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Friday, October 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Autumn Apple Rooibos Tea

"You're gonna like the way this tea tastes. I guarantee it."

Pardon me. I've been saying stuff like that all week, because I have that voice. You know the one. Low. Gravelly. Deep. It's late October, just got the first real cold spell of the year, it's cold/sore throat time. I've been feeling fine, aside from sounding like the dude on Men's Warehouse commercials. I'd love to hear him take some hits off a helium balloon sometime, by the way.

So chilly...insides need some warmin' and calmin''s tea time. But too early yet for lemur tea.

Fortunately, there's SPRINGBOK tea!

Trader Joe's Autumn Apple Rooibos Tea proudly has a well trained springbok balancing an apple on it's snout on the box. Why? Well, because rooibos is from South are springboks...if it's a TJ's seasonal tea, there needs to be a cute, lovable animal on it. Connection. Boom. Springbok tea.

Never mind that it's actually spring in South Africa right now...I digress.

It's good tea. Not great, but good. Rooibos, in my admittedly limited experience, is kinda a complex flavor for different flavors to arise out of. It's kinda the same here - unless a decent amount of sugar gets dumped in, the apple gets a little lost. I mean, it's there, but really needs to be coaxed out. There is a sweet and fruity taste to the tea, but I wouldn't default directly to apple.

I will say the longer the tea steeps, the better it tastes. The directions on the box say six minutes. Go longer. Keep that tea bag in there while you drink it - the last few swallows are the best and most vibrant without being overkill.

Sandy likes the tea a smidge or two more than I. I think it's because she usually adds sugar or honey to hers, while I prefer mine sans additive. To her, the autumn apple tea tastes like a good cross between hot apple cider ("that can be too apple-y and sweet') and tea - not too much one or the other. She's also generally more into tea than I am, which may help. It's a good solid four for her, while a three-ish, suits me just fine.*

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Autumn Apple Rooibos Tea: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

*Hahaha, get it? "Suits!" Hahahh....maybe I'm more delirious than I thought

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Harvest Spice Trek Mix

This product has mindblowing potential: an autumnal blend of fruit, nuts, and spices. Unique and delicious. Harvestacular. Both Sonia and I want to recommend it to you wholeheartedly, but we have this one little reservation. Let's break down the ingredients and see where this product fell from potential Pantheon status to a mere 7 stars...

Roasted almonds: check. Awesome. I love almonds, and they add so much to any trek mix. There's plenty of big perfect whole almonds here. Absolutely no problem.

Holiday spiced cashews: check. Who knew these were a thing? Sweet, happy little candied cashews that taste like fall. Amazing. Thanks for introducing me to these, TJ's.

Holiday spiced pecans: check. OMG. Even better than the cashews. A harvest trek mix featuring my three favoritest nuts in the whole world? What could possibly ruin this amazing mix?

Dried apple slices: check. It's the one harvest fruit that can tie all these excellent nuts together. They're thin, sweet slices of real apple, and some of the pieces are quite large. Okay, I may have found a new favorite trail mix...

But wait. There's another ingredient in here. Oh, it's ginger. Big chunks of actual ginger. And a heck of a lot of it. Won't that be too pungent? Oh's Candied Ginger. But you know what? The "candied" aspect of it really doesn't tone down the strength of the ginger flavor. It's still ridiculously strong. Why did they put so much of that stuff in here? I'm guessing Trader Joe's had a surplus of it after Russ and Sandy gave it a two out of ten, so they decided to sneak it into this poor unsuspecting trek mix.

I mean, we're down with ginger. Ginger as a flavor works just fine. A dash of real ginger can add a nice bit of zing. But when half the bag is full of massive chunks of the stuff, it just doesn't work for us. It's basically all we can taste if we're just indiscriminately shoveling handfuls of the mixture into our mouths. Oh well. At least we can still pick out the ginger chunks and eat the other ingredients. We just have to do a bit more work.

There were a few bites where I still got little pieces of ginger mixed in with the apples and nuts, and in those cases, it was pleasant. A dash of ginger is nice. There's just way too much of it in here. And this isn't the first time an otherwise great product was—I won't say "ruined" by ginger—but maybe "made less excellent" by too much ginger.

I understand some of you are really, really into the ginger chunks. If that's you, then we offer a projected score of 9.5 out of 10 for this product. For those of you who aren't, we'd like to steer you in the direction of an excellent non-TJ's trail mix that's very similar to this one, but without ANY ginger chunks at all.

As it stands, three and a half stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Organic Açaí Puree Packets

Stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things—that's what it's all about when it comes to venturing the wilds of Trader Joe's like our team has these past six years. Not that I'm uncomfortable with acai. I've been singing its praises since before this blog began. No, I'm not uncomfortable with acai as an ingredient. But when it comes in a bag pureed all by itself and I'm the one who has to figure out what to do with it—that's a challenge for me. I mean sure, there are suggestions on the packaging and there are tons of recipes and ideas online. But up to this point, the acai in my world has always been pre-measured, pre-mixed, and pre-sweetened. And I liked it that way. 

But could I like it like this? It was worth spending $4.49 to find out.

Sonia and I have been brewing up fruit smoothies in our little generic wannabe "bullet" blender as of late, and we knew acai would be a welcome addition to our concoctions, which generally feature bananas, strawberries, yogurt, almond milk or coconut milk, and agave sweetener. It seemed like acai would probably blend pretty seamlessly with those ingredients. But knowing the berry's properties of earthiness, natural caffeine, and high levels of fiber, there would be certain potential pitfalls associated with using too much or too little in our homemade mixtures, namely: creating a beverage that might not taste great, missing a decent amount of sleep, and/or extra visits to the bathroom. But despite these inherent risks, we dove right in to acai-land and got a-mixin'.

Once thawed, the product is a fascinating purple goo. I had never tasted acai by itself before. It's far less sweet and much more earthy/nutty than I ever imagined. Those mixologists at Robek's and Jamba Juice always told me acai had a "natural chocolate-type flavor." Well, it certainly does when sweetened. But by itself, the flavor might be likened to some unusual, berry-ified bitter cocoa bean paste. If anything, our smoothies needed more sweetener than usual once we added the acai, in order to cancel out its natural bitterness.

Once sweetened, however, it added a very welcome complexity to our beverages that one simply cannot achieve using more traditional fruits and berries. It wasn't quite like those store-bought mixtures or a "professionally-blended" smoothie, but it certainly wasn't bad. We never did quite achieve that chocolatey taste we've had before, but we created an interesting fruit-based beverage with a velvety texture and an inviting richness seldom attained outside an actual smoothie joint—where you'd pay upwards of $5 for a single acai drink. 

Both Sonia and I are finding this one a bit hard to score, since it's just a single ingredient that begs to be used with many other ingredients. But for what it is: a convenient, relatively-reasonably priced (acai ain't cheap) exotic berry puree that can enhance your homemade smoothies and shakes, we think it deserves to be rated "really darn good."

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.