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Monday, January 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts

Some TJ's trips are just about perfect.

Last week, I had literally a five minute window to run in and track down the new sunflower butter cups in case Nathan didn't snag them for a review. Spoiler: he did. I ain't mad, bro, you were spot on.

I went right inside...and first thing I saw: BAM. The cups, right on a checkout display. Cheap for only 99 cents! I grabbed know...for science. Even the sweet uplifting and very situationally appropriate anthem of the ages came right on the store radio. Of course I'm talking about Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth". Got waved over to the nearest and empitest checkout line, struck up a nice convo as usual with the cashier, happened to mention my love of anything tangentially related to chocolate and peanut butter...

...and got these apparently brand new Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts for exactly $free.99. That's right, on the house, as a gift from said cashier, because apparently I can be somewhat likeable in real life, at least occasionally. Score.

So I got to enjoy the sunflower cups without the pressure of the review and focus my critical tongue squarely on these newish nutty M&M knockoffs. Really, there's not much more that can be said. There's only so many ways to get a peanut, coat it in milk chocolate, and put a candy shell on it, right? This isn't a novel concept in the least.

Basically, yes, but these TJ's nutty buddies taste at least a little different than the tried and true American classic. There's almost a little more freshness here, with the chocolate tasting perhaps a bit brighter, if that makes sense. It's probably just a little more sugar, but the chocolate here strikes me as being of a slightly better quality. Maybe it's just the TJ's label messing with me - I think most of their chocolate products as being a notch or two above - but I swear it's different and by that I definitely mean tastier.

There's a few other small differences, to be sure. Like no artificial coloring! That's also welcome. Why use some Red 40 when some good ol' beet or cabbage juice can do the trick instead? It's almost like eating salad then too, right? Right?

I enjoyed the chocolate peanut candies for sure, and would buy again for a quick little snacky if the need so arose. I'd probably go for those sunflower seed cups first, but for a consolation prize and a little unexpected bonus, these are a sure thing. My only wish is there'd be some sort of little twist on them somehow, like an added flavor or something kinda funky...oh well.  Just 99 cents for a generous two serving bag, or if you're selfish like me, one big serving that you don't share with your wife. Gonna double my score and make it up to her for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups

Obviously not a direct imitation of Reese's, these sunny yellow butter cups from Trader Joe's still beg comparison to the king of all chocolate-nut butter combos.

Texture-wise, they're nearly identical, but with perhaps slightly firmer chocolate and slightly thinner nut butter. Any discrepancies are negligible. Everybody might've guessed that. And everybody would probably be right.

It's the flavor that's so delightfully different—and yet not so different that it tastes like something odd, unfamiliar, or unpleasant in any way.  

Years ago, we looked at sunflower seed butter just by itself. I was a big fan. Still am, though I can't say we've purchased it regularly since that review. I described that flavor as "mild, slightly earthy, nutty, and smooth" back then, and that description still stands as far as the filling in these cups is concerned. It's also moderately sweet.

The dark chocolate is pretty typical for Trader Joe's candy-esque fare that we've seen throughout the years. It's rich and full of cocoa flavor and blends pretty well with sunflower seed butter. The overall effect is satisfying and delicious, and there's this vague notion that you're eating something just a little more sophisticated, exotic, and adventurous than a classic Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. 

If you're thinking these might be a "healthy alternative" to traditional peanut butter cups, I'm not saying you're wrong, since TJ's ingredients seem to lack preservatives and artificial stuff, plus there might be more antioxidants in the chocolate here—but fat and calorie-wise, the numbers are comparable. You're still not eating diet food with these sunflower seed butter cups. And that's perfectly okay, particularly if you're only consuming them in moderation...right?

Since peanuts are one of the eight most common food allergens, this product might be a dream come true for those with sensitivities to peanuts. Also see: Justin's Almond Butter Cups. We've tried those from Target, and they're pretty good, but they're usually something like three times the price of this Trader Joe's offering. At 99 cents, it's hard to walk past the checkout stand without considering grabbing a pack or two.

I say give 'em a whirl. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Pancake Bread

Currently, my kids are obsessed with the movie The Greatest Showman. It's the music, I think, as evidenced by them commanding Alexa to play the soundtrack essentially nonstop. It's a good movie - I've always been a Hugh Jackman fan (who isn't?) and as much as ten-years-ago me would mock current me for saying it, Zac Efron got some talent. If you're not familiar, it's the story of PT Barnum and how he built his circus empire. One of his tricks: kinda massaging the truth a little, to kinda hoodwink the paying customer a little. Like, for instance, having the "world's tallest man" already be an abnormally tall guy, but then putting him on stilts. Or having the "world's largest man" shove a few pillows under his clothes for a little dramatic effect. In a way, it's kinda an innocent playful deception, which most people knew but were willing to be lured in any way by the show and spectacle of it.

All this brings me to Trader Joe's Pancake Bread.

In a world full of carbo-crossovers, most involving pretzels or crosissants (but never pretzels AND croissants - c'mon now!), we now have this. Pancakes and bread, together, in perfect harmony, right? How did it take so long for this to be a thing?

Be honest though. Close your eyes. Forget the label that says "pancake bread." Take a taste. Does it really taste like pancakes? Really? Be honest.

To me, nah. Blindfolded, I'd say it tastes more like a soft cinnamon bread than anything else. All the crumblies on top is more brown sugar, etc than anything else. To be fair, there is a maple essence as well. It's soft and crumbly and a little moist and definitely, and not more rugged or dense like a banana bread. The bread makes an excellent snack, a quick breakfast, would be delicios warmed or eaten straight from the container...but it's more bread than a pancake.

Slap the name "Pancake Bread" on it....okay, now that it's been suggested, I can see it.

Of course, if it were to be named "Soft Cinnamon Maple Bread", while being more apt a descriptor, that's not nearly as exciting. I mean, it'd take me years to buy it probably. But embellish the truth a smidge in some backroom marketing meeting, call it pancake bread - voila! Take the world by storm!

This is why I don't work in marketing.

For the record, Sandy disagrees with me. "It tastes just like a pancake with a lot of syrup kinda drenched in," she said. It should be noted that she enjoys her pancakes with a small puddle of syrup on the side which she daintily dips her pancake bites in, so she'd know what a syrup-logged pancake would actually taste and feel like is beyond me. Other online reviews I've seen claim the TJ's pancake bread tastes just like a buttermilk pancake. I can see where it's all coming from, but it's overstating the facts in my lonesome, sure to be unpopular opinion.

Regardless, the pancakesque loaf is delicious and kinda intoxicating in its carby-comfort ways. I love it. I just wish it were more honest with itself. If Hugh Jackman PT Barnum can, so can this bread, right? My only downvote is for the slight deception of purported pure pancakeyness.  Matching fours from the wife and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pancake Bread: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons