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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage

I love my wife, and I know better than to question her judgement (after all, I'm one of them)...but sometimes she gets some nutty ideas in her head. Take for instance me and cereal. Now, I've rekindled my love affair with the generic honey nut Cheerios - you know the type, comes in a bag that's too big to fit in the pantry* - as a "replacement vice" for the former semi-torrid (and all horrid) relationship I had with fast food. Sandy, generally speaking, approves of this, except when I pour what she deems as too many O's into my bowl. "That's more than one serving!" she decries in a tone that sounds like one she'd use if I told her I spent a whole paycheck on lottery scratch off tickets. She's never, ever plays "serving police" on anything else on a consistent basis EXCEPT cereal. It doesn't matter that, for a vice, it's a decently healthy one, or that I've lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 pounds this year, or that she saves things like three slices of pizza for me for dinner, I just eat too much dang cereal in her book.


Another idea sprung forth from her brilliant (albeit quixotic) mind a couple weeks ago, when she randomly declared how curious and "unnatural" it was for humans to drink milk from other animals, since we're just about the only animal who does that. I kinda let that go in one ear, bounce off something hard, and go back out until she brought home a carton of almond milk a day or two later. Good call, as we both don't care for soy milk, detest rice milk, and are ambivalent about coconut milk (except the canned kinda stuff) at best. Also, as I was happy to find out, it was cheaper than the organic milk we routinely bought, and in all, tasted just fine.

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage, though not the first brand I've tried, is also pretty tasty. I kinda wish they called it "almond milk" and not "almond beverage" because that makes it sound like some sort of weird soda or juice to me. There's not a lot to dislike. It's subtly nutty, like other almond milks I've had, and has an acceptable consistency and smoothness, although a little chalkiness if you inspect too close. I wouldn't drink a glassful of it straight, but then again, I've rarely done that with regular milk either. I think the TJ's version tastes a little closer to actual milk, too, since it's unsweetened, unlike other brands I've had. And believe me, it pairs well with your early morning/late night bowl of cereal, or a couple Oreos, and could reliably be depended upon to be regular milk's stunt double. I like it quite a bit.

As an added bonus, I really like the packaging for it, mostly because it's bright and pink and kinda idiot proof. What do I mean? Well, the store brand we've brought previously came in a light tan carton with red lettering that looked exactly like the organic whole milk we buy for our sweet little toddler, who may or may not be slightly allergic to nuts. And I hate whole milk, so the once or twice that we've mixed them up in a pre-caffeinated daze were not good experiences - watching/charting/discussing possible hives or ruining an otherwise great bowl of cereal  are not fun ways to spend a morning.

In all, yeah, it's almond milk and that's pretty much all there is to it. Not a bad deal at all for $2.99. I'm thinking that it'll continue to be on our shopping list on a weekly basis. It's another dairy-alternative win for TJ's. Good stuff.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Almond Beverage: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Couldn't find the link, and it makes me mad, but the brilliant comedian Jim Gaffigan has a great bit about bagged cereal, calling it "homeless" because at least other cereals had a box to live in.  So, as an added bonus, here's a brilliant bit about parenting or his great cameo in one of the best worst movies ever.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter

When Trader Joe's slaps their logo on a jar with the word "butter" on it, we know they mean business. 

I'm thinking Cookie ButterCrunchy Cookie ButterCookie Butter and Cocoa Swirl, and even Pumpkin Butter. Of course when they did just plain old Peanut Butter, they had to "TJ it up" a bit and add flaxseeds, but it worked out just fine that way. Most of the time, those buttery products score very high, and they become some of the most read, most liked, and most shared posts from this blog. So it behooves us to review the heck out of TJ's "butter" products. We hope it benefits you too.

So if you want the short version, I'll just go ahead and tell you that this product tastes just like black raspberries and dark chocolate. Actually, no, I'm kidding. It really tastes'll never guess....wait for it....

Sunflower seeds!

If you like the taste of sunflower seeds, you'll like the taste of this. After all, sunflower seeds are the main ingredient. It's a pleasant, mild, slightly earthy, nutty, smooth kind of flavor. However, I think this product is just a bit sweeter than plain old sunflower seeds, and that's probably due to the cane syrup. In fact, I don't think I would have minded if it were just a tad less sweet. I like my nut butter salty, not sugary. Although, this is seed butter, not nut butter. But I digress.

As for this product's texture, it's a bit thinner and more oily than peanut butter. It's thin enough that you can spoon it out of the jar instead of knifing it out, but it's not so thin that it will run right off of your bread once you spread it on: see pic below.

I only tried one small bite with jelly, as in an SSB&J sandwich. I wasn't a fan. I'll stick to PB&J's for now, although their sunflowery counterparts might grow on me if I keep trying different combinations of breads and jelly flavors with the sunflower seed butter. But I doubt it.

Sonia liked this product too, but she agrees that it probably won't replace peanut butter in our household. It's a nice, unique treat to have just once in a while to break up the monotony. But hey, if you've got peanut allergies, or if you're one of those rare weirdos that doesn't like peanut butter, give sunflower seed butter a try. This $4.99 jar is actually really darn good. Just hope you're cool with a quarter of your daily fat in each serving. Look on the bright side: it's high in fiber, too!

I give this product 4.5 stars. Sonia gives it 4.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta

Ever see the Portlandia bit about pasta? If there's one Portlandia skit that could sum up Sandy and I, this would be it, much like this one's so true about Pittsburgh or this one about my brother and sister-in-law. I mean, I'm not sure if you could say that we absolutely love pasta, but we sure as heck eat it often enough, at least once a week. In my bachelor days, it was probably closer to three or four times a week. And I think we'd miss it quite a bit if we had to remove from our diet altogether. That's just something so comforting about a bowl of warm, saucy pasta, the way it slides in, barely needing to be chewed, before continuing its way to the depths of your bely to sit like a brick for a few hours. It's even better with a little hot sauce splashed on - believe me, if you haven't tried. I don't care the shape - long noodles, spirals, elbows, penne tubes, twisties, itty bitty orzo, or my favorite to say, "acini de pepe" - just give me pasta, dang it.

Every once in a while, though, I figure it doesn't hurt to go and try something different to help fix my pasta jonesin'. A week or two ago, I was this close to getting the same ol' usual sack o' semolina when I happened to spy Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli a little further down the shelf. It looked yummy. It sounded healthier (Is it? I really have no idea). It was also priced a quite a bit spendier - $3 versus $1 for the usual - but I figured it'd be worth the try.

Being honest, if Sandy were to buy this, not tell me, then cook it up without saying anything, I probably wouldn't have noticed much difference, except for the color. Even then, I would've figured it were wheat pasta, which this certainly isn't, being gluten-free and all. Knowing it was different, though, I tried to take note of any discernible distinctions. There's not much to work with, though. The taste is pretty close, perhaps slightly grainier, though certainly not grainy. I thought maybe it were a little thicker/chewier with a little more bite, but I'm not sold on it. The second time I made it, I mixed in a small handful of leftover elbow macaroni we had, and texture-wise the two were pretty close. Overall, I'd say the bite was much closer to the a-maize-ing corn than the cringe-worthy rice for pasta alternates.

For those in need of a celiac-friendly diet, I'd heartily recommend the rice and quinoa fusilli - it's darn near authentic-tasting without much of any drawback. For those who aren't,'s not anything terribly special. In the end, I kinda want it to be - I mean, organic pasta made from quinoa and brown rice kinda should have something  distinctive about it, right? Maybe this does, but I'm not picking it up. Sandy agrees. "Eh, it's like pasta" she said. "Nothing too much to say one way or another." Much like me. I think we'll call it matching threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons.