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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Trader Joe's Grainless Granola

Some of our longer tenured readers may recall me prattling on and on a couple years ago about the Paleo diet I was doing. Not really wanting to rehash it all in detail, so for the uninitiated, here's the TL;DR version: For years I was severely overweight before starting a exercise and Paleo diet regime that resulted in me losing 100 pounds. It's been nearly a year and a half since I hit that century mark, and I've kept but a small handful of those pounds off thus far. And while I don't follow a Paleo diet too strictly any more, I still dabble with it here and there when given the choice, and so it's still kinda part of my ongoing weight loss maintenance program.

It's somewhat late to the party, but here's Trader Joe's Grainless Granola. Kinda wonder what took TJ's so long. A couple years ago when being discontinued in local Targets, I bought every last sackful of Renola in the greater Pittsburgh region. So, I'm pretty familiar with these kinda caveman-friendly mixes of fruits, nuts and seeds, although I still can't figure out why they're referred to as a "granola."

It's a good mix overall...but a bit odd. There's no real crunch or crispiness or anything. Instead, it seems as if perhaps the moisture of the dates permeated the nuts (cashews and walnuts) and seeds (sunflower and pumpkin) so almost everything is a soft, slightly smushy, uniform texture. That's not necessary a bad thing, but it cuts down on the snacky factor of it, and could present issues for those wishing to sprinkle some on top of some yogurt or oatmeal. The dates and dried bananas seemed to clump a tad bit, too, so if that's not your thing, beware.

Also, you gotta like cinnamon. A lot. This stuff has a massive dose of cinnamon that'll smack your nostrils when the bag opens and be present in every bite. It's not enough to override any the individual components, thank goodness, because there's plenty of "as-is" natural flavor in the granola. There's also a small smattering of vanilla, but it's not as even or present as the cinnamon, which is fine.

A few small handfuls filled the hunger hole for a good amount of time. I kept a bag at my work desk for a few days and happily munched, and wasn't 'til I was throwing out the bag that I noticed that it said to keep refrigerated after opening....umm, why? Nothing perishable in there. Someone please explain.

Anyways, the sack cost $3.99 which is about right for a snack mix of this nature. You could probably make your own for a little less, but, well, convenience. It's what separates us from the cavemen.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Grainless Granola: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Ghosts & Bats

Well now that October's here, I think it's high time we reviewed these seasonally-appropriate, Halloween-themed snacks: ghosts and bats. Albino bats, apparently. In fact, the "bats" in this bag are nothing more than ghosts with wings. Both shapes represent fittingly ethereal characters—light, airy, and barely there.

And that's kind of how I'd describe the taste of these potato-based snacks: extremely subtle. They're like baked potato chips or crisps, but without any added flavors. "Salt" can be found on the ingredients list, but these are among the least salty chips I've ever had. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Especially around Halloween, when candy and chocolate are everywhere, a break from the fat and calories can be quite welcome.

On the other hand, if I had to pick one type of low-calorie chip to eat for the rest of my life, Ghosts & Bats would definitely not be my first choice. I like chips with a little seasoning at least—maybe some barbecue flavor or sour cream taste. That's not to say you couldn't dress these up a bit yourself. In fact, Sonia said they remind her of "duros de harina" or "duritos," a Mexican wheat-based snack, often served spritzed with lemon or lime juice and chili powder. 

So we tried these chips with a few drops of lemon and a dash of chili, and sure enough, it made them significantly more interesting. The theme suddenly changed from Halloween to Dia de los Muertos—but they're basically the same holiday, minus the part where Mexican folk leave meals in the cemetery for their dearly departed family members.

The crispiness of these ghostly chips is pleasant. There's a delicate crunch to them that's far more interesting than their flavor, in my opinion. They are prone to staleness, however. We kept our bag shut with a rubber band we had laying around in the kitchen, and after just a few days, the chips were noticeably more...styrofoam-like, for lack of a better word.

In summary, these chips are fun and crispy, but they lack a certain something in the flavor department. Three stars from me. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Trader Joe's Boffo! Bar

"Boffo."

It's an adjective that means "extremely good or successful" according to Merriam Webster. It can also be used as a noun meaning simply "a success" according to my top Google results.

What I can't find is anyone who actually uses this word anymore, and I'm not going to start. At least it has a more positive connotation to its name than another, similar candy bar, that's perhaps a tad more famous and ubiquitous, named after a verb that means to "derisively sneer or laugh" at someone or something. Maybe it's not itself when it's hungry.

Well, alright, alright...what's the difference between a Trader Joe's Boffo! Bar and a Snickers? Hrmm...peanuts, caramel and nougat enrobed in milk chocolate. Could describe either adequately. Well, they're different...hugely different...and definitively, absolutely not the same, and Boffo!s (Boffos!?) are not pulled from the reject pile at the Mars factory...

Don't believe me? Fact check: Boffo!s weigh 1.8 ounces, as opposed to Snickers weighing 1.86, and as a result, have 10 less calories. So ha!

Well, okay...there are other differences which admittedly the wife and I wouldn't have picked up on if we hadn't eaten half a Boffo! and half a Snickers back to back, because, you know, science. Take a gander at the two dissected candy bars I put up a pic of: first one is the Boffo!, followed by the Snickers. The Boffo!, though smaller, has a chunkier feel to it than a Snickers, and whereas, to me, Snickers seem to rely more on peanuts and caramel with nougat playing second fiddle, it's the opposite for the Boffo! The nougat of a Boffo! comprises more of the innards, with a lighter, drier, and "foamier" feel to it, with only a faint ribbon of caramel up top, and it's decidedly lighter in the nuts department (sorry, had to *snicker* at that). On the whole Boffo! bar there were maybe six or seven peanut pieces, which seems lacking given the standard out there. But that nougat though - tasty stuff. The Boffo! chocolate also seems a tad more on the dark side, though still not dark chocolate by any stretch.

Repeat buy? Maybe. There's a time and place for an easily accessible, quick appetite smusher that sometimes involves the TJ checkout line. But compared to other of TJ's fine candy bar selections, this one is decidedly more utility than luxury. And I'm not a huge Snickers-type guy either...I mean, I'll be shameless when taking the "daddy tax" out of my kids' trick-or-treat bags, but there's plenty others I'd reach for first. Like Butterfingers...Anyways, it's 99 cents which seems to be the going rate for candy bars these days. Nothing too strong to say one way or another - not TJ's strongest performance, but nothing to make too much jest of, either. Check the nutritional stats here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Boffo! Bar: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons