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Friday, January 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Honeycrisp Apple Juice Beverage

When I lived in Hollyweird, California, I worked right next door to the historic Egyptian Theatre. A couple friends I knew from back east were headed there to watch a screening of a film called The Apple, so I decided to check it out with them. At the time, I'd never heard of it. Apparently, it's a cult classic, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's at least as weird as Rocky Horror and maybe half as watchable. The theater was filled with costumed fanatics of the 1980 production, along with the already colorful denizens of Hollywood Boulevard. It would be a night to remember.

You have to really be in the mood to watch something laughably awful if you want to try to sit through The Apple. It takes place in the super futuristic year of 1994 and involves outlandish outfits and absurd musical sing-alongs. The interactive freak show at The Egyptian helped me stay awake through the entire 92 minutes of the film, and fortunately, I managed to leave the theater with only moderately damp clothes and most of my dignity still intact.


At the time, we were able to bring our own refreshments into the venue. I don't remember what I brought, but if I'd have had any of these little cans of pure delight on hand, I'd have definitely put a couple in my cargo pockets and sipped on them throughout the movie—both because they would have fit with the whole "apple" theme...and because they're scrumptious.

Although we've seen some outstanding honeycrisp cider from Trader Joe's in the past, these little beauties are honeycrisp juice mixed with carbonated water. Although "carbon dioxide" and "water" are separated in the ingredients list for some reason, there are essentially only two ingredients to this beverage. And that's all it needs.


The sweetness level is tempered by the water, which you might expect, but the beverage is still satisfyingly sweet. It's light and refreshing as can be. This product is reminiscent of Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Juice, but it comes in single serving cans rather than bottles. We didn't apply our mixological inclinations to this beverage on this go around, but I'm guessing it would make a killer appletini with some apple bourbon and vodka.

At $3.99, it's just about exactly a dollar per can, with exactly 100 calories per can. We highly recommend picking up a box when it returns in the fall. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers

Well, here's yet another installment in our somewhat occasional series which I casually call "Oh-Crud-It's-Late-and-I-Need-To-Write-Something-But-We've-Had-Nothing-New-or-Exciting-Recently-That-Hasn't-Been-Reviewed-And-I'm-Too-Tired-And/or-Full-To-Go-to-TJ's-And-I-Could-Do-That-Hot-Truffle-Sauce-Except-I-Never-Want-To-Touch-It-Again-Except-To-Pitch-It-and-That's-Not-It's-Fault-It-Makes-Me-Ill-I'm-Sure-It's-Actually-Quite-Good-But-Not-For-Me-Thanks-Body-What-Else-Do-I-Have-OOOOOOO-Pantry-Staples-FTW."

Clearly it's still a work in progress. 

I'm not particularly amped to write up a review of Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers. I mean...multigrain crackers. Appreciably, they're without hyphen between multi and grain, unlike my intro there. But what is there to really say?

Well, here goes. With a bunch of young kids cramped up in the house, gotta feed them, continually, except not after midnight, like gremlins. They all love what we call "snacky lunch" which is basically deli meat, sliced cheese, crackers, milk, and fruit/veggies. They DEVOUR that. And sometimes that's just our dinner option too for low effort/everyone happy nights. And of course, snacks all day long. Our youngest one munches her way from alarm clock turning green to night night tuck in. So...in other words, we eat a lot of crackers around here, and always need a box on call. 

Is it always TJ"s multigrain crackers? Likely nah, but to be honest I couldn't tell you for sure. I feel like we always have them around, though, ready to go. So maybe? 

And if not maybe we should. I just had a few, actually trying to taste them and not just take them for granted. And (un)surprisingly, they're actually pretty good! There's a lot of earthy grainy goodness, with a touch of onion and salt, sweetened a smidge with added sugar (could do without that), all wrapped up in a light, crispy, crunchy, perfectly snacky cracker. I can see why my kids like them by the handful, and why we're always pairing with some cheddar or dip or even some peanut butter. It's a pretty delicious, vaguely healthyish little disc that serves enough purpose on its own but will happy be a vehicle for whatever else you want to cram on in. 

Couldn't tell you the precise price but I doubt it's more than $3. Inexpensive, high quality, healthyish and tasty - yeah there's no little "Trader Joe's-y" twist to them, but those mentioned values are always at the top of TJ's priorities, and my family's as well when it comes to noshing. So, good work once again, TJ's. The crackers aren't world changing, but keep a box around as we do. You should never take a classic for granted. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 
 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Misal Curry

I've always been fascinated with maps and geography. It's also interesting how places and groups of people got their names. I'm in awe that we can still refer to islands in the Caribbean as "the West Indies" based on the erroneous assumption that 15th and 16th century explorers found an alternate route from Europe to India.

"Man, I'm jonesin' for some authentic Indian curry. Let's try going in the opposite direction and see if we get to India faster." Great work, guys. You were only off by literally 15,000 miles.

Nowadays, we take frozen Indian food at the grocery store completely for granted, along with myriad other international cuisines. We truly don't know how good we have it. And I'm not saying that this dish or any of Trader Joe's other frozen selections are quite as good as anything you'd actually be served in India, or even a half decent Indian restaurant here in the states—what I'm saying is the accessibility factor along with the relatively authentic taste is something I'm truly grateful for, and it seems petty and frivolous to file any complaints at all about this miracle of modern convenience.


So for that reason, let's start with everything positive about this dish. It's vegan. That's good. I'm not vegan, but it's nice to not have to eat animals or animal products at each and every meal. It's actually spicy. Heck yes. So many curry products are totally lacking in the heat department. We're not talking five alarm fire type heat in this case, but there's definitely some kick to this curry. I'd put it just above half way on a spice-o-meter.

Finally, it's super easy to prepare. Six minutes in the microwave and you're good to go. It's not super fattening or calorific in the grand scheme of things, either. A lot of curry dishes can really pack a punch in that department.

The "brown rice" is kinda purple. I don't know if I've seen purple rice before. It tasted fine, although the texture was just a bit spongy. If you're not into beans, then the texture of the misal might not be your thing, either. Sonia thought the curry itself had too many "al dente" beans. Spongy rice and both squishy and firm beans made the texture my least favorite aspect of this curry. That might be a function of the beans used. There are "sprouted moth beans" and "white peas," neither of which I'm familiar with.


Some curries can be kind of sweet. This one isn't at all. It's earthy, beany, and spicy. Although there are multiple coconut ingredients in the product, I didn't taste much coconut at all.

It's actually a "product of India." I guess that makes it more authentic...? But also I'm not sure how we don't have the ingredients to make it in this country, or you know, at least in this hemisphere. For $2.29, it doesn't seem like the meal's cost has been influenced much by its trip around the globe. 

Score-wise, I think we're looking at something like double 3.5's.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend

There's no other way to say it, except that 2020 was very much a mixed bag for us. In retrospect, and even now, it's apparent how fortunate my family and I were amidst everything going on, as we remained pretty much at home, pretty much safe. It was definitely not an easy time to be parents of young kids, as my lovely bride and I are, with the myriad of challenges presented, with little outlet. The pool we swam at every day last summer? Not open. Vacations and trips to our favorite amusement park? Not happening. Heck, even going and getting ice cream presents some challenges. 

One good thing I'll take from last year is the revelation that not only I can cook, but it's actually pretty easy and I enjoy it. Lots of time at home gave a lot of time for smoking, grilling, fermenting, baking. Got a lot of new kitchen goodies, too, and finally figured out how to effectively use the cast iron. 

It's January now, of course, and a new year and quite a bit colder out, with some of the same challenges in place. But we still need to eat, and I still like cooking, and it gives me a lot of joy when I have a new inspiration to work with. Sounds cheesy but true, and it's what I got. 

So when there's something like Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend debuting, I'm all in. And that's a good thing...

...'cause man, this stuff is legit. I don't mean legit as in 100% authentic to Cuban cuisine, because I'll be honest and admit I haven't ever had the real deal. Hope that changes someday soon. 

Back to the seasoning. Just open it up and waft some of the aroma on over. It's vibrant and bright and alluring, with a little depth that makes it clear it can back up its promises. I sprinkled some on my hand to take an unadulterated taste and it tastes like all of that  - so much lime and orange, and garlic, and with some cumin and black pepper to add just a little bit of spice. Other herbs like bay leaf and cilantro add a bit of body without trying to steal the show. it's a bit complex, but vibrant and delicious, without too much spices and scarcely any salt. See, I told you - it's legit. 

Made a "Cuban-style bowl" the other night that you can see - chicken thighs, avocado, fried plantains, black beans, spinach and rice. My lovely bride mixed in a hearty dose of the TJ Cuban spice with the rice, and then I added a good dose atop with some fresh squeezed lime. Oh man. Easy and delicious. And that's just our first foray with the spice - I can imagine more chicken, rice, fish and pork dishes I can make with the spice. I don't think the experience would translate as well to red meat, but I'm willing to be wrong if you know for sure otherwise. 

"It tastes like sunshine," says my lovely bride. Not sure I could say it better myself, and thankful for every aspect of that sentence and sentiment and source on a cold January day. And heck, even our kiddos liked it. Go on out and give it a try for $1.99. Sure to have no regrets. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Muesli

I must have been about seven or eight years old at the time, but I remember seeing this random cereal commercial that captivated me for some reason. Most advertisements aimed at my age group employed colorful cartoon animals, goofy music, and dippy, childish tag lines, but this TV ad was different. There were European-looking people walking through old villages, misty vineyards and farm fields, and a gravelly-voiced narrator talking about wholesome foods and centuries old traditions.

As Sonia and I chomped away on this Trader Joe's Muesli for breakfast the other day, I tried to describe the commercial to her. I remembered it was "mueslix" with an "x" at the end but wasn't sure of the brand. Sonia didn't remember any such commercial from that era, so I set out to find it on the web so I could not only show it to her, but test the accuracy of my memory from 30+ years ago.

I found it in a matter of seconds. Here it is. Kellogg's Mueslix—which, apparently, they still make. Do any of you remember that commercial? It piqued my curiosity about "mueslix" or "muesli" and stuck with me for decades. It's almost exactly as I'd recalled it.


I'm fairly certain I've had Kellogg's Mueslix a few times in my life, as well as at least one other brand. This Trader Joe's version is pretty much on par with all the other mueslis, with perhaps a few changes and unique aspects. I like the use of "caramelized pear juice concentrate" as a sweetener. It's used subtly here. This cereal is not overly sweet at all. In fact, I wouldn't mind just a hint more of that pear juice as well as larger and more plentiful dried apple pieces. The raisins are represented adequately, however. I feel like dried apple pieces are a little bit more exciting than raisins, though, but I won't really complain.

I like pumpkin seeds okay, but wasn't thrilled to find them in this mix here. Sliced almonds were welcome but too scarce in my opinion. There's honestly just too much of the plain old oats. I mean, oats are great and all, but they need a little something to make them more exciting. We're not horses here, Trader Joe's. Also, I'm not sure coconut shavings belong in muesli. They seem a bit too exotic and out of place for something old-timey European folks could just grab out of a barrel and throw into their breakfast melange.


This muesli works as a plain cold cereal with milk or you can add it to yogurt and whatever to create some decent overnight oats. I'm sure it would be okay mixed with oat milk and heated in the manner of traditional oatmeal, too, although we declined to try it that way. If it's not quite sweet enough for you, it would mix well with a spoonful of honey or two.

It cost in the ballpark of four dollars if memory serves correctly. Can't find the receipt at the moment. The wifey liked it significantly more than I did. Three stars from me. Four from her.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips

It's 2021 and yet my pet thought, the Chocolate Gum Theory, is still not a thing. C'mon people.

It's been mentioned on here before from time to time, so if you're familiar, feel free to skip the next paragraph or so. It's all a primer for those who aren't. So if you're still with me, gird up, it's time for an education. 

It's a very simple theory. Chocolate is good, right? So is gum. But what happens if you put those two things together? It's...not good. Basically put, the Chocolate Gum Theory states that combinations of things, even good ones, can be less than the sum of their parts. Like...chocolate and cheddar. Salmon and jerky. Babies and pocket knives. Stuff like that. Somewhat related is the Bowie/Mercury Corollary that states two great things when combined can be even greater, while the Bowie/Jagger Corollary reminds us they can be much....much....much less. 

Okay, are we all back together? That's the best. And on to today's subject, Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips.

EBTB! So hot right now. Not familiar? You should be. It's an everything bagel sans bagel. It's awesome. And who can resist a perfectly crunchy, delicious kettle chip? I sure can't, so put them together, and we gonna be Under Pressure (good) or Dancing in the Street (not so much)?

Sadly, it's the latter.

I've (literally) spent some time chewing on this to try and determine what the crux of the matter is, because simply put, these chips should be good but just aren't. The issue seems two fold. First, there's this oddly overly oleic taste and feel to the chips. I mean, even by kettle chip standards. I think it'd stand out regardless of flavor. Looking over the ingredients, maybe it's the sesame oil that adds on that little extra that turns it into too much? While not absolutely repulsive, the experience isn't enjoyable either.

And secondly, perhaps, everything seasoning isn't really meant for literally everything. There has to be a proper vehicle for it to be experienced correctly. Part of the appeal of an everything bagel is that the seasoning has a chance to permeate and enhance a warm, chewy, doughy bagel. Here it's a crunchy chip, and without some sort of fuller embodiment to spread its wings, the taste seems overly condensed and artificial. Like, the garlic seems waaaaay too funky on ours, and everything else is a tad bit overkill. On a bagel it'd probably work, but not here. Which is too bad, I love crunchy kettle chips, but with everything going on here it's a hard pass from here on out.

Not gonna lie, I picked up two bags of 'em hoping they'd be great. It took our chip-munchin'-mad fam four days to consume the first, mostly by me out of duty to this here blog. None of us are excited about the second. Might even return, along with the truffle hot sauce I got a month or more ago and can't consume enough of to properly judge as it makes me feel literally ill. There's so many better chips out in the TJ's aisle, spend your $2.49 on something else that'd treat you right.

My lovely bride is much more into the TJ's social media than we are, and it seems our thoughts align with most others publicly stated. If you like 'em, awesome, you get on with your bad self, but maybe stock up as I can see these being pulled due to unpopularity. Or, as always, I could be completely wrong. Except Chocolate Gum Theory, that's true and proven once again here. Just bleh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips: 2 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cookie Sticks

Personally, if it were me designing the cover art for this product's packaging, I would have gone with a narwhal. Narwhals are the only animals with a tusk that has a girth to length ratio comparable to these cookie sticks. They're very long and very thin, hence the moniker "sticks" as opposed to "bars," "batons," or "fingers."

If I were instructed by my creative director to steer clear of narwhals for some reason—perhaps they're too freakish looking for a box of cookie sticks, or they carry connotations of cold climates and frigid waters, or they're just too cumbersome-looking in general—the next obvious choice is a unicorn, right? I mean, they're not real, and their horns are significantly shorter than these sticks in relation to their thickness, but at least everybody knows they're fun mythical animals with horns coming out of their heads.

Instead, Trader Joe's packaging artists decided upon a zebra-like animal to grace the cover of this cylindrical container. Regular zebras don't even have horns. Only unicorns do. So, logically, this would be a zebracorn. What's a zebracorn, you ask? It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a zebra and a unicorn mixed...bred for its skills in magic.


You feel me?

The tubular box is unique. There's a tab around the middle that you tear off and then the top separates so you can access the cookie sticks, and it slips right back onto the bottom when you're done. It's not air-tight, though, so it does little to prevent exposure. We found the sticks got stale in fairly short order. 

Even on day one, they weren't exactly show-stoppers. There's a lightly sweet and salty bread as a base and a semi-sweet dark chocolate coating. They tasted fine to both of us, but we weren't blown away. We tried dipping them in coffee, but they don't retain the liquid very well. They're vaguely crunchy, nearly pretzel-esque, texture-wise. It's a nice mouthfeel, but they seemed to lose some of that initial crispness if you don't finish them right away.

I must admit, they're convenient and snackable. I just wish they delivered a little more in the flavor department. For the price, $1.69, they're a decent enough value. Not sure if we'd purchase again, though. Three stars a piece for these zebracorn horns.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers

Lookin' for some hot stuff, baby, this evenin'
I need some hot stuff, baby, tonight
I want some hot stuff, baby, this evenin'
Gotta have some hot stuff
Gotta have some love tonight

Well, thanks Donna Summer and Kygo (whoever you are) for what should be the official entrance music to one of the latest (and literally hottest) condimental offerings from all of ours' favorite grocers...

It's Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers!

Hot stuff indeed.

Hot hot haaaaaaaaaahhhhhht. 

I mean, duh, the primary ingredient is, of all things, habaneros. They're not the spiciest peppers in the world, but starting at at least 100k+ on the Scoville scale, they're not exactly slouching it either. Habaneros are likely the hottest pepper I've ever ingested and would ever want to, and now, here they are, dried up in a jar, coated with a little olive oil, ready for me to sprinkle on anything I want. 

That's the real cool part, the texture. If you're familiar with the popular TJ Chili Onion Crunch, or even better, various LaoGanMa sauces, you'll know about what to think of here. The peppers are like crackly skins, dehydrated and very light and extremely crispy. It's fun, whether it's bigger pieces or itty bits. The word "mummified" comes to mind. really, check it out.

But don't mistake the peppers appearance for a lack of potency. No, no, no. There's still so much burn to be had. Granted, I'm more a "throw caution to the wind/full effect" kinda guy - the peppers had me bawling at how good they tasted. or so I told my kids, who eagerly watched my every reaction. And normally I'm not like that too much...am here. Holy cow. hot, just like a good habanero should. 

Yet the great thing is, for all the heat and sizzle, there's still some great complementary flavor that's imparted. it's not just heat for the sake of heat, it's...different. And while the main licks of flame are strong, they neither linger too long nor overpower the rest of the flavors of whatever else you're eating. Instead, after a moment or two, it's nice, casual, residual heat that will leave you wanting, cautiously, for more. 

What will go undescribed is a certain day after side effect, at least by me, as we're classy here. I instead once again invite you to enjoy this classic Johnny Cash tune

Love them, can't get enough. Breakfast sandwiches, tacos, sauces, with pasta, in stir fry, on pizza, in a fresh baked challah or babka....yes to all that. And more. I want it all. 

Hot stuff, baby, this evenin' indeed. lovin' it. I'm smashing the peppers with a perfecto and my lovely bride isn't quite there herself, but close. It's the first smash hit of 2021 for sure. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons







 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry & Ginger Beverage


Since I called attention to the fact I reviewed a non-holiday item back in early December, I suppose calling myself out for reviewing this overtly Christmassy beverage more than two weeks after Christmas Day is unavoidable. I wish I had a clever reason for doing things this way, but the truth of the matter is that I forgot we even had this product stashed away in the back of a cupboard. If I had to do it over, I'd have reviewed this one back then and saved those crackers for now, although I'm not sure either one is currently available at Trader Joe's. Hopefully they'll bring them both back next year.

On its own, this beverage is refreshing and tasty. There's a moderate tart cranberry taste and a little throat-tickling ginger flavor. It's actually a bit sweeter than either of us expected it to be—not obnoxiously so, but enough to be just a tad syrupy and to balance out the tang of the cran and the bite of the spice.


The carbonation level is just about perfect, comparable to the many other fancy sparkling four-packs we've seen from Trader Joe's in the past. It stays fizzy even after a spell in a cocktail glass with ice cubes. I guess this is the biggest advantage of the four tiny cans: a larger container would yield flat soda by the end of its tenure.

Another great strength of this drink is its mixability. There's a recipe for a mocktail on the side of the box—or you may add vodka for a true cocktail. It involves orange and lime juices, slices of citrus fruits and cranberries. We substituted fresh-squeezed with store-bought orange juice, and we didn't have any actual cranberries on hand, so we just plopped some lime wedges in ours. It was even more delicious with the addition of extra citrus flavors.

Finally, we did verify that it mixes well with vodka. Pro tip: everything mixes well with vodka. Alongside the ginger, something akin to a fruity Moscow Mule results.

$3.99 for four small cans. Four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry & Ginger Beverage.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Grainless Granola

Years ago, when pretty gungho into the paleo diet, on a random Target trip I hit a major score: clearance sale on Renola, a grainfree granola, for like less than $3 a sack. Usually that was like $6 or $7! Needless to say, I cleaned them out, and had nothing but Renola to snack on for about six months. 

Somehow that's not as quite a find a memory as I thought it'd be, and kinda forgot about it 'til Trader Joe's Grainfree Granola came around. 

I haven't had Renola in ages (probable coping mechanism from overdose, much like since graduating college in 2003 I've eaten instant ramen noodles maybe 5 times), so a direct comparison is tough to do on my end, but there's much the same vibe.

The main base is comprised of three components: almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. In an act of what I presume to be black magic, all these get transformed into a a state of pretty close to real actual granola. There's got to be something more than just roasting them - the whole feel and experience is lighter and crispier than one would expect, almost as if it were more munchy than crunchy if that sounds right. It's phenomenal, and is imminently snackable right out of the bag and would work on yogurt. Big pieces, little dusties, in between pebbles, didn't matter. All the same bite, and all delicious. 

That's not it, though. Something has to hold all that together and give it a little oomph. And between some combination of cocnut, salt and chicory, hold together it does. That also provides the over-arching flavor - it's not quite sweet, not quite salty, and while "savory" seems to be much the wrong word, it still seems right in a way. There's just something to it, a certain I don't know what, that really provides the perfect flavor to a near perfect bite. 

All that being said, I can see myself getting quite tired of the grainless granola quickly. Just a little extra flavor component would be wondrous, or even just a different variety to go back and forth between. 

But then again, at $3.99, it's a heck of a value for what it is. Vegan, gluten free, all that...yup. 

Good stuff, check it out for sure. A few handfuls will hold you over for quite a bit, that's for sure. My lovely bride isn't a big a fan as I am, as the nutritional info kinda seems to be a bit much for such a compact product, if that makes sense. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Grainless Granola: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons



 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Mini Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

I'm not sure why there are so many tasty dunkables for coffee and tea in the world, but so few for energy drinks like Red Bull, for example. I wonder what an energy drink dunkable would even taste like. If I were an ambitious man, or if I knew anything at all about baking, food science, or grocery purchasing habits, I'd attempt to invent the first energy drink dunkable. It might not even be a pastry. It could be more like a pretzel, a stick of jerky, or maybe like a fruit-flavored candy cane. You'd swirl it around in your heavily-caffeinated, fizzy, sweet-tart energy beverage, and slurp the excess moisture off the end of the dunkable. It'd be fun and delicious. And energy drink consumers wouldn't feel like they're missing out on the dunk-it-in-your-drink party anymore. 

A reasonable person might insist that there's no need for energy drink dunkables. But then there's that George Bernard Shaw quote that I'm fond of recollecting when I'm acting ridiculous and self-indulgent: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Clearly, these biscotti were designed and formulated by very reasonable people, because they don't go well with energy drinks at all. Don't ask me how I know that. They honestly aren't even easy to eat all by themselves because of their hardness. They just beg to be paired with java. Fortunately, the wifey has an insulated cup of coffee on her work desk all day, every day. And after disappointing myself with silly experimental beverage and cookie pairings, I can always put on my big boy pants, pretend I'm an adult, and borrow her coffee for a dunk or two.

With coffee, these are pretty delicious. There's enough cranberry in them that you'll notice a few chewy berry remnants after the cookie part has dissolved in your mouth. You can taste the cranberry very well, too, although the chewiness was just slightly off-putting to Sonia. I was pleasantly surprised there was any noteworthy amount of actual cranberry in there at all.

The tops of the biscotti pieces are zig-zagged with happy vanilla icing. It just adds a hint of sugary sweetness. The bread itself isn't super sticky sweet, but it has a nice lightly nutty flavor. I don't feel like it's bursting with specifically pistachio flavor, but Sonia thinks the pistachio element was adequate.

We'll plow through this tub pretty quickly. $3.99 for the 9oz container. Four stars from the little missus. Three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Cranstachio Biscotti.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Trader Joe's Crunchy Almond Butter Puffs Cereal

A first impression is a lasting one. 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

And so on and so on with a few little pithy adages, but let's start off the new year with some initial impressions of the new Trader Joe's Crunchy Almond Butter Puffs Cereal. 

C'mon, that sounds awesome, right? Boom. First impression made.

Take a look at it, too. It's rice and quinoa based, so no gluten. And as a lowkey bonus, read the description: it's not just almond butter, which is tasty enough in its own right if not a tad plain...but also cocoa powder too! So this can be a healthyesque breakfast cereal that tastes like a buttercup maybe! This train is gaining some traction here. Choochoo!

But then hold the box, or even better, try to open it. The bag inside too. Perhaps the first clue that something is a bit off. The cardboard stock to make the actual cereal box is...odd. It's not the familiar type, but instead sturdier, glossier, stockier, more rigid. It feels odd. If you happen to take a look at the bottom flaps, you'd notice it's folded together, not glued and sealed. Kinda odd, but sturdy enough given the materials. But whatever glue was spared on the bottom was more than accounted for atop, as man, these flaps didn't want to open. There's some serious papercut potential here. But once you past that, you're finally on to the big boss: the bag. It's thicker and heavier and glued way tighter than it should for easy manual opening - I gave up and used scissors to avoid unnecessary cereal explosions all over the floor. lord knows my kids do enough of those themselves. 

Finally, take a bite. Or try to. These puffs are hard. "Crunchy" is an understatement. Looking thru ingredients, because it can't be just rice and quinoa..aha. Cassava flour, too. There it is. All those flours come together to make some sort of cereal kernel that's then coated in almond butter and rolled in cocoa powder. The result: a jaw-achingly crunchy cereal. Tired out my molars for sure, and if you'd think milk would soften it up, you'd be wrong. 

Speaking of milk...I'd say skip it altogether for these poundy puffs. Not only does it not really appreciably soften the crunch, but it seems to cover up all the taste, too. Indeed, if eaten more as a dry snack, the flavors come out a bit more: the earthy grains, the nutty almond butter, the little tastes of cocoa here and there. It's fairly subtle and actually pretty tasty without being too much of a sugarbomb. Delicious, really. While breakfast may be important, sometimes a snack is so much better.

So there you have it. It remains to be seen how often we'll pick up the almond butter puffs for the $4 or so it set us back. I'm definitely not in as love with them as I thought I would, but I don't horribly mind them either. Some matching threes sounds about right. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crunchy Almond Butter Puffs Cereal: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons