Monday, June 29, 2020

Trader Joe's Creamy Cauliflower JalapeƱo Dip

The heat of the summer is definitely not a favorite time of the year for Sonia and me. Don't get me wrong, I like wearing shorts and t-shirts rather than 18 layers of flannel and heavy outer garments, and taking a dip at the local pool is always fun—although, I don't even know if public pools are open this year. Are we swimming with masks on now? Does snorkel gear count as a mask? Darn you, 2020.

Eating ice cream and popsicles makes more practical sense when the weather's warm, so there's that. Also, cold, dairy-based dips and crisp veggies are good snacks for these higher temps. And here's a fun fact: spicy foods like jalapeno are helpful when it comes to staying cool and beating the summer heat. Apparently the spice makes you sweat without moving around a lot, and the moisture helps keep your body temperature low. Just think about it: most cultures that consume a lot of hot, spicy foods are found in warmer climates. See: Mexican food, Indian food, Thai food. Yum. Makes me sweaty just thinking about it. But that's kinda gross, so never mind.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—this dip isn't jalapeno-ey enough to make me sweat. It just flat out needs more spice if they're going to include "jalapeno" in the title of this product. There's just enough to provide a vague background warmth after consuming numerous bites of the condiment. There's very little kick up front.

The dip is quite creamy, however, and the cauliflower actually adds to said creaminess rather than detracting from it. It also lends an earthy, rich flavor that dairy alone might lack. Texture-wise, the dairy elements are very smooth, and the cauliflower must be pureed into oblivion, because there's hardly anything cauliflower-esque about the texture. There's just a hint of gritty coarseness.

All in all, it's not a far cry from any other cream cheese-based dip I've ever had. As much as the cauliflower flavor enhances this dip, I still think it could have worked with more cauliflower and less dairy flavor. If I were re-formulating version 2.0, I'd magnify the jalapeno presence nearly tenfold. There might be microscopic little bits of jalapeno in this version. I'd add substantial jalapeno pieces. Maybe not big slices like you'd find on a stack of nachos, but quarters of slices, perhaps.

Don't think this will be a repeat purchase. It's a neat idea, but it's just not memorable or flavorful enough, and there are way too many amazing dips already available at Trader Joe's. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Trader Joe's Honey Aleppo Sauce

Gotta love it when a plan just falls into your lap.

My lovely bride and I picked up the new Trader Joe's Honey Aleppo Sauce at least a week or two ago, and to be honest, we had no idea what to do with it. From my vantage point, you want to give something like this its best chance to shine for review reasons, and of course I want a good tasting dinner regardless. But, alike my inner Gary Johnson, I had no idea what aleppo is. I mean, yes, I knew Aleppo is a Syrian city, so I had at least had that going for me, but an aleppo pepper? Nah, can't say I'm familiar. I wanted to make something simple, easy and awesome with the sauce, but had no idea what.

Then who came through with the plan but Big Joe himself?

Found this gem on the official TJ Instagram. Coincidentally and happily, we already had rice and shrimp, and it'd been a few weeks since we used our Instapot to make rice (which is awesome) and even longer since we've had shrimp...and boom. Dinner plan. Fist bump.

Gotta say, the honey aleppo sauce isn't precisely what I expected, but then again, I didn't really know what to expect. Taking a close look at the bottle there gives a little clue. See how it's all kinda separated? That's even after I shook it up real good. This isn't any sort of thick, goopy sauce or even anything with all that much consistency. It's almost just downright watery, aside from the bits of crushed aleppo peppers that were floating around the bottom of the bottle. For whatever reason, I equate this kinda embodiment as potential weakness.

Naturally, this was incorrect.

There's plenty of flavor here. Oooh, plenty. And the great thing is, instead of a staged or sequential experience, almost all the flavor is present at once in a multilevel setup. From start to finish there's the light sweetness of honey at the base of the sauce, which lingers on your lips. it's delicious.

But also immediately detectable is the interplay of red wine vinegar and the aleppo peppers. The peppers are pretty interesting, and kinda tough to describe. "Spicy" isn't the right word, although they have some heat that builds. I mean, my kids ate the sauce and didn't whine about it, so it can't be too hot. I'd say on a scale of 1 to 10 the heat was about maybe a 4. But still, there's plenty of flavor, and much more....kinda like cumin and raisin, maybe? Tough to say precisely. It's unlike any other pepper I've experienced.

Tying it all up is just a little sprinkle of salt, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Classic little seasoning mix right there, and for good reason. It's just about perfect as it puts a little bow on the experience. It's pretty delicious all in all, and thorough and evenhanded start to finish.

So needless to say, I lovc the sauce, and want to try it out on more dishes. The "sweet, savory, tangy and slightly spicy" description from the bottle is definitely accurate. I only wish the sauce itself were a little thicker, as I'm not sure how something olive oil and honey based can be so thin, and that'd give everything a little more boost. That's my only knock, really, and both Sandy and I said we need to get a few more bottles which is price accessible enough at $3.99 a pop. Double fours here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Honey Aleppo Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Trader Joe's Hibiscus Lemongrass Sparkling Beverage

Both Sonia and I have "black thumbs." We've attempted growing plants throughout the years both inside and outside, large plants and small, flowers and vegetables, succulents and cacti, and each and every time, we manage to kill them in short order.

We actually had some lemongrass when we lived in New Jersey to help mitigate the out-of-control mosquito population in our backyard. We'd read that it's best to dig up the lemongrass by the root and put them in planters and bring them inside for the winter, although alternatively, you could trim them back and put some kind of covering over them to protect them from frost. They actually do the same thing with palm trees at the shore. Not that there are many reasons to go there in the offseason, but if you ever find yourself in Wildwood in the winter, you'll see random skinny tropical trees with big plastic bags on the tops lining the vacant beaches and empty boardwalks.

Anyway, since we lacked the space to house multiple large lemongrass plants inside, we opted for the method where you leave them outside. The bags we put on them blew away and they were thoroughly exposed to frost for months on end and they never came back in the spring. Byebye, lemongrass.

But while we had the plants, they did seem to keep the mosquitoes at bay to a certain extent, and they provided a lovely citrusy fragrance that would waft through the yard on summer evenings. When I'd clip the lemongrass with the weed whacker inadvertently while doing yard work, the lemony smell was even more pleasant and powerful. 

I often wondered if I could grab a handful of their long skinny leaves and grind them into a pulp and use them as a seasoning for food or flavoring for a beverage. That's almost the notion I get from this interesting sparkling drink from TJ's—that some dude just wandered into his backyard and snagged some leaves and flowers and stuck it in his Soda Stream water and made a unique homemade thirst-quencher.

It tastes very non-commercial, if that makes sense. It's barely sweet at all and tastes quite planty. There's just a hint of that lemony lemongrass essence and a whole lot of hibiscus flavor. I mean, I guess that's misleading to say it has "a whole lot" of any flavor. The taste is quite mellow. It just errs on the side of flowery rather than lemony or grassy.

I wonder if I couldn't achieve something similar by just grabbing some dandelions and ivy from the local park and mixing them with fizzy water. All in all, it's unusual and refreshing, but the flavor isn't something that I'd seek out in the future. Sonia enjoys the taste much more than I do, but then she generally likes hibiscus, and I generally don't.

$4.99 for four 12oz cans. It makes an interesting adult beverage when mixed with gin, so I'll be kind and give it two and a half stars. Sonia will go with four this time.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins

Cauliflower thins...cauliflower thins....cauliflower thins...need to get the cauliflower thins....TJ's didn't have the cauilflower thins...cauliflower thins....

Despite my lovely bride's insistence that I don't listen all the time, that's something I kept hearing the past few weeks. Need to try the Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins. I will admit I never looked them up either, so I kinda presumed they were a like a cracker-type deal. We've had cauliflower-based snackers like those before, and our kids love 'em and we don't mind them, so it was plausible to me.

Nah. Cauiflower thins are "a delicious & versatile bread substitute," so it's something along the lines of cauliflower crust pizza, except in smaller form.

One thing to get outta the way: I strongly dislike the the word thins as a plural. To me, the word "thin" will always be more of an adjective than a noun. If I ever slip a -g on the end, and my admittedly lazy editing process doesn't catch it, I apologize in advance.

Anyways, as far as these non-carb breadlike discs go, the thins are okay. The ingredients state, in order, that they're mainly comprised of cauliflower, eggs and Parmesan cheese, yet somehow the cauli-coasters don't taste like any of them, really. Granted, cauliflower doesn't really taste like anything, and the other two may be more binding agents than anything, I guess...? Instead, its vaguely bread-like matter that seems a bit dense but kinda doughy, and pretty vaguely flavored. Nutritious, though. In some ways, I kinda imagine that this is what manna would be like. I'd get sick of it within 40 days, for sure, much less 40 years. Hard to describe. They're...there, but not much else can easily be described.

As far as versatility goes, I'd imagine there would be some. Sandy and I toasted ours up for an egg sandwich, and instead of breaking, the thins happily bent and curved like a taco. It'd be hard to imagine them getting crispy, but then again, anything's possible. See: 2020.

I'd love more time to experiment, but alas, an issue: Out of the four pack, even though we were several days before the best by date, two of them got slightly moldy, so into the trash. Not happy about that, but it happens, and something to watch for. On the bright side, that gives you, our reader, plenty of opportunity to chime in with how you've enjoyed yours. Hit us up.

There ya have it. TJ's cauli-thinny-things. I'm sure if we were going keto or back to paleo they may be higher on the list, but as a guy who generally prefers to drink and not eat his carbs, I can have a little appreciation for what they are. Somewhere around a three from both of us sounds right.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cauliflower Thins: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Trader Joe's Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

Neither Sonia nor I can recall ever having truly homemade lemonade in our lives, which probably puts us among the least-qualified Americans to review this product. But heck, it's almost summer—the solstice is this weekend, in fact—and lemonade is very much a staple of these warmer months, so we'll take a look at it anyway.

I grew up with store-bought lemonades of various brands, most notably Minute Maid and Turkey Hill. I'm not sure why, but I don't think I had even heard of limeade until my teens. My head exploded when I first realized people did to limes what I had previously thought only done to lemons, and since that moment, I've been a limeade devotee.

Maybe it's a Latin-American thing, or possibly a west coast thing, but Sonia grew up with limeade as the staple citrus fruit-based beverage available in her childhood refrigerator. She's always preferred it to lemonade. So again, considering our bias towards limes over lemons and commercially-manufactured juices over the kind mama made, maybe we shouldn't be reviewing this fresh squeezed lemonade product...but here goes just the same.

We've seen numerous iterations of lemonade from Trader Joe's throughout the years, although most have been combined with other elements like tea or other juices. So what makes this one different?

First, it's unpasteurized. They keep all those tasty bacteria in this version—for extra flavor, I guess? Maybe the acidity of the lemon juice keeps the little buggers at bay without necessitating any heat via pasteurization. I'm sure someone will enlighten us via our illustrious comments section.

Second, there are only three ingredients. Three. Water, lemon juice, sugar. That's my favorite thing about this product. It's simple. In these days of complexity, it's nice to see something so clean and straightforward.

Mind you, if I had been the one formulating this product, I might have reversed those last two ingredients. I might have put sugar ahead of lemon juice and made this beverage predominantly sweet, rather than tart. I'm not saying it's not sweet. I'm just saying it leans in the direction of sour more than sugary. Sonia agrees. It's still refreshing. It's still got what I would assume is a "homemade quality" about it.

We both liked it just fine, but we would like to see a Trader Joe's Fresh Squeezed Limeade on the shelves next time with the exact same ingredients used here, except with "lime juice" replacing "lemon juice." Limes are sweeter than lemons, so that might knock the tartness down a notch. Also, tequila works okay with lemonade, but it's absolutely perfect with lime-based beverages. Am I right?

If you love the tartness of real lemon juice, you'll likely love this remarkably uncomplicated beverage. $3.49 for the 1.6 quart bottle. This product gets three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Mix

Corn. It's everywhere and in everything. It's across the street from where I grew up in suburban Philadelphia - even between all the fancy residential developments and retail shopping centers that seemingly try to devour them all, a corn field still remains. It's like the entire middle of America, right? I know that's not precisely true but it's what a lot of people say anyways, and most of us kinda smile and nod. It was on my dinner plate last night in it's classic on-the-cob form, and is most nights anyways as a somewhat sneaky food ingredient that's in almost everything it seems.

That's not all, of course. Corn is used to make everything from fuel to plastics to heck, even spark plugs these days. You can't get away from it even if you tried.

Despite all this, seeing something like Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Baking Mix was a bit of a surprise. Cookies...featuring corn? And we don't mean like candy corn, either. Like, actual real a selling feature and not just as HFCS or any of that stuff.

Apparently the concept of a corn cookie has been around for a while. I've just never heard of it, which is par for the course for me of course. At first impression and without much further research, there seems to be like a 1950s vibe to the idea. I'd welcome to be corrected by anyone more knowledgeable than me.

Anyways, the TJ's cookies. They're super easy to make. A cannister of the mix, two sticks of unsalted butter and a large egg are all that's needed to make two dozen corn cookies. Or if you're like me and can't make even sized dough balls, it might be more like 30. Anyways, just mix those all up to a smooth batter, which will likely take a few minutes - I was staring at a mishmash of crumbs for a while until it just magically came together.

Now, imagine cornbread. And imagine a decently crispy, light sugar cookie. And think of the two of them smashed together, with the graininess of the cornbread being stripped away. That's almost precisely what these cookies taste like. It's a bit odd at first but it gets more comfortable on repeated bites. the flavor comes in a wave - first, it's unmistakably corny, but then transitions to a sweet, almost creamy cookie taste. It's like cornbread but sweeter, and like a cookie but cornier. And it actually kinda works.

Naturally this got me a little curious to try a little experimentation. I sprinkled a little cinnamon atop one. That worked nicely. But then I got the courage to go bold. How do these corn cookies and, say, a little Everything but the Elote Seasoning go together? Or heck even a cookie and a pickled jalapeno? I will say I tried them both and wasn't completely offput by the experience. The pepper pairing was better than the elote eloping in my opinion, but then again, I'm not a huge fan of the elote stuff anyways. I know. Shame on me. 

It is important to note that the first ingredient of the TJ corn cookie mix is, in fact, wheat. Sorry, glutenfree folks out there.

As a whole, neither my lovely bride nor I nor our kids absolutely love or hate the corn cookies. A repeat purchase is entirely debatable and may be subject to any suggestions for other ways of using the mix. There's nothing revolting about them, for sure, but nothing that really gathers our enthusiasm either. We'll go double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Mix: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 15, 2020

Trader Joe's Pecan Pralines

Man, 2020 has been quite a year so far, and we're not even halfway through it yet. Has the whole world gone nuts?

Apparently, everything is happening on schedule. Earlier this year, I finished reading a book called The Fourth Turning, written the year I graduated high school: 1997, over two decades ago. This book specified that the "climax of the crisis era" would begin "around the year 2020" and would be marked by "new diseases," "cultural distress," "social distress," "political distress," "economic distress," and "military distress." These predictions were made based on the simple theory that history repeats itself roughly every 80 years. 

Look at 1940: WWII raged around the world and the U.S. got pulled into it the following year. 80 years prior: 1860, the American Civil War. 80 years prior to that: 1780, right in the middle of the American Revolution. The pattern actually goes back well before the formation of this country, and it can be observed in almost any civilization throughout history. It's an incredibly insightful read and I could go on and on for pages, so to prevent this snack review from becoming a book report, I'll try to wrap things up. My point? It's going to be a bumpy ride for a while, but stuff is cyclical, and no, the world is not nuts—or more accurately, it's no more or less nuts than it's ever been.

What is nuts? Trader Joe's Pecan Pralines. In times like these, it's nice to have an old familiar snack that you can count on to curb the munchies, satisfy a sweet tooth, and keep your blood sugar up without too much fanfare.

The pecans are a good mixture of pecan halves and smaller pecan bits, generously coated in a praline confection consisting of sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. They're very sweet, moderately salty, and surprisingly buttery. Texture-wise, for a fraction of a second, they feel almost breaded when they're in my mouth. I guess that's a testament to the amount of sugar, butter, and salt that's on there.

The flavor is so potent that I'm usually pretty satisfied after just two or three pecans. Beyond that, I feel like I'm teetering on the brink of hyperglycemic shock. That sweet butter just builds up on my tongue and I need to chug a half gallon of water to reclaim equilibrium in my mouth. In light of that, I think this single tub would last me quite a while if it were just me. Sonia's quite happy to eat them all day long, however. She finds them supremely addictive.

These have been around there on TJ's candy shelf for a number of years now, at least. Once again, this is the first opportunity we've had to try them. If you already like pecans and enjoy them in a buttery candy form, then this snack is for you. I'd be okay going quite a while before we purchase them again, but I think Sonia will grab them sooner. 

A plastic tub will run you just under $6 at Trader Joe's, or....what the WHAT? You can pick them up on eBay for about $40 plus shipping?

Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Trader Joe's Coconut & Almond Creamer

Ahh, coffee. So good, right? And who knew how wrong I've been making it for years?

It's simple, actually. We just bought a kitchen scale for use for baking and fermenting, but my lovely bride Sandy just realized we should be using it to make coffee, too, for our French press. Something about 1 gram of coffee for every 15 grams of water or something....for someone one so math adverse as her, I'm surprised she took it on. But dang! Awesome coffee every time she's made it that way. Smooth, mild, highly drinkable, enough kick. Coffeehouse quality, as simple as that, for a fraction of the cost.

Of course, I haven't embraced or learned this new to us method quite yet, so when I had to make some brew to get us going yesterday, I reverted to the old ways. Grind some beans, dump in an approximate amount, pour water til it looked about right. Result? Comparatively speaking, it was barely drinkable. Looks like I'm going have to do some coffee break science from now on.

About the only thing that made my coffee drinkable was Trader Joe's Coconut & Almond Creamer. Or so says Sandy, I choked down my coffee as is, but when she's gone for creamy coffee recently this has been her choice.

Obviously, it's dairy free. So that's an okay start...we both can handle lactose just fine but prefer to save as much as we can for cheese. Coconut creamer can tend to be a little too heavy, while almond creamer never really seems to make coffee quite creamy enough by itself, so a good blend of the two seems to make the right kind of sense to approximate "regular" creamer the closest.

Not too much coconut or almond flavor comes through - a little, sure, but it's not gonna taste like a flavored latte. The small hint of vanilla helps smooth all that over as well.

 Anyways if you're looking for a decent dairy-free alternative to the usual half and half, giving this one a try wouldn't be a bad idea. I have a feeling we'll be restocking on an as-needed basis, until I can convince Sandy to go all black coffee like I do. I don't have much of say here, so like our old way of making coffee, I'm gonna approximate and hope for the best when I say a seven overall. I forgot to take a pic of the nutritional info so check it out here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Coconut & Almond Creamer: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Chip Scones

I'm not sure how or when it came up, but I just recently realized that Brits pronounce "scones" like "skonz." We Yanks, of course, say it with a long "o" sound. But really, outside of urban coffee shops and a few unique stores like Trader Joe's, scones aren't even really a big part of American culture. I don't think I even knew what a scone was until I moved away from Pennsyltucky in my early twenties. It seems odd we'd find a way to mispronounce the name of something that in my mind is so uniquely British. Why wouldn't we just adopt their way of saying the name? I guess unless there's a limey bloke standing there in the Starbucks teaching all us dumb 'Muricans how to say the name of the pastry, that we're all just going to assume it's pronounced the way it looks.

Regardless of how you say the name, most scones I've tried are pretty tasty. The carbivore in me always loved the dense, crusty wheatiness, and there's usually some kind of fruit and/or confection to satisfy my sweet tooth. They seem a little more sophisticated and alluring than a boring donut or toaster pastry.

These breakfast treats are no different. They've got that amazing flaky texture, and Sonia and I were both very impressed with the taste. I've heard of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and even caramel chips...but cinnamon chips? I suppose it makes sense that you could make just about anything into a chip. The cinnamon chips within the scones taste nice and cinnamony, but also sweet. There's more than enough cinnamon flavor to taste the spice on your palate, but it's not over the top. It's kind of a creamy, sweet cinnamon taste, and it blends very nicely with the dense bread.

Most scones taste great with coffee, but this flavor in particular is outstanding with a cup of java. I'm not even a coffee guy, but I'd pour myself a small cuppa just to have it with these cinnamony biscuits. Sonia downs about a gallon of Joe a day, so she had no trouble polishing her share of the scones off in a matter of hours. The scones dunk pretty well, or if you prefer them dry, they're delicious that way, too.

If you like thick desserty bread, cinnamon, and sugar, these cinnamon chip scones are a great find. Three scones in the pack for $3.99.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. An even four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Josephsbrau Drive Thru Red

One of these years, when the state of the world, the status of the ol' bank account, and the mindset of my family all magically coincide, I want to go out to the West Coast for a long trip up and thru the redwoods of Northern California. I've been to SoCal, and Disney Land and Joshua Tree National Park and San Diego, which were all pretty fun but no further north than Anaheim.  It just looks awe-inspiring, and with enough wineries around, I'm sure my lovely bride would be happy enough as well.

Such a trip is definitely not on the table this year, but what we can do is a day trip from the 'burgh over to Ohio, stop at a state park attraction or two, and meander over towards the Cleveland area Trader Joe's and load up on all the beverages that good ol' PA won't allow them to sell. It's family fun combined with a business trip, so that's what we did, and one of the many sixpacks I came home with was Josephbrau Drive Thru Red, and it just so happened to be the first I dug into.

The name "Drive Thru Red" is thankfully not an endorsement of drinking while operating motor vehicle but rather is inspired by literally driving thru the famous Chandelier tree. A quick Google image search reveals where TJ's got the inspiration for the package artwork. Heck yeah, if I were ever in the area, I'd totally go do that.

But for now, while stuck in La Backyarda or El Porcho for the most part, I wouldn't mind having a few more of these dry hopped red ales on hand. For a beer that runs at 7.2% ABV it's remarkably smooth and goes down easily. As with most dry hopped beers, there's not too much bitterness hitting from the hops, but rather a balance from the inherent maltiness of the ale. The colder the beer is, the better it tastes to my palate, which isn't always the case with beer. Even my usually hops-avoidant wife didn't mind the overall taste and feel of the beer. I personally prefer the bitterness and think this could be the makings of a terrific IPA, which is my only knock, and it's a pretty light one at that.

And it's cheap! Well, comparatively. I'm pretty sure it's a buck per bottle. That's much less than anything at the local bar and on par if not even less than Yuengling, the Pennsylvania standard lager. If not for being over a two hour drive away for the closest alcohol friendly TJ's, this beer would be an absolute summer staple at my house.

Good solid beer, for sure. Drive Thru Red reminds me there are things to look forward to, while offering a little something for now. Double fours.

Bottom line: Josephbrau Drive thru Red: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, June 5, 2020

Trader Joe's Some Enchanted Cracker

Whenever I hear the word "enchanted," no, I don't think of the 2007 Disney musical starring Amy Adams—I think of The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. You know, the one from Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox has to get his parents to hook up so he'll eventually be born in the future so then later he can go back to the past and, you know, get his parents to hook up? And that, in turn, makes me think of one of the funniest stand-up bits I've seen in a long time. There are some swears, so I guess it's NSFW, although now that everybody works from home, we don't have our bosses standing over our shoulder judging us for whatever we're watching online, right? If you're working on company equipment, however, you can better bet they're monitoring every keystroke, every time-wasting YouTube video, and every unsolicited Zoom call or Hangouts convo or whatever nonsense you do to waste time when you're supposed to be working. If you're reading this blog, for example, you can be darn sure they know about it. Big Brother and all that—which is where society at large is heading anyway these days.

Wow. That's some aimless rabbit-trailing right there. Where was I? Ah yes, The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. That makes me think of tuna fish. Tuna's something enchanting from under the sea, right? And tuna salad goes excellent with these enchanting crackers. There. I think that's the connection I was trying to make.

Know what else goes with these crackers? Lotsa stuff. Just about any cheese you might have on hand, cream cheese spreads, smoked salmon, chicken salad, cold cuts, veggies, name it.

The crackers are super versatile and highly snackable. They're flavorful enough to eat on their own, but the flavors are fairly neutral, so they don't clash with any particular type of flavor you might want to add to them. The dominant taste of the crackers is nutty and wheaty. There are three types of seeds present: flax, sesame, and also poppy—so, you know, don't eat them right before a drug test. They're lightly sweet and moderately salty.

Trader Joe's Some Enchanted Cracker multigrain crackers are larger than, say, your typical Ritz type butter cracker, and they're even more crumbly. The larger size is nice for stacking multiple toppings and creating top-shelf, gourmet-looking appetizers. Or you can easily create the cracker equivalent of a Dagwood sandwich.

I'd never ever use the word "enchanted" to describe something as mundane as a cracker. But as hors d'oeuvres go, I guess this is about as enchanting as it gets. Apparently, these crackers were available at Trader Joe's at least six years ago, and they may have been discontinued and reinstated once or twice. They were available on our last TJ's run, and honestly, this is the very first time we've had them. Might be a repeat purchase. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Trader Joe's Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit

Let's see here...

Arugula? Check.

Shaved carrot chips? Alright.

Crushed almonds? Ok.

Shredded Parmesan cheese? Yup.

What do all of these have in common, aside from being the base of the new Trader Joe's Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit?

A couple things, really, that are pertinent here. First, there's pretty literally nothing I can say about any of them. These ingredients, presuming they are fresh, are darn near impossible to mess up, and nearly as difficult to stand out in any way, shape or form. I mean, I suppose an exceptionally good Parmesan could, but when's the last time you had a noteworthy bite of straight up plain ol' arugula. I'll take the under on "never." So we're not gonna talk about them, because the second thing they have in common is I can almost guarantee that not a single of those ingredients is the reason why anyone would buy this salad. Nothing exotic. No fancy fixings. No nothin', really.

Nah, it's all about that basil lemon vinaigrette.

C'mon now, that just sounds good, doesn't it? Sounds light and fresh and summery and just perfect to drizzle atop on otherwise uninspiring heap of greens and stuff. If you're like me and like to see what's in something before eating it, you'll notice a lot of funky ingredients, too - lemon and basil, sure, but also white grape juice, honey, garlic, cayenne, turmeric, white wine, and so on. Sounds intriguing, and visually, if I didn't know what it was, I'd think it'd be a slightly soupy avocado dressing kinda deal.

Take a bite of the salad without it? Meh. Get some mixed in. Even just a light coat changes that to an "ooo." It's surprisingly light with it's medium-ish consistency, bright, and helps lighten up everything. There's the lemon hit, yet with it there's a taste of almost everything else, so there's a wee bit of complexity going on. If you're concerned about spice level because of that aforementioned cayenne, worry not - it's there but only slight, just enough to give the smallest hint of an edge but not much more. I mean, my kids devoured it, so it can't be that bad. It even made mouthfuls of arugula sound like an appetizing idea. Nothing against arugula per se, as it is a fine leafy green, and certainly above regular ol' iceberg lettuce, but it's definitely lower than spinach and kale in the cruciferous power rankings.

Yeah, yet another TJ salad where I'd imagine most of us wish they'd just sell the dressing separately.

Life gives you lemons, so make lemonade. Or you can make lobster. Or maybe now you can say a basil lemon vinaigrette for a side salad. Oooh all that sounds like a tasty dinner. Good stuff, good salad, good value at $2.99 for a large bag.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Trader Joe's Mint-A-Breath Bones

For the past few years, our dogs have been obsessed with Greenies brand dental treats. If you're a dog owner, you might want to check them out if you haven't already. They really do help clean the dogs' teeth. There's a noticeable reduction in yellow stains on our pooches' chompers since they've been eating Greenies.

And they LOVE the taste and texture. They beg for them everyday. Alfred knows which drawer we keep them in, and he'll camp out next to it multiple times a day, staring at it, asking us to give him one of his favorite snacks. He barks nice and loud if we ignore him.

Both dogs gobble those things up like nothing else. They'll choose Greenies over Milk Bones, Snausages, Canine Carry Outs, or any Trader Joe's brand treat we've given them so far, and we're very pleased with their effect on our pups' breath and dental health.

Enter: Trader Joe's Mint-A-Breath Bones. How do they compare? 

First impressions: they're much harder than Greenies, which isn't particularly convenient when we want to break them in half for our very small dogs. But it's a plus in that one of these bones keeps Alfred busy for the better part of a half hour, whereas its Greenie counterpart is gone in minutes, if not seconds.

Greenies come in two different sizes. We usually go for the smaller size, but if the larger one is all that's available, we'll grab that one, and we simply break each toothbrush-shaped treat in half. These Mint-A-Breath Bones are comparable to the larger of the two Greenies sizes.

The treats were apparently too hard for Sadie, and she didn't even make a dent in hers. She's the smaller of our two dogs, and she's never really been into chew toys or super hard snacks. She's always had more stains on her teeth and worse breath than her brother, though, too. She seemed interested in the smell of the bone, but she gave up trying to eat it rather quickly.

That's the Greenie on the left, Mint-A-Bone on the right in the pic above. Ingredients-wise, the Trader Joe's version is rice-based, while the original is made with wheat. There's significantly more protein and fat in Greenies than the TJ's version, and also more calories by volume. 

I just read that the Mint-A-Breath Bones aren't recommended for dogs under 30 pounds. Whoops. I guess we'll break out a sharp kitchen knife next time and saw one in half for both our dogs. In light of that, I think we'll stick to Greenies for now. Here's a quick video with our animal friends' reactions to the bones:

Four paw prints from Alfred. Two paw prints from Sadie.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.