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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn

Random amazing facts:

Both Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery were almost in the Lord of the Rings movies as Aragorn and Gandalf, respectively. That woulda been interesting, especially if somehow the famous quote from The Rock (kinda NSFWish) got referenced...

Actually, no, my mind is too blown at that to really go on too much more down that rabbit hole, but let's just also mention that somehow, corn is not the number one ingredient in the new Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn. 

Naw, fam, it's good ol sugar. 

More sugar than corn in popcorn - what? Does that technically make this a candy? Can this legally be labelled as popcorn? Who knows? 

At first thought, lime and popcorn seem odd bedfellows, especially key lime for a more dessert-y take than, say, a Mexican-style. But, really, it works. Must be all the sugar. The basis, of course, is a crunchy, fluffy, good ol' fashioned kettle corn kernel, which admittedly I was too busy shoveling into my mouth to snap a pic of...yet again...sorry, fans. The kernels themselves have this somewhat odd looking coloring, almost like a green fluorescent highlighter than may or may not be glow in the dark. But apparently that's all the key lime, because it hits - bright, citrusy, very lime, and super delicious. It's important to note that this is not key lime pie flavor, so don't expect hints of pie crust or cream topping or anything - nah, just good ol' lime. It works, it really works, and in my opinion really oughtta be tasted to have it make sense. It will. 

All the descriptors on the packaging work. Sweet? Yes, obviously. Salty? Of course. Tart? Heck yeah. Tangy? Sure thing. One thing to note: coconut oil is used as the popping oil, and while that doesn't add any obvious flavor, it's something to be aware of for allergen reasons.

We got one bag for our family to take on a picnic dinner to an outdoor concert in the park in the other night, and within seconds each of us were clamoring for the bag and trying to horde as many handfuls as we could. Kids loved it. We loved it. Absolutely we're going to have buy more, and my lovely bride even did some recon on buying a case - it's something like 64 bags, and while that seems a bit overkill, I don't think I'd be terribly upset about it either, long as it got eaten. Hate wasting food. 

Sandy will give it a four, only because she's "not the biggest fan" of kettle corn in general. C'mon now....ok, yes dear. I'll have to go above that. We're gonna have to try our best to bring some more back home and have at it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Red Curry Thai Noodles

Time to break out something from the back of the pantry. Red curry Thai noodles. The name sounds appetizing enough. The packaging? Not so much. I've had some truly awful noodle offerings in big paper bowls that look very similar to this one. Hopefully it's just a trick of the eye and this will be on par with or better than the other instant curry options we've seen from Trader Joe's over the years.

After a quick glance at the heating instructions, something stands out to me: there's no mention of adding water. Huh? You mean these things are already full of their own moisture? Or maybe they'll have enough just from the sauce packet mentioned on the packaging..? Not adding water to this big bowl of noodles goes against my every instinct. But I'll be a good boy this time and follow the directions.

Preparation involves opening two big pouches, one full of noodles, one full of sauce and veggies. Then you simply nuke for 90 seconds. Simple enough. No water involved.

Things came out perfectly after following the heating instructions. I stirred the elements around a bit, since the noodles are so tightly packed from being smooshed in their vacuum sealed pouch for goodness knows how long.

The noodles are nice and thick, almost like udon. They've got some body to them. They're nothing like cheap ramen noodles. They're more like soba noodles in terms of thickness, though they're not as dark as buckwheat noodles. Although it's not apparent in the photo I took, there's the perfect amount of sauce to coat all the noodles, which is good because the noodles don't bring a whole lot to the table in terms of flavor just by themselves. There are peas in the mix and also bamboo shoots, which remind me of carrots in terms of texture and maybe even a little in terms of flavor.

The sauce steals the show. It's coconutty, sweet, spicy, and flavorful. I'll almost always want more heat in a product like this one, but I'm honestly surprised just how much spice there is in this bowl—more than enough to keep it interesting. I'm not saying I didn't crave a little more of that Thai red chili spice, but the amount I got was acceptable. I really expected this product to be bland and unappetizing, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I'd ask for more peas, bamboo shoots, and maybe some other veggies in the mix. A little more heat never hurts a dish like this. All in all, not a bad lunch for $2.49. Shelf-stable, pescatarian, easy to prepare, and surprisingly good as far as taste is concerned.

7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons

After perhaps straying a little bit out of their lane with vegan pork rinds, here's a return closer to the TJ's wheelhouse for completely animal product free products with Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons. 

Seriously, "porkless" pork rinds? Still can't wrap my head around that. 

But hey, a tasty icy cold ice cream-like treat made from coconut milk? I am 110% behind that. 

That's the good part about this (new?) offering, from the same folks behind some other brilliant frozen non dairy desserts. That "ice cream" is on point - firm, not too melty, the right consitency, hits all the flavor marks without being too weird. There's a part of me that always expects coconut milk-based stuff to taste like, well, coconuts which depending on the prodcut can be either disappointing or inspired, but it rarely works that way. Even if there is a faint coconut taste here, the nice chocolatey enrobing adds a rich cocoa flavor, decidely on the darker side, with a good candy coat crunch. An informal survey of our bon bons revelaed that some of them even happened to have two distinct shells - all the more flavor and fun! Delish. Think of a pretty tasty Klondike bar, in somewhat of a dome form, and that's what we got here. 

Unfortunately, though, there's a couple shortfalls. If this product were simply named "Vegan Vanilla and Chocolate Bons Bons", I think that'd be a pretty apt description. But, alas, they're not. They're supposed to be "cookies & creme" and "vanilla bean." Let's look at those two alleged descriptors. First off, the easier one - vanilla bean. That says to me a richer, more decadent version of vanilla - not getting that here. It's decidedly a pretty basic taste here - nothing wrong, but not memorable either. Second, "cookies & creme'? Please. A few of our tidbits had nothing resembling any cookie in them. Like, it was just empty "ice cream" with no swirls ors crumbles or chunks. The ones with anything though? The cookie dough was soft and grainy and really nondescript for any sort of flavor - it was hard to taste them at all. Like, nothing, and it's not like cookies and cream is a difficult ice cream flavor to nail down. Bad execution there. 

But yeah, overall, we liked them, and the bon bons were about the right size for a small little cold treat, which will be great this summer. Even nonperfect sweets can be enjoyed, which is how I'll think we'll go with these. Would buy again for sure so let's just hit that bottom line. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones

This week marks the official astronomical start of summer, and that means it's ice cream season. Admittedly, Sonia is more of the cone aficionado, or "conehead," in our household. I'll usually opt to shovel the confectionery dairy right out of the pint container and into my mouth like a true ice cream glutton, although even I like to give it the cone treatment once in a while.

Eating frozen dessert from a cone feels more like you're at the fair or an amusement park—except you don't have to deal with crowds and wonder if someone will bump into you hard enough to knock the ice cream off the cone and onto the ground. It's a real bummer when that happens. Better to just eat the ice cream cone in your own home where there's fewer people. It's less expensive that way, too. There are also not as many roller coasters, which is unfortunate, because I like roller coasters. But I digress.

The cones are the perfect combination of structural integrity and brittle crispness. That is, they won't snap when you're pressing down a scoop of ice cream onto the top, but they crunch and break away nicely when bitten from an angle. They're pleasantly thick, but not to the point where they're difficult to eat.

Trader Joe's Organic Sugar Cones are lightly sweet, with "organic dark brown sugar" as the primary sweetening ingredient. There's an appetizing wheaty breadiness to them and notes of vanilla in the background. They have just enough flavor of their own that they could honestly be a stand-alone snack food, but they're also understated enough that they won't get in the way of your tasty ice cream, no matter the variety.

$2.29 for a product like this is a pretty decent bargain, considering you'll find non-organic cones in other grocery stores for upwards of $3. We wish they were somehow resealable, although they do throw you a bone and wrap them in two columns rather than one, so if you're not going to eat all 12 cones in one sitting, at least half the dozen of them won't go stale right away.

Apparently, these are seasonal, so pick some up before they disappear if you're interested. They have a fairly long shelf life, so you could probably stock up enough to last until next summer if you're a year-round ice cream consumer.

Looks like four stars a piece again for these organic sugar cones. 

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Trader Joe's Spicy Porkless Plant-Based Snack Rinds

You know, when it comes to it....I really have no idea how to start here, except to say I've never been so gobsmacked out of left field before for any sort of TJ's product before. 


Vegan pork rinds?

What the what?

This pretty much sums it up when it comes to me hearing about Trader Joe's Spicy Porkless Plant-Based Snack Rinds for the first time. 

I mean, you know what a pork rind is, right? It's deep fried pork skin, render off a bunch of fat, add a bunch of spices, get a big ol' cracklin' piece that's crunchier than stale granola. It's pretty much as unvegan as you can get. Speaking from a fairly carnivorous standpoint, there's some parts of animals not high on my list, and that's absolutely one of them. 

So, instead of that, make some sort of rind-esque shape from rice meal and pea powder and bake them, so basically make them not so pork rind-y at all, except allude back to them in packaging and marketing by calling them rinds and inventing the new word "porkless." That's not fun to neither say nor type. 

Needless to say, if you're expecting a pork rind, this new TJ's snackers ain't it. There's too much amiss. First off, the crunch? It's not there. Crispy? Sure. Hard and crunchy? Not even close. It's a pretty soft bite all things considered. Maybe leave the bag open for a day or two to stale 'em up a touch if that's what you're looking for. More importantly, though, is the aftertaste. After the burn of the spice (more on that shortly) burns off, whereas a some nice fatty savory sensation from an actual pork rind would kick in to really bring the whole experience home...there's just this earthy meh-ness. i mean, I know you can expect much from rice and peas (not a knock, just saying) but they are absolutely a different flavor and taste base than any meat product, which cannot be replicated. 

All that being said, what stands out for these pig-free poppers is the spice blend. It's great! Sure, there's a touch of vinegar, but also so much more - the cayenne and little pinch of habanero really ratchet up the Scovilles while onion and garlic flesh out the flavor more. It's hot and spicy and tasty and delicious. Great seasoning, regardless of what you'd put it on. 

Really, I think instead of trying to emulate and going toe-to-toe (err, hoof-to-hoof?) with pork rinds, which as far as I know aren't exactly cornerstones of the 'murican snackfood pyramid anyways, call these guys something more like "rice and pea snacks" or something catchier. Okay, maybe I see why they went with rinds after all...but you don't have to compare yourself to others to stand out. Just be yourself. 

Failed to get a respectable pic of the ingredients and nutritional info, so here ya go. Thanks Big Joe. 

I'll eat them, may even buy again. I will admit on second tasting while writing this they grew on me a little, but I'm not the biggest fan yet. Meh, and same for my lovely bride who mehs them as well. We'll be nice, give them kudos for the spiciness, and go with threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Porkless Plant Based Snack Rinds: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, June 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Fruity Gummy Candies

All right. New fruity gummies from Trader Joe's, flavored with actual fruit purees and fruit juice concentrates. I'll cut to the chase today and just break this product down flavor-by-flavor. Let's go!

The pink flavor. Definitely tastes like pink grapefruit. I've always felt pink grapefruits tasted better than regular grapefruit. And this flavor is distinctly pink. Not an intense flavor. Tastes fairly real, natural. Slightly tart, but not as tart as a typical sour gummy. Very tasty as far as soft chewy candy goes, probably my favorite out of these five fruits.

The blue flavor.
 It looks like grapity purple, but it's actually blue-ish blueberry. Again, not an intense flavor. Doesn't taste much like an actual blueberry, but it's not a bad taste either. Don't think I've ever had a blueberry gummy candy before. It's not like most blueberry desserts I've tried. That's not a bad thing, but be prepared for a lack of sticky syrupy sweetness.

The orange flavor. This mango variety does indeed taste like mango. While not as intense as other mango gummies, it's one of the more distinct flavors in this pack. It tastes slightly citrusy, tangy, and moderately sweet.

The yellow flavor. I like this pineapple candy a lot more than I thought I would, though it was a wee bit less sweet than I'd have assumed. I'd buy a pack of the pineapple gummies just by themselves. 

The red flavor. I have mixed feelings about watermelon. One moment, I feel like it tastes like real watermelon and the next moment, it tastes sorta fake—like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. It's almost as if they mixed real watermelon flavor with fake candy watermelon flavor. All in all, it's much better than the taste and texture of a watermelon Jolly Rancher in my book...or a Jolly Rancher gummy for that matter. This one was probably Sonia's favorite.

Pretty decent selection of gummies. If Sonia and I crave gummies at all, which is rare, we almost universally would reach for something intensely sour if it were available. If I were craving something a bit more tame and traditional, these are about the best conventional gummy candies I've had in a long time. Sonia concurs. Double fours.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Honey Sauce

 Mmmm. "Sauce."

Granted, the use of the word "sauce" in the name "Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Honey Sauce" isn't as intimidating as, say, while cleaning my kitchen for a move years back I found a plain looking packet, on a shelf, with no context or hint or anything for what it contained other than the word SAUCE. Had no idea what kind of sauce or what product it was from. It was....just sauce. And I wasn't gonna find out, as desperate as I may have been to liven up my daily ramen rations at that point. 

Still, it's a bit concerning here. I mean, why "sauce"? What else could you possibly need other than honey and chili pepper for hot honey? Why mess with that?

Apparently, the answer is white vinegar. Go figure. 

Thankfully, the taste of vinegar isn't very apparent in the final TJ's hot honey product unless you're taking a straight from the spoon hit. I tried that and while not overly bad, it wasn't exactly 100% delish. It must not be more than a small splash as the honey itself is still thick and rich, not watered down, and the initial sweet honey hints and the chili afterburn bookend a short but awkward transition phase in the middle that I guess the vinegar helps support somehow. Still not really sure of the purpose of the vinegar to be honest. 

On a final product though? Can't taste the vinegar. Nah. That sweetness rides a whole wave over 'til it's the pepper's turn to take over. It's a very satisfying flavor note that lends itself well to a variety of dishes. First time we tried it, I glazed some over some grilled salmon. The look in my lovely bride's eyes said we'll be doing that again. Dipped some fried right in it, some chicken nuggz to, drizzled some over bacon really just for the heck of it. Can't wait to brush some on some homemade pizza crust, or put some over grilled veggies or potatoes or...the list goes on. Sandy says she'll even put some in some tea. What's your idea? Share away!

Oh, and lest you think that vinegar thing is weird....the ubiquitous Mike's Hot Honey is also composed of the same three ingredients, so there. Don't mess with success. I actually haven't had Mike's in quite a while to really make a direct comparison, though Sandy said Mike's heat hits more as cinnamony-y than pepper-y, at least to her, and TJ's is more the latter.

Good stuff. Whose sauce is boss? Don't care, we'll enjoy 'em both in their turns in our pantry. Double fours.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

Trader Joe's Strawberry & Vanilla Yogurt Pretzels

Vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate cake. Vanilla and chocolate pudding. Why are the first two flavors of everything vanilla and chocolate? And furthermore, why is strawberry so often the third? Of all the myriad fruits on the planet, why strawberry? I guess at Trader Joe's, mango and pumpkin get more than their fair share of representation, but lately we've seen an atypical overrepresentation of strawberry products, too.

That's cool with me. Strawberry is a fine fruit. In many cases, I prefer it over plain vanilla or chocolate. I guess we haven't seen stand-alone "vanilla" pretzels per se, but aren't "yogurt covered pretzels" really just vanilla-flavored? I guess they use the phrase "yogurt candy" because it sounds healthier and more appetizing than "sugary vanilla goo."

Well, here we have miniature pretzels coated in sugary strawberry & vanilla goo, and they're scrump-dilly-icious. In the eloquent words of my beautiful wife Sonia, "They're probably the best pretzels I've something."

I think she added the "covered-wise" part to clarify that they're not better than fresh-baked soft pretzels, but as far as crunchy little dealies that come from a resealable bag, they are indeed among the finest she's ever sampled. I'd be inclined to agree with that assessment.

I actually wish they'd have gone straight strawberry and skipped the vanilla part. The strawberry flavor is most definitely perceivable, but I'd prefer more fruity tang and less generic sweetness. Still, these treats are unique and highly noshable.

The pretzels are described as "teeny tiny" on the bag. I guess they are even smaller than the typical "mini" pretzel. These are like mini-mini. Fine by me. Easier to shovel them into my mouth. MOAR strawberry pretzels! <gurgle>

$2.99 for the 7 oz bag. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins

There's pretty much only word that comes to mind when it comes to rice cakes, and it's this: BOOOOORRRRRRRRRRIIIINNNNNGGGG. 

That's not meant to be taken offensively, actually. I happen to like rice cakes. But I also like painting trim, sitting on my porch for hours, and baseball, so apparently I have an affinity for boring things. Rice cakes are just kinda plain...nutritious-ish, sure...but kinda tasteless and boring. Gotta add something to them to liven them up a bit. 

Not bad idea here with Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins. Now there's a mouthful of a name. 

Now these hombres are t-h-i-n thin. Maybe a quarter inch at most? Probably thinner. But also way crispier and less airy and Styrofoamy then the usual rice discus. It's kinda a fun texture, especially by rice cake standards. It's almost like a regular rice cake, squared and compressed. I dig. 

Add a half dip of dark chocolate though? Now it's a party. 

It's about the same usual TJ's Belgian dark chocolate-y goodness used in nearly all their dark choc products. I'm gonna guess it's between 65% and 72%. There's still enough sugar to add a tinge of sweetness without being overly bitter, and a smidge of creaminess to help soften it up. The chocolate itself seems to add a lot of balance to the grainy goodness of the rice cake, with one side left exposed so as to not overwhelm or be too decadent. 

But still, true to the rice cake roots, a little something more seems needed.

Slather on a dab of your nut butter of choice? Sure, that'd be awesome. Probably some other toppings too! But really, I'd be happy with just a little sea salt sprinkled atop - not a lot - but just enough to pair well with the rice and dark chocolate as somewhat of a bridge between the two.

But yeah, these chocolate dipped rice cake thins are surprisingly decent, and went down the hatch pretty quickly in our household with assistance from all eligible memebers, without complaint. 

I think they were $1.99? Correct me if i'm wrong. Decent snack and one we'll be sure to grab again, lest we get too bored with te current rotation. I'd say between my lovely bride and I we'd give them a seven overall. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Half Coated Rice Cake Thins: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Ube Tea Cookies

Ah, ube. We meet again. It's "the popular purple tuber from the Philippines," according to the back of the box. That's about as good a summary as I could ever come up with. In fact, I don't think I knew ube was from the Philippines, specifically. You learn something new every time you read the spiel on the back of a Trader Joe's product.

You might even pick up a new vocabulary word or two. This box employs the use of the word "toothsome." Nice. Haven't heard that word in a while. But how are the cookies, you ask?

Toothsome enough, I suppose. I guess I should preface this post by saying I'm not really a tea cookie guy. Tea cookies tend to be dry as a rule, and that's why they need to be paired with a beverage. 

I'd prefer soft, moist, fluffy, fresh-baked ube whoopie pies or something like that. But you know, as they say, if wishes were buttercakes, beggars would bite.

As these cookies stand, they're buttery, crumbly, and sweet. There's almost too much powdered sugar in the equation. The ube adds a nice, rich root vegetable flair to an otherwise run-of-the-mill tea cookie experience. 

Taste-wise, though similar in flavor, I don't think I'd put them on par with, say Ube Ice Cream or Ube Waffles, but they're another admirable foray into the realm of violet Asian veggie themed dessert foods, as only Trader Joe's can pull off, or likely even attempt.

If you're into ube a lot, or you don't mind crumbly, powdery shortbread cookies, I say give 'em a whirl. Three stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water

 On a hot summer day, what's better for refreshment than an ice cold slice of watermelon?

Not much...except maybe a tall cool glass of lemonade. 

Or, for you Bobby Boucher Jr-inspired purists out there, just some simple sips of water will do. 

Let's make everyone happy and combine 'em all into Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water. Ahhhhh. 

My beautiful bride and I are slamming thru a lot of "fizzy water" as of late. I mean, it's hot. So we're gonna be guzzling case after case, because let's face it. Regular water, while refreshing, gets kinda old after a while. 

In the overarching order of different flavors and brands tried as of late, this TJ's offering falls squarely in the middle. We're getting to be connoisseurs, apparently.

The big issue really is the flavor. While not tinny, harsh and abrasive as some, the flavor just doesn't stick out enough. Not really. There's certainly a mildly sweet hit of watermelon that comes and goes, with a small secondary surge of something kinda like lemon...kinda. It took several sips and "warming up" of the beverage to really taste anything like lemon, and then, it's not really that close to be lemonade. And the watermelon part, while definitely suggestive of watermelon, just isn't quite enough to stand all on its own. 

And I can almost hear it: "how much flavor can you expect out of sparkling water?" Go try a key lime from La Croix. You tell me. 

All that being said, the carbonation is pleasant and on point - not too much, not too little, just right. It adds a nice little something-something for a little extra fulfillment out of a drink, and hits one of soda's satisfaction points without really any of the pop pitfalls. 

An eight can case is less than $3 and will keep ya going for a few days, so there's that. I'm sure we'll buy this again in our never ending rotation. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, June 4, 2021

Trader Joe's Crisp Crunchy Crisps

Inflation is here, friends. I'm sure you've noticed your grocery bill going up lately. Even if you're buying the exact same stuff week after week, the prices keep rising, slowly but surely. Or, in some cases, the manufacturers simply put less of the product in the packaging and keep prices on an even keel. You know, like a bag of chips—they can fill it with fewer and fewer chips and then literally inflate the rest of the bag with air...which may very well be the case here.

I mean, I've never purchased this product before, and I'm pretty sure it's new-ish, but that's what strikes me first about the product before even opening the bag: it's barely even half full of crisps. For $2.29, these things better be good.  Made primarily of pea, potato, and chickpea flours, these chips are unique, if nothing else. At first bite, I thought they were a bit boring and maybe a little bland. I expected them to have a more pungent, earthy array of flavors, but found them to be more like plain rice crackers.

After shoveling a few more crisps down the hatch, I started to taste that pea-ish earthiness that I expected up front. It's there. It's just more subtle than I was expecting at first. They're moderately salty, as well. Maybe even a tad too salty. 

True to their name, they are indeed, crisp...and crunchy. Gosh, I mean, these would have been a complete failure if they had been soggy or soft or chewy. The bag says to try pairing them with your favorite dips. I did. They do go well with things like guac or corn and bean salsas. Their subtle taste lets the spiciness of the condiment shine through and provides a nice crunchy vehicle for consumption. Though somewhat airy, they're not as brittle as you might assume, so they can carry a dollop of dip without least not every time.

Sonia liked them un poquito mas than I did at first, but they definitely grew on me. By the end of the bag, I was pining for more. I do still wish they tasted a tad more like actual chickpeas. 

Four stars from the wifey. Three and a half stars from yours truly.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Trader Joe's Strawberry Shortcake Sandwich Cookies

 Ever take a bite of something and wonder how much butter is in it? It'd be easy to gauge if that something were an actual butterstick (which i may or may not have done in my youth), but, like, anything else?

That was my very first thought with Trader Joe's Strawberry Shortcake Sandwich Cookies. 

Holy moly. There's enough butter in there to make Paula Deen blush. And it's not even that the cookies taste all that buttery - they do, but no overly so - but in that each like crook and nanny of the shortbread cookies exude so much rich crumbliness or creaminess that there's only one possible culprit: butter. 

Take the actual cookie. As my lovely bride described perfectly, they're just the right amount of sandy and crumbly, with a little melt-in-your-mouth crispiness. The little "strawberry studs" interspersed through out do add a small element of occasional chewiness but it all melds together very tastefully. And, wow, the cookies are extremely sweet too - all that strawberry and "natural flavors" (c'mon now) in there, as if one of God's tastiest fruits needed any help. These cookies would be pretty spectacular even by themselves...

But then there's the filling. It's...very vibrantly pink. And super berryful. the frosting is rich and thick and creamy...and sweet. Very, very sweet, almost too much. It'd be pretty great by itself - it's a great buttercream. Super tasty. 

But there's the rub. Together, the cookies and buttercream go just a little too far when combined. It's a bit overkill. Personally, I would have preferred keeping the filling as is but using a more subdued version of a shortbread cookie. Something a little more reserved and toned down - the same texture, of course, but less rich and fancy and delectable. Sometimes taking off a little adds more, and that, in my one only vaguely qualified opinion, would be the case here. 

That being said, my kids loved them as we went for an evening stroll the other night. On a nice night, going on a walk to the local creek with a super sugary treat can't be beat, at least not with my crew. They're the perfect sized treat for a small hand, as long as it's attached to someone who ate a good dinner. And the richness strikes deep enough that truly one seems enough for a grownup too. 

And apropos of nothing, a key lime pie version of these cookies would be ABSOLUTELY KILLER.

When all said it done, it won't take much buttering up to make these cookies a repeat buy. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Strawberry Shortcake Sandwich Cookies: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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