geniuses who brought you Scandinavian Swimmers comes a new gummy snack!

Pucker's Trader Joe's Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers!

It's time to dive in!

Okay, that was kinda lame intro, but try reading it in the movie trailer voice, so a little deep, booming, and dramatic, and think of this new yummy gummy offering as yet another summer sequel or remake of a classic

And yes, I still chuckle at the name too.

But yeah, if you're familiar with the regular swimmers and are looking for a slightly sour twist, these are the snack for you, no doubt.

Notice I didn't say "super sour," unlike the product name. Slightly sour. Mildly sour. Like, not really all that sour. For reals.

Perhaps Sour Patch Kids aren't the be-all-end-all of sour candies, but they're a good benchmark. These Scandy swimmers are nowhere close. You know how your mouth will hurt and lips sting once too many SPKs have passed them by? That's an impossibility here - the fishies just aren't potent enough.

Like SPKs, the TJ's sour swimmies use crystallized citric acid as the souring agent on the outside. The granules here aren't nearly as big and aren't quite as densely populated. The end result is a rather mild sour effect - it almost ventures more towards tangy than sour. Oh well.

Aside from that, there's a lot to like here. The gummies are soft and inviting, a little chewy, and definitely not stiff. The flavors are kinda fun, though I had to look them up - redberry starfish, (which taste like any red candy) huckleberry dolphins (I would've guessed blue raspberry), orange tangfish (spot on), and strawberry clam shells (a red berry that is different from a redberry, apparently). Yummy and gummy, just how I like my candies. And as always, added bonus of no weird chemicals and artificial colors - just fruit and veggies. Regrettably, also palm oil though. Nothing's perfect.

So in short, there's definitely blockbuster potential here, but like many summer movies, the end product just might not live completely up to the hype. Still enjoyable though. And for $2.99, definitely a good buy. Maybe sneak them into the movies. Paying full retail at the concession stand would definitely be the sourest experience of all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Sour Cream Spinach Dip

Even if the weather hasn't changed much, Labor Day has come and gone, and football season is underway here in America. The Skins already have a loss under their belt and my fantasy team is in last place. Oh well. Even if the games are driving me crazy, at least I can enjoy fall beers, chips, and dip on game day.

And this is a decent game day dip. It's super thick and creamy, full of spinach, and isn't half bad tasting. At 80 calories per serving, it's pretty normal as far as spinach dips go in the nutrition info department.

It pairs perfectly with pita chips. The thickness and rigidity of a pita chip helps the dipping situation here. We had the dip with tortilla chips, too, but they tended to break apart as you'd pull them out of the tub. This stuff is simply too thick for traditional chips. I mean, with some care, it can be done, but it's much easier with something a little more on the hefty side. Also, the breadiness of the pita chips complements the sour cream flavor a little better than tortilla chips, in our opinions.

The spinach is plentiful throughout. It's not intrusive, texture-wise. You can taste it to some degree, but it, of course, plays second fiddle to the tangy sour cream flavor. I wouldn't have minded a bit more in the spice department. To be honest, I don't even know what spices go in a good spinach dip. Some more garlic and/or pepper flavor here couldn't have hurt. Sonia thinks the mix is nearly perfect the way it is.

Upon ruminating about this particular condiment, another classic Trader Joe's spinach dip comes to mind: Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip. It's been a hot minute since we've had that one, but I do remember it being surprisingly good for only 30 calories per serving. The Greek yogurt provided nearly the same amount of tanginess, and the kale...well, the kale at least makes it sound like it's really good for you.

This one isn't quite as fancy or "Trader Joe-ish," but it was a big hit with Sonia. I'll give it a thumbs up as well, but I'm not sure it really stands out that much compared to other spinach dips. $3.49 for ten servings. I'm sure it could be used in recipes for cooking and whatnot. 

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Lemonade

Please excuse the slightly disheveled shape the box of Trader Joe's Organic Lemonade pouches is up top of this review. I salvaged it as best I could. You see, my kids drink pretty much only water and milk, with the occasional hot chocolate or fizzy water. Oh, and my four year old likes the last sip of my coffee too...even though I drink it black...weird.

Point is, drinks like this are a downright treat. And when playing in a creek at a picnic with a bunch of friends, when these punchy pouches get busted out, there were shrieks of joy. 

Personally, I've never liked the idea of beverages in pouches. I get it from the ecological standpoint but there's too many bad memories of stained and ruined, CapriSun-soaked Champion shorts from my youth. Seriously, I know of no kid who can do these themselves. I just turned 37 and can barely manage it, can anyone really expect the under-10 crowd to?

But anyways, for what it is, this TJ's lemonade is decent. It's not awesome but not awful either. The comparative competition isn't really all the delicious fresh squeezed juices out there, or those you can make for yourself...I mean, this is from concentrate and all that. It's all the other juice boxes on the shelf, with which I'm not well acquainted with current offerings.

The lemonade itself is pretty well balanced. There's plenty of citric lemonosity but enough sugar to keep it all in check without being overly tart. And there's not that much added sugar, I don't think, for being what it is. It's smooth, pulp free, and can definitely be a touch refreshing. There's no sticky sweetness or odd aftertaste or anything. It works.

I'd prefer lemonade more on the tart side, with the pulp and what not, but something tells me as the middle aged guy in this conversation that I'm not the target audience here. Yeah, at the aforementioned picnic, I was more after the adult beverages while trying to ensure no one was in danger of drowning. I'm not 100% sure of the price on these, as a friend of ours brought them in, but probably in the $4ish range for eight pouches. Correct me if I'm wrong please. All the kids at the picnic liked them enough for me to give 'em a score higher than I would otherwise.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Lemonade: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, September 6, 2019

Trader Joe's Chocolate Peanut Butter Light Ice Cream

After posting our review of the Light Cookies & Cream ice cream flavor, a number of readers asserted that this Peanut Butter Chocolate version was even better. So, naturally, we had to check it out ourselves.

I'll give you the TL;DR up front—I agree with those readers, Sonia does not. 

I've always had an affinity for peanut butter, most peanut butter flavored products, and definitely any ice cream that can work the luscious, protein and good-fat-rich, creamy, buttery, legumey goodness of peanut butter into its mix in any sort of competent manner. Sonia likes peanut butter okay, but isn't particularly fond of peanut butter in her ice cream. Fair enough.

I also think peanut butter lends itself to this "protein shake in my ice cream" vibe that these light ice creams are throwing our way, or at least it works better with peanut butter than it does with sandwich cookies. I will never in a million years make the assertion that ANY of these diet ice creams even come close to the real thing, but I must admit the calorie count is dramatically lower than a pint of the full-calorie stuff.

This ice cream flaunts a rich chocolate look to it—it's a deep brown, nearly appearing like brownie batter. Each bite has plenty of chocolate flavor, and to a lesser extent, peanut butter. But there are ribbons of actual peanut butter throughout. Those bites are my favorite. There's a huge amount of peanut butter taste when you find those hidden caches of cold, stiff peanut butter that rapidly soften and melt in your mouth. My only complaint with this flavor is that there's not quite enough peanut butter. Sonia disagrees.

I'd put this very high in the running for best light ice cream flavor I've ever had, and if you're an ice cream hog like I am, you're only looking at 370 calories for the entire container. On the other hand, if I were seriously counting calories, I'd probably just get a pint of Chubby Hubby and eat it in two sittings instead of one. Still this gets a big thumbs up from me. Four stars.

Three from Sonia, who insists the Cookies & Cream one is better.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative

As a general rule, my lovely bride Sandy and I don't talk about or share pictures of our kids on social media too often, if ever. Yeah, it is kinda fun and occasionally therapeutic to make those kinda posts, but we kinda want a little privacy for them. If my folks were to make a digital diary of everything I ever did as a kid....*shudder*. I mean, even some of the stuff I wore  - fashionable at the time, now cringe worthy. If my grandma were still with us, she'd be sure to read this then find a picture of me in my old super baggy hooded t shirt with the the vertical thick purple and white stripes and matching purple shorts as I looked "so handsome in my purple suit."

But I will share this: *one* of our kiddos who shall remain nameless online has a dairy issue. Too much milk and this particular rugrat has some digestive issues the next day where this kiddo cannot, well, go. It stops 'em up. But of course like any youngyin, this kiddo loves cheese. So whatcha gonna do?

Check out Trader Joy's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative, that's what.

I'll never personally like any alternative cheese product as much as the real thing, but for what they are, these slices aren't too bad. Think Kraft Single, and that's a decent approximation. Is a Kraft Single necessarily good cheese? Nah. Are they good compared to some? Sure.

And does it melt? Like Velveeta.

Interestingly, these soy boys refused to melt atop the burgers I made the other night. Flat out wouldn't. But when Sandy made both grilled cheese and quesadillas with them, they turned into practical pools of oozing yellow.

In any event, the cheez is what it is: mild,a touch salty, soft, cheddar-like enough. Not super high quality but not awful either. Our kids like 'em enough. I will say if packing for a snack or on the go and they get a little warm, these slices do tend to sweat quite a bit and get a little slimy, so there's that.

It is worth it to note that while being 99% lactose free (and therefore neutral to our kiddo's digestive tract), there is casein as an ingredient, so these would be worth avoiding still if an issue for you. And they are not vegan or vegetarian either.

For about $3 it's a fair price and given the needs of our kids, I'm sure we'll buy these often. It is kinda nice to have a dairy/lactose almost-free cheese option that's a veritable slice and not just shreds. In short, these slices suit us just fine. Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soy Slices Cheese Alternative: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons