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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds

It's hard to really, truly, live up to the hype sometimes. Take, for instance, the new Hunger Games movie. Pretty much everyone I know has seen it and I've heard it talked about so much, including by our most recent TJ's cashier who was gushing over it. General consensus: OMG!!! Now, Sandy and I have both read the whole trilogy, and had plans for a Sunday afternoon matinee with some good friends of ours, who've also read all three books. I tell ya what: it wasn't bad. I actually thoroughly enjoyed it, although the scene with the trackerjackers made me wince. I'd actually say it's the rare movie that, to me, can make the claim that it's better than the book*, mostly because I don't have to wade through all of Katniss' teenage girly emotional junk. I hated that part of the books. But yeah, the movie...pretty darn good. I wouldn't go say it's my favorite, or the best one ever, or even give it a thought come awards season time, but in the end, I got my money's worth and I liked it. Not bad for the first movie I've seen on opening weekend since Snakes on a Plane**.

In the end, that's kinda how I feel about the Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds. These have been so highly recommended over and over and over again by so many of our readers. Truthfully, I've never seen them before our aforementioned most recent trip, and so have never had them before Sunday. These have been so hyped up, and so highly recommended, that Sandy and I are the last people on earth to try these, probably.

Don't get me wrong, I like them. There's absolutely nothing in the world wrong with a big tasty roasted almond coated in smooth, rich, dark chocolate. Nothing at all. Add in a good healthy pinch of sea salt to punctuate each bite, and that makes them even better. I'll admit that before these, I've never heard of "turbinado sugar", which in case you're as uncool as I was, is natural brown sugar partially refined right from sugar cane. Look close enough at these nuts and you'll see the big ol' crystals of it, which do add a little extra sweetness here and there, but overall I don't see anythng too special about the sugar - it's like, hey, let's make up a fancy name for it. Really, though, I like these choco-almonds, especially the ones with just a bit more salt than the others.

In the end, though, they just don't blow me away. I mean, TJ's makes them sound all super-fancy, and these nuts apparently have a huge following, but to me, they're better than the the typical chocolate covered nut but not by all that much. I can happily just eat a couple of these and be done with them, which my wife is proud of me for. Maybe. As for her, well, let's use her own words here. As you can see on the picture there, we ripped these open before getting one of the necessary shots. "Just tell them that the pregnant lady couldn't wait long enough for you to fiddle with your camera to start munching on them," Sandy said. She's so cute when she's impatient. Yet she's not so up on them either. When I asked her what she thought about them, she gave me a "meh" while admitting she wanted to sneak some when she got home from work on Monday but didn't with it being Lent and all still. I'm thinking that between the two of us we'd give them a 3.5 or a 4 each, so let's go with one of each. Now may the odds be ever in your favor.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* The only slam dunk "movie that was better than the book" has to be The Princess Bride.
Not my all-time favorite movie, but it was my all-time favorite "time going to a movie." It was a late night showing, with the theater maybe about half-full, but with everyone openly mocking it throughout the whole, it was awesome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trader Joe's Vanilla Coconut Milk

After one sip, my initial reaction was: anything with so much fat should taste way better than this. That said, I want you to know that I was, and am still, a huge fan of coconut milk. When I was a kid, my dad would, on occasion, bring home a whole coconut from the grocery store. I thoroughly enjoyed draining the juice out of the coconut and drinking it fresh out of a glass. Somehow I figured that coconut milk with the word "vanilla" before it would be sweeter and even more drinkable than the fresh coconut juice I remember from my childhood. But if you ask me, it wasn't. The vanilla flavoring did little to enhance the natural flavor of the coconut milk, and there just simply wasn't enough flavor to justify putting 5 grams of fat per serving into my body, as my body has just plenty of fat to contend with as it is. Although, I must admit that natural, nut-fruit-or-whatever-a-coconut-is-type-fat is always way better for me than most of the actual sources of fat in my current diet. Also, I might have been wanting it to taste like the Goya Cream of Coconut that we used in our piña coladas a while back. That stuff is tasty. But, it's massively fattening and I'm pretty sure there's more sugar in it than actual coconut. So, for health reasons, it's probably good that TJ's coconut milk tastes nothing like that Goya nonsense.

On the plus side, this stuff is totally dairy-free (like regular coconut milk, which I would hope goes without saying). It is soy-free as well, and totally vegan friendly. Sonia loved it. She enjoyed its light taste. She put it on her cereal, and loved it that way, too. It was Cookie Crisp cereal—which pretty well offset any healthiness that might be in the coconut milk, but whatever. It comes in a convenient, attractive package, and it's fortified with calcium and vitamins. It sounds like they're setting it up against dairy milk and soy milk for those who are lactose intolerant and/or don't want lower sperm counts.
It's probably a pretty viable alternative to other milks. To be fair, I should mention that I really don't like drinking plain dairy milk or soy milk at all either. On cereal is about the only way I have milk. And maybe a chocolate milk once in a while. I was just hoping that this stuff was gonna be fairly chuggable just by itself. But...not so much, in my opinion. It's not nasty, it's just kind of bland. If it had been called "coconut water," I might not have been so disappointed.

But I can't be too hard on it, because it's not a dessert item, and it's not meant to be. It's unique. And for the lactose intolerant, it could really become an item that shows up on the grocery list frequently. I give it a 2.5. Sonia will be the reasonable one yet again and give it a good score despite the fact that it doesn't taste like candy. 4 from her. This is one you'll probably just have to try for yourself to see whether it's worth it or not. Tell us what you think below.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 stars.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trader Joe's Turkey Corn Dogs

My friend Trader Joe is the corn dog king. He did Veggie Corn Dogs right. He even did some kick-butt Shrimp Corn Dogs. And slightly less weird than Shrimp Corn Dogs—he went and made some scrump-dilly Turkey Corn Dogs, too.

TJ's is batting a thousand with corn dogs if you ask me. My scores have been slightly higher than Sonia's, but she's more or less in agreement. She was never a fan of corn dogs before Trader Joe showed up on the scene. I've always liked corn dogs—even the kind from the scary, greasy lunch trucks that don't publish their ingredients and are more than likely made at least partially of pig snouts, hooves, and other kinds of scrapple-type stuff. I know it's not necessarily your forté, Trader Joe, but I certainly wouldn't mind an all-beef corn dog. I'm not much of a pig-eater anymore, but if you made an oldschool pork corn dog, I'd totally try it.

But, ah, the good people reading this post would like to know about these Turkey Corn Dogs. I think these could be the best TJ's corn dogs yet - the best TJ's food I've eaten in a while. No complaints. Had 'em with ketchup, but they were more than fine just plain. Perfect balance of cornbread outside and yummy turkey poultry meatiness inside. And it didn't taste like regular totally tasted like a turkey dog. Not that regular turkey would have been a bad taste—just kind of strange, maybe? There's a certain consistency to a good turkey dog that just rocks when served within a cornbread shell. And the wooden stick never hurts. I don't know what it is, but food always tastes better on a stick: think lollipops, cotton candy, shish kabobs, and that corn-on-the-cob that Latinos eat with butter, mayo, chili powder, and lime. Mmmm.

Sonia gives these a 4. That's a really good score for Sonia for a corn dog. And...I...think...I'm totally gonna go out on a limb and give these the first perfect score I've given anything in a long time. 5. Boom. There it is.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.