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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's

So it's pretty much a proven fact that it's a bad idea to go grocery shopping when hungry. Everything looks better and tastier and you're bound to buy more prepackaged junk food because your thought process is more in tune with instant gratification and not reasonable meal planning. This is especially true at TJ's with all of their snack food and how they pile it on every conceivable display they can. 

Sandy and I went there for our somewhat weekly supply run after I picked her up from work one night but before we had a chance to eat dinner. Our stomachs were both growling as we walked through the doors to see what Joe had traded for us this week. We behaved going through the first couple aisles, getting cheese, our latest installment of soy chorizo, some fruit, etc. You know, real food we actually needed. 

But when we turned our cart around the corner about to go up through where I call "Temptation Lane", there it was. Huge, bright, happy end cap display of Candy Cane Joe-Joe's. It was like the centerpiece of the entire store, brimming with promise of seasonal sweet tooth satiation. They might as well have had a guy dressed as Trader Joe approach us and say "Aye, Cap'n, these be the best I scrounged for you this week" in some false pirate accent. There was no way we weren't picking up a box before scurrying home and plowing our way through.* 

Well, they aren't bad, but they're not that great either in the end. Imagine taking a candy cane, smacking it with a hammer til there's nothing but a pile of granule-y dust, smacking it more and putting it in the middle of your classic Joe-Joe/knock-off Oreo with a little mint flavoring. That's about what there is to them. The package claims to have "real candy cane pieces and rich cocoa in every bite" - both parts are a bit of an overstatement, as it's literally minute minty particulate matter and the usual not-so-rich-but-okay chocolate cookie wafer with the typical sugary filling holding it all together. 

The red food coloring dots they put in the filling are made of deception and falsehood, not good old candy canes. Of course, I should have questioned the accuracy of the packaging as they are clearly named Joe-Joe's, not Joe-Joes. I'm not sure what the apostrophe is trying to express ownership of ... the cookies themselves? No, I just bought them, they're mine, whoever you are, Joe-Joe. Of course, like any cookie of its type, enjoying them with a little milk makes them a little better too. 

Anyways, they're neither remarkable or unremarkable, They're just a seasonal variation on a classic. Just because they were the centerpiece of the store doesn't mean they should be the centerpiece of your holiday cookie tray - make some good old fashioned homemade cookies for that. The Candy Cane Joe-Joe's are good for a little snack or to tuck into a lunch, or okay to grab if you're running late to a casual holiday party, but for me, that's about it. I wouldn't mind getting them again, but I wouldn't insist either, and I won't miss them when they're put away for the season in a few weeks. 

Sandy seems like them a little more than I do, and she gave the Joe-Joe's 4 out of 5 golden spoons. Girl loves her candy canes, I guess. I'll give them 2.5, right down the middle, for total of 6.5 out of 10 golden spoons.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


*It's about a week later, and about half of them are still around. That'd be a household record for a truly irresistably deliciously tasty sugary munchie if, you know, that's what they were.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo

Hey everybody! What's Good at Trader Joe's has a new contributor! So it's been a while since this blog has been updated ... my old college buddy Nathan's been busy moving across the country or something ... and my wife Sandy and I (Russ) happen to pretty big TJ's fans ... so hopefully you'll be seeing at somewhat regular posts by me. We're hoping this blog, while a work in progress, will be a fun way to share about the good, mediocre, and nausea-worthy stuff we find on the shelves at TJ's. Nathan made this sound better up top.

Anyways, enough about that. Let's talk about fake meat product.

If you know anything about me, you know that I like food. And I like my food to taste like what it actually is - a steak to taste like a steak, coffee to taste like coffee, beer to taste like beer, etc. Sandy, on the other hand, is a little different. She likes her coffee to taste like caramel apples (this is what her choice of creamer tells me) and she loves to use black beans to make brownies (which I don't really get ... I just pretend they're actual brownies and go with it). She also loves fake meat. No, not like Spam. Like Morningstar Farms soy chicken products and "chicken" at Whole Foods and stuff like that. She's not vegetarian (she doesn't like vegetables enough to be), but she just loves the fake meat. I've tried it, and honestly, for me, if you want something that tastes like a piece of chicken, have it be the actual bird. It's nasty enough what they do to a chicken to turn it into a box of McNuggets, and I don't want to think of the additional steps of nastiness required to turn a handful of tasty-in-their-own-right beans into that.
Anyways, I guess it was her affinity for all things soy that led us to the original purchase of Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo. It sounded interesting to her, and I guess for the $1.99 and her happiness, w
e put it in the cart. We got home, put it in the freezer (it does freeze well) and a few nights later, decided it was time to try. I did not have high hopes. First off, the very name is a lie if you know any Spanish. Soy Chorizo = "I am sausage".* No, you're beans, not delectably ground up little piggies. Then the way it is packaged is somewhat of a lie. It's tubular shaped, and comes in plastic casing, which originally lead me to believe this was a grillable-type of chorizo. So I go out, put it in on the grill (anything is better grilled), and once it gets even somewhat hot, it starts crumbling into a mess. Not good. I take the pieces I can salvage and not knowing what else to do, come back inside, put in a frying pan, and start cooking it. I explain this to Sandy, we re-figure out our dinner plans, and decide to make a go of it. Not knowing what else to do, I think we ended up tossing in some black beans and rice once the chorizo was crumbled completely and beginning to brown. We also had some salsa to stir in along with some cheese, and either tortillas or tortilla chips. Finally, it was time to take the first bite ...

Freaking. Awesome.

For a soy-based meat product, it's really good. Scratch that. It's just really good, period. It's spicy, but not overly. The chorizo when cooked also has just a little of the requisite gristle so it's hard to remember that it's not actual meat. When made with rice, beans, and other stuff (our favorite way to have it), it really seems to hold it all together without dominating the other tastes. I think it'd be a pretty good meat substitute for anything ground meat would be needed for in a spicier dish, like chili, tacos, or hotter pasta sauces. It's not anything you can shape or form into a patty or loaf, so burgers and the like are out, but it tastes better mixed into things as opposed to standing on its own anyways.

This has become a "must buy" nearly every time we shop at TJ's - Sandy and I always ask each other how much milk we have left, how many eggs, and if we still have any soy chorizo in the freezer. It's almost become that much of a staple - I'd say we eat it probably at least every other week. We heartily recommend trying it out just as described above - with black beans, rice, your favorite salsa, cheese, and tortillas. Sandy calls it our "everything we love in a bowl meal", which I think sums it up pretty well.

I think Nathan did the star rating thing. I'll use the same methodology, except instead of stars I'll use golden spoons. I give it a rock solid 4.5 golden spoons (it's tough to get 5), Sandy's busy so I can't ask her but I think she'd give it a 5, 

so 9.5 golden spoons out of 10.


*It occurred to me after writing this sentence that it might not have been a lie after all. If TJ's wanted me to read into the Spanish meaning of the product name, they probably would have marketed it under Trader Jose's, not Trader Joe's. We call it "I am sausage" anyways because it sounds funnier, and it's so good, I'm not going to argue with it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trader Joe's Organic Cranberry Apple Juice

TJ's Organic Cranberry Apple Juice is very tart. It's a little sweet, but not excessively. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I like excessively sweet things, so for me that's not a huge plus. I've had similar 100% juice drinks before that do taste sweet enough for at first I was thinking, "Hmm...maybe it's the organic-ness of this beverage that makes it not too sweet." But then I realized that didn't really make sense. The absence of pesticides and such shouldn't really change the sweet to tart ratio of a fruit juice. Then it dawned on me. The other juice blends I've had were "Apple Cranberry Juices." This is "Cranberry Apple Juice." In the other juice blends, the sweet taste of the apple is meant to be dominant, while TJ's juice blend favors the tart taste of the cranberry. Mystery solved. Another "adult" beverage from TJ's. Good for Sonia, with her discerning, mature palate. Not so good for myself and the other children of the world who crave sugar-sweet candy yum-yum tooth-rotting goodness. Don't get me wrong, this beverage is a fine product. I can just tell a little of the elevated beauty of its flavor is lost on consumers like me. I give it Three out of Five Stars. Sonia gives it Four out of Five. Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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