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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Pancake Mix

I'm going to kick off this review by comparing these pancakes to a cereal we reviewed earlier this year. First, they're both for breakfast. Second, we prepared both of them with milk (although the instructions for these pancakes said to just add water). Thirdly and most importantly, they were both just too gingery for us. Or rather, certain bites were just too gingery for us in both cases.

The ginger bits in the batter had a tendency to sink down to the bottom of our mixing bowl, so the first few pancakes we made were just like regular flapjacks but with a mild to moderate gingerbreadishness about them. Really pleasant overall. With butter and maple syrup, they tasted really good, and the gingerbread vibe was a nice holiday twist. However, the last few pancakes had at least one hunk of "crystallized" ginger in every bite. 

You can chalk it up to user error and say we should have fluffed up the batter a bit before each pancake hit the skillet—and in hindsight, that might have solved the problem. But even then, I think there would have been too much ginger. It might have been a blessing in disguise that the first half of our pancake batch was relatively ginger free. Because the ones with ginger were WAY too gingery, even dressed up with butter and syrup.

Each ginger chunk was about the size of the piece of pimento you might find in an olive. That might not sound very big, but the flavor of ginger is so potent, it overshadowed everything else. We were expecting something that tasted like gingerbread, not raw ginger. Ginger's great as a spice, but it's just too much for Sonia and I when it becomes the main attraction.

This pancake mix isn't a complete fail, in my opinion, but you really have to love the taste and texture of actual ginger for them to be considered a win. Sonia's only other comment: "Not terribly impressed." She gives them 2.5 stars. I'll be the slightly less grinchy Grinch this time and give a 3.5.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Trader Joe's Mini Peppermint Waffle Cookies

December's finally here, so I think we can go ahead and start eating Christmas-type cookies without feeling like we've jumped the holiday gun. This blog has certainly seen a couple of successful peppermint cookies and other treats. But in general, I'm starting to feel like I'm simply not a fan of  pepperminty desserts. I want my candy canes separated from my baked goods.

First impressions: they remind me of other miniature waffle cookies I've had in terms of size and texture. But these little guys have the added crunch of candy cane bits. Not a huge fan of biting down on hard candy (but my dentist loves it because he gets richer every time I do it). There's a good bit of chocolate here. In fact, according to the ingredients, there's more chocolate going on than waffle. And my inner-alcoholic absolutely loves that the number one sub-ingredient is chocolate liquor. Between the liquor and the mint, it's a bit like rinsing one's palate with a festive holiday mouthwash. But seriously though, there really is a nice little chunk of chocolate on every piece, which makes these tiny cookies rich and serotonin-inducing, if not delicious.

The waffle element is crispy enough, and I suspect these cookies are fairly stale-resistant. If I ever have grandchildren, when they come to visit, I'll put stuff like this out in a little dish on the coffee table the way my elders did with red and green M&M's at Christmas time. I mean, maybe if I were 7 again, I would want to shovel these things down by the handful, but I think for most people they're just going to be a "one here, another there" type of holiday mood-setting appetizer more than an actual dessert or snack.

Sonia was happy that she had minty-fresh breath after consuming these wintery treats, but she wishes the waffles were thicker. She gives them 3.5 stars. I give 'em 3.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Fancy Medjool Dates

In our house, we consider "fancy dates" ones on which we don't go shopping at Target. Who knew there was such a thing, albeit a different kinda meaning, right in the Trader Joe's refrigerated produce section?

Yup, we're talking TJ's Fancy Medjool Dates. I don't see what's so fancy about them...no bowties or bejewels or bling or anything. It's just a box of wrinkly, pitted dates.

But oh, the possibilities! I kid you not. First off, these dates were an absolute joy to just eat right out of the box. Sandy, Big Girl M, and I happily spent one morning late last week chomping thru nearly half the container, all of us together partaking in the slightly sticky, little bit gooey, totally tasterrific natural morsels of delight. I'm not too experienced when it comes to dates (my high school was too busy with video games and Creed - oh wait, wrong kind again) but I can't imagine these medjool munchies to be much if any different than most.

Of course, though, with a little work and adaptation there's so much more you can do. Everytime I mention my primarily paleo to a fellow caveperson wannabe, they mention "Bacon wrapped medjool dates!" as if the skies parted and angels streamed down whenever these were consumed. I have failed to make those thus far, but did happen to have some cooked bacon on hand that morning we had a family munch time. Even from my semi-half buttcheeked approximation, I could tell this was a match worthy of the raves. Yum-yum-yummy in my tum-tum-tummy. Yes I watch too much kid programming these days.

Even better still: Paleo pecan pie. I kid you not. That's the number one reason I got these dates, and dangit, to me, it's just not Thanksgiving without pecan pie. This is the recipe I used (easy as can be! - though I used just a regular egg, I'm not crunchy enough to know what a "flax egg" is) and while texturally the pie was much different than it's usual corn-syrupy incarnation (oh so good!), the taste itself was almost spot on, with the dates supplying all the sugary sweetness. The pie was so good, with the dates being such an easy, key ingredient, that I got another box of them in the fridge now just waiting to be turned into my next pie. Truth be told, at the risk of being labelled a heretic, I enjoyed the pie much more than the cookie butter cheesecake, although that was pretty good as well.

I say medjool dates at the big local chain being sold for something like $7 a pound, so this box for $4.49 strikes me as a pretty reasonable deal. I'm sure we'll continue to buy these - nothing wrong with a new fruit that all of us can enjoy together. Nothing too much more to say, just give 'em a try if you haven't already, and always, we're open to suggestions if you leave a comment or two.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fancy Medjool Dates: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons