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Monday, December 27, 2010

Trader Joe's World's Puffiest Sour Cream and Onion Corn Puffs

Hey everybody! Sorry for the extended break ... just a few days after the latest post, family Christmas celebrations kicked into high gear, and in my family that means lots and lots of food, homemade, nonstop. I'm talking hundreds of cookies, cheesebread, Swedish tea ring, pork roast, mashed potatoes, ham, mac and cheese, cheese omelets, etc. All that good I thought I was doing at the gym went down the tube (kinda literally!). Mix that in with a few days of recovery time, a little rest for the taste buds, and finally I feel like I can make honest reviews again. No offense to Trader Joe, but there's nothing that he can offer up that can compete with any of my family's homemade goodies.

Quick sidenote: My sis got me not one but two TJ cookbooks where everything in the recipe is made from TJ foodstuffs. Awesome gift, and looking forward to trying out some dishes - if I stumble across anything particularly good, I'll share for sure.

TJ's Sour Cream and Onion Corn Puffs made a good first entry back into regular non-holiday fare. I'll take his world that they're the "World's Puffiest" - I haven't exactly spanned the globe a la Andrew Zimmern and tasted corn puffs from across the international food spectrum while making as many happy sighs and groans as he does. But they are pretty puffy. Texture-wise, they are a treat. Although in appearance they resemble packing peanuts, they're definitely crunchy on the exterior with their puffy popcorn-like interior filling out the shell, so they're not quite like Cheetos either. They'd be pretty crappy if they were all puff and no crunch. In case you were wondering, they're strictly puffs with no kernels like popcorn. They're light and easy to munch down, not terribly filling, which makes grabbing a couple handfuls and chowing down just a little too easy to do. They're just okay taste-wise, I'd say. The onion flavor is subtle yet prevalent - it seems to be a light coating of mild onion salt (i.e, complete opposite of Funyun-style salt orgy). The sour cream doesn't seem to make its way on every puff. It's more like little sour cream pockets here and there that are pretty noticeable when your taste buds find them. I guess this way they're better by the handful then they are individually.

These guys are kind of hard to rate. Both Sandy and I like them, but don't consider them to be that spectacular. Yet when we tried them the other day, we had to rip the bag away from us and close it up after eating way too many of them. Maybe it was their crunchy, puffy texture or maybe it was their little sour cream blasts, but we wolfed down half the bag in not a lot of time. Of course, it could have just been our appetites still coming down off their holiday high. Sandy gave them a solid 3 out of 5 Golden Spoons - "a good, average snack" is what she said. I agree with her assessment and give them a 3 as well. The jury's out to see if they'll be a repeat buy.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trader José's Super Seeded Tortilla Chips

I'll spare you the details, but from what I understand, diverticulitis is not a pleasant thing to have. Basically, it's a condition in some people who cannot properly digest seeds, nuts, and things of the like because their intestines don't like them. I know someone with what I assume to be severe diverticulitis, and he claims if he were to eat any seeds, he'd end up in the hospital. It's really nothing all that funny.

But, it must suck to have it. Imagine. No popcorn ... no pumpkin seeds ... no freshly toasted everything bagels with semi-melty cream cheese. Extra care must be taken when eating watermelon. You don't know what rye bread or Chick-Fil-A buns taste like. Think of all the extra work if you want to put peppers in your chili.

And up there with all of those injustices of the condition, no Trader Jose's Super Seeded Tortilla Chips for you, either.

Trader Jose found him some good chips here. The first bite offers lots of evidence that they're tough to beat. They seem to be a bit thicker than most, so they have a good satisfying crunch that other chips seem to miss. The seeds add a good nutty undertone, enough to be noticeable but not enough to interfere greatly with salsa and whatever else you might eat them with. Sandy and I heartily recommend pairing them with some Trader Joe's Peach Salsa, but I assume any type of chunky salsa would be a decent match. I crumbled some up to put in a bowl of homemade chili, and that worked really well because they're so thick and crunchy, they didn't get soggy at all. My last bite still had a good, loud crunch in it. Some other brands of tortilla chips tend to be overly salty, and these guys, while not exactly low sodium, don't make you feel like you just swallowed some ocean water either.

And they must be as relatively good for you as tortilla chips can be. Though not expressly marketed as being organic, all their ingredients say they are, and I thought I saw a blurb somewhere on the bag saying they were. I was too busy munching them down to really notice, though. They're gluten-free, which is nice for all you crazy celiacs out there. Plus, all the benefits of the seeds ... let's see ... well, we all know Barry Bonds was actually telling the truth when he credited flax seed oil for helping him hit all those home runs. Chia seeds can help turn ordinary ceramic creations into lovable furry green animals or definite office conversation starters. Hemp makes you cool with the hippies. I think. There's also poppy seeds, which we all know what they do for you on drug tests, and caraway seeds, which, uh ... well, I have no idea what any of the seeds do but I trust Trader Jose implicitly. Amigo hasn't let me down yet.

Trader Joe's has a lot of pretty good chip options, and these guys are Sandy's and my tortilla chip du jour. I think we downed two bags of them in about a week's time. I asked her how many golden spoons she would rate them, and she just said "a lot", which to me means four out of five, mostly because I give them a four as well.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Trader Joe's Mac & Cheese Bites

We are back! After a long period of transition and moving across the country, we have made our maiden TJ's shopping trip on the east coast, and we're ready for another blog entry. 

We are now primarily shopping out of the Media, PA Trader Joe's. So long to our favorite TJ's at 3rd and La Brea in L.A...

Anyhoo, let's take a look at these Mac & Cheese Bites...Hmmm... 

Well, let's face it: mac and cheese was never really health food...and deep fat frying it isn't exactly a step in the right direction...unless, of course, the direction you want to go involves triple bypass surgery. 

I think my good buddies at TJ's read my blog about their "Joe's Diner Mac n' Cheese" and resolved that their next macaroni and cheese product would NOT be bland. Trader Joe's Mac & Cheese Bites are quite tasty...but these little balls make Philly Cheesesteaks look like Weight Watchers entrees. 

The bites must be about a half an ounce a piece, yet paradoxically, about 3 ounces of grease flow out of each one. A half a dozen of the things completely drench a paper towel in milliseconds...we're talking crazy, freaky, Stargate portal summoning grease from another dimension type lipids here...the Simpsons episode where Bart rubs the Krusty Burger on the wall and it magically becomes transparent came to mind...Sonia and I have a new window in our apartment thanks to these little bites. 

But they do taste good. I mean, something with this much grease HAS to taste good...unless, for some strange reason, you don't like grease. If you don't like grease, I suggest you avoid the aisle they sell these things in at TJ's entirely. 

We did wind up putting some Cholula hot sauce on them just to give them a little more kick, but I was happy with their flavor and the comfort food coma that followed. I give them 4 out of 5 stars. Sonia gives them 3.5, docking some points because she's still mopping up the pools of liquid fat in the kitchen. 

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10. (Projected score for grease-haters: -9 out of 10.)

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