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Friday, June 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Caramel Ginger Popcorn

"Like Cracker Jack for adults."

Those were the first words out of Sandy's  mouth after her initial sampling of Trader Joe's Caramel Ginger Popcorn. And it is kinda the easy comparison - the known American classic that pretty much anyone has at least a vague idea of what it is. Cheap popcorn, heavily coated in corn syrupy caramel with surprisingly few peanuts and a dumb sticker that sticks less than all the kernels leftover in your teeth.

I mean, who really enjoys Cracker Jack?

All that being said, this Caramel Ginger Popcorn is pretty tasty. With a caveat or two, yes, but still....much better than Cracker Jack.

First off, it's pretty decent popcorn - surprisingly fresh tasting for a bagged product. And the coating of caramelized sugar, while a little uneven and thicker at times, is by-in-large thinner and adds a more-crispy-than-crunchy element. Most bites are more sugary than anything else, but not too over the top.

Of course, there's the ginger though...the further you dig into the bag, the more it's there. Other than an occasional hint here and there, there's not much of it about at first. Midway thru, it's almost an every morsel occurrence. But by the bottom, if you don't like ginger - pick carefully. That's where all the crystallized ginger nuggets reside, bursting with ginger heat ready to singe the tastebuds. It's not entirely unpleasant if you like such things, but if you're ginger adverse, steer away.

Sandy really enjoys it, more than I do. "If it only had cashews, it'd be perfect," she said. I agree that'd be a good little addition, even if it meant slightly sacrificing the $3 price point for the sack. I'd wish there'd be a way for more of the ginger to be evenly distributed so it wasn't feast or famine in that regard. Anyways, as it is, here's an above average score. Now if it only had a really bad baseball sticker in there too...

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Caramel Ginger Popcorn: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Matcha Joe-Joe's

In my ongoing attempts to be a well-rounded human, I repeatedly try things I'm not 100% enthusiastic about at the onset. Once in a while, said things I'm not super enthused about wind up growing on me. Case in point: matcha.

Trader Joe's dessertification of the earthy powdered green tea was a great excuse to give matcha another try. Well, okay, not this candy bar dessertification of green tea. Despite being a fan of white chocolate, that combo still sounds a little weird to me, and I'm glad Russ picked up a bar so I didn't have to.

But matcha in sandwich cookies? That's just weird enough to work. If it worked with coffee, then why wouldn't it work with green tea?

Will the matcha still fight cancer, lower cholesterol, boost immunity, reduce stress, and enhance my metabolism? Somehow, I doubt it. But I'm going to eat these cookies anyway.

Upon first bite, you might not notice the matcha flavor. I mean, it's there, so you might notice it if you're really paying attention, but the vanilla cookies mute the earthy green tea taste to the point where even matcha-haters might be able to stomach this particular iteration of Joe-Joe's.

For matcha lovers—if you want to prove to yourself that these cookies are well-worth their "matcha" moniker—return to your childhood by unscrewing the sandwich cookie and licking the creme center right off the cookie. Bam. It's sweet...but it's unmistakably matcha-y. I admit, it's weird that it works. But it does. Even for me, who, again, isn't super into matcha—it's so sweet that I can't dislike it.

I'm going to surprise even myself here as I toss out three and a half stars. Matcha-liking Sonia will go with four.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Cashew Apricot Date & Nut Bites with Coconut & Citrus

Oh goodness. Vacation. All. That. Food. And junk. Lots and lots of junk food.

Please tell me it's not just us.

In our regular day-to-day lives, Sandy and I try to reasonably limit our unhealthyish indulgences to maybe a small portion a day. But on our recent vacation - game on. Chips, candies, cookies, pie, cheese curls, whatever else - oh yes. All that. And ice cream. Oh goodness. If you're ever in the area of Penn Yan, NY, you gotta go to The Spotted Duck. We went there regrettably only twice, including our last official trip stop, and I'd easily consider making the 10 hour round trip just to go there again, it's that awesome.

All this to say, I still got a case of the snackies now that I'm home, but I need something healthy to counterblanace all it was great time to discover Trader Joe's Cashew Apricot Date & Nut Bites with Coconut & Citrus.

You could tell me these bites were a Larabar test product and I'd believe you. There's that very similar vibe, with soft chewy dates making up the body of the bar with nuts densely interspersed. I've grown to enjoy that kinda texture from most Larabars, and it's much the same here. Cashews are a great nutty choice - so much better than either peanuts or almonds IMHO - and I like how the dried apricot adds fruity flair and natural sweetness. The zested citrus peel adds a bright, somewhat unexpected finish - a real nice touch that sets these apri-nut bites apart.

Haven't mentioned the coconut yet. That's because while I'm not opposed to its presence, if I had to choose one ingredient to axe, that'd be it. There's so much else going on, the coconut just isn't terribly necessary, and the fibery specks do mess the texture up a small bit. Not awfully much, but enough to make note.

And another small note: the packaging. The outer bag isn't the problem. It's what's inside. Each bite is individually wrapped in a sealed plastic wrapper that's almost big enough for two bites. That's just unnecessary. I get that TJ's wouldn't want the date bites to stick together, but there's goota be a better solution than that.

So aside from a few small quibbles, we like them a bit. I'd consider them Paleo friendly as the only questionable ingredient is rice flour on the dried fruit...meh. Any way I look at it, the date and nut bites are a healthier bet than the half pound of Sour Patch watermelon chewies I gobbled on vacation. Or the quarter of a grape pie. Or the numerous scoops of ice cream. Or get the point. Check 'em out for $3.99 for the sack. Yums.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cashew Apricot Date & Nut Bites with Coconut & Citrus: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons