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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Apple Fruit Snacks Mango Jalapeño

While not quite completely in love with the analogy, it does make the point so I'm just gonna roll with it. 

If my house were a prison, and my family the inmates, fruit snacks would likely be the equivalent of cigarettes. This excludes my lovely bride, which works because if we're going this way with with the metaphor I may as well just call her the warden. Just don't put me in solitary, babe.

Fruit snacks are not just for bribery or trade. As evidenced by the occasional trove of found and opened wrappers, we all got a stash somewhere that gets sourced from the large Costco box in the basement. I work down here all day, so when I need an early afternoon sugar hit, it's the easy get. We've found them in couch cushions, in kid's beds, stuffed in pockets at laundry time, tucked away inconspicuously in the trash, beside the beer name it. But there's a bit of the code: don't touch my stash, I won't touch yours.  Not that there's not temptation to do so.

With the introduction of Trader Joe's Apple Fruit Snacks Mango Jalapeño, we may have found a basis for a truce. In the words of the great James Brown, papa's got a brand new bag. 

The magic word here is "jalapeño." My kids see that, figure they're way too spicy, and spicy fruit snacks sound weird anyways, so they'll just pass without question, leaving me with the whole bag to consume at my speed and not worrying about little grubby hands sneaking in. 

That being said, the jalapeño really does add a nice little touch, more on the backside of the flavor experience. It takes few chews to kinda get it going, as the fruits take first turn. These fruit snacks are primarily fruit based, with natural fiber and just a touch of pectin, instead of corn syrups and starches and whatever else, so there's legit verifiable actual apple and mango going in here, which balance out each other well in a sweet, understated yet flavorful way. The little specks of jalapeño add just the smidgiest of amounts of noticeable heat. It's delicious, kinda like a decent simple fruit salsa in fruit snack form, if that makes any sense. 

Going back to the ingredients, this shouldn't be a surprise, but if you were expecting/hoping for the big soft gummy kinda of fruit snacks, these are not them. Move along. Instead, the snacks are more of a tougher, more fibrous variety, kinda like fruit leather chunked up instead of rolled out. Those with dental work, be appropriately cautious. At least they're not really all that sticky or anything. I just noticed all the mango jalapeño guys are actually shaped like little hot peppers. That's so cute! I love it.

I think the pouch was only about $2 or maybe $3 at most, which is a decent enough deal for the 5ish servings each contain. That's good enough of a deal to make them a regular buy. Not sure what all else to say, so time to lock down this review. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Fruit Snacks Mango Jalapeño: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, September 21, 2020

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Empanadas

I always thought of empanadas as a uniquely South American food. There was a great Argentinian restaurant within walking distance of my Hollyweird apartment, and I'd always get the empanadas there. I've seen them on the menu at Brazilian places, too. But apparently Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, the Philippines, and pretty much every Latin American country does empanadas.

Mexico does empanadas for sure, but Sonia isn't particularly familiar with them. She grew up eating more sauce and cheese-based foods typical of southern Mexico, where her family is from. She thinks empanadas are probably more popular with the Norteños.

And now Trader Joe's is getting in on the empanada action, and since it's almost fall, they went with pumpkin. Who could have seen that coming?

Thank goodness it's a pumpkin empanada and not a pumpkin spice empanada. Or is it? In my opinion, it's walking a fine line between the two. 

They could have gone in the dessert direction and made something akin to the legendary caramel apple empanada from Taco Bell. They could have made it super sweet, glazed it with sugar, and packed it with loads of pumpkin pie spice. Or they could have gone the savory route and filled the empanada with butternut squash and veggies.

But what we have here is a pastry shell filled with super smooth, semi-sweet pumpkin filling, and most of the requisite pumpkin spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger. I don't think it's quite sweet enough to be considered a dessert item, although some may disagree. Since pumpkin puree is the number one ingredient, there's enough actual pumpkin flavor to offset the brown sugar sweetness.

The outer shell is excellent. The crust is just firm and flaky enough, yet supple and soft. It's crispy, but slightly doughy, and it has a nice bready taste. Also, it isn't oily or greasy—another plus.

These would function pretty well as appetizers, or as a side dish with a fall-themed meal. $3.99 for four empanadas. 1 empanada = 1 serving. They were fun to try, but we probably won't be picking them up again on our next TJ's run. Something like three and a quarter stars a piece...

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread

Over these past few crazy months, I've come to realize that a quality metric I use to judge how my day is going is how much I play Candy Crush on my phone. That's kinda my default "bored, don't feel motivated, nothing else going on" thing to do, so needless to say, the more Candy Crush I play on a given day, the usually more kinda blah day it is. And i won't say what level I'm on, but there's four digits and the first one is kinda curvy. So yeah, not so great these past few months. 

My lovely bride also plays a fair amount of Candy Crush, but apparently also likes some other game called Kitchen Craze or something along those lines. I'm not sure of the point of the game - seems even more arbitrary than matching three same colored candies to make stuff go boom - but when playing she'll tap to cook stuff, serve customers, do dishes, deal with crappy tips. I guess you try not to burn stuff and run some sort of functional restaurant and serve all sorts of food, including some Brazilian-inspired cheese rolls which I had no other frame of reference for until picking up Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread.

There's more involved to prepping them than just tapping your smartphone screen. Of course, we'll see how that comment ages over the next decade or so... but anyways. A frozen dozen comes boxed up and ready to plop on a baking sheet, just heat at 350 degrees for a few minutes, and done. You can even crush some candies while doing so if you want. 

Oddly, I'm in the minority of my family for the TJ's Brazilian cheese bread. Everyone else loves them, Both Sandy and our verifiable troop of kiddos gobbled them down for lunch the other day, yumming and oohing and aahing. Our five year old also made her own PB&J's with them, which strikes me as fairly weird but she was happy. But me? Ehhhhhhh....

There's just this odd taste to them that develops about midway thru your third bite. I'm not sure how to explain it. But it's kinda funky and bitter and dour and not exactly gag inducing, but is kinda unwelcome. Sandy posits it has something to do with how the tapioca flour and Parmesan interplay. Maybe, but I side with it being more towards eggs and white pepper that seem off. Maybe it's all four of them, maybe just three, maybe she's just right (as usual)...but still. It's just when I would expect the flavor to start going towards warmy carby cheesy comfort, I instead get a mouthful of questions. 

It's kinda a shame. Otherwise these are some pretty tasty treats. The first few bites, before that funk comes into play, are on point with its doughy Parmesan taste. If every bite tasted like the first few, I could probably nosh on these all day. Each piece is roughly golf ball sized, and when baked have a slightly crispy, not greasy exterior that quickly gives way to a soft, chewy inside. There's so much Parmesan around too that's impossible to get a bite without any, even if you tried. These are some excellent bites in that regard, I just wish they stayed that way. Maybe if I had some sauce to dip them in, I'd like 'em better. 

Since everyone else loved them and they're at a reasonable price ($3 to $4) I'm thinking it'll be a likely repurchase despite my misgivings. I mean, whatever works these days, right? Even if I won't be the one crushing them. Meh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Brazilian Style Cheese Bread: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons