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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trader Joe's Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Bite Size Wheats

There's certain things parents always say to kids when growing up. Eat your vegetables. Do your homework. Stop hitting your sister. My parents weren't an exception. There was a common mantra growing up that either my mom or dad said every morning and every night right before bed; "Brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair." Good advice for the morning, for sure. But at night? I'm definitely an advocate of brushing twice a day and I'd tack on the addendum to see the dentist twice a year ... in not following the second part of the rule for, oh, seven years or so I currently have three root canals going on. Blah. And washing your face twice a day, well, I guess look good all day and don't dirty your pillow at night, so that's sound enough advice. But combing your hair ... right before bed? Isn't that pointless? I mean, your hair gets messed up all night usually, and even if it somehow remains perfunctory til the rooster crows, you'd have it comb it all over again in the morning before going off to school or wherever. I can only guess that my folks' rationale was if the Bogeyman was going to get you, you might as well look good.

One sensible thing my parental units succeeded in instilling in me was the importance of a good breakfast, y'know, the "most important meal of the day." In an ideal world, I'd have eggs and bacon and pancakes and hashbrowns and coffee and orange juice every morning. As amazing that'd be, Sandy's not waking up at 6 a.m. every day to make that for me, and I'm not either. During the week, that's leaves me vacuuming down a bowl of cereal as quickly as possible before luring the dog into a crate with a cookie, grabbing lunch, manbag, and keys and speeding off to my cubicle.

That leaves me with the idea that whatever cereal I'm going to shove down my throat, I need to like it and it's got to keep me going until lunch. If it's healthy, well, all the better.

Enter Trader Joe's Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Bite Size Wheats. Dang, that is one long name. But as a counter-acting dang, this stuff is pretty dang decent. The name pretty well sums them up. The biscuits themselves are good, bite-sized chunks of shredded wheat that are crispy from first bite to last. I especially like the last few in the milk puddle - soggy on the outside, crunchy in the middle. And they're definitely wholesome in the wheatiest of ways. And the frosting is pretty jim-dandy too. Taking a glimpse at it, it's definitely light brown with a couple different shades for the maple and brown sugar, like a mini work of art. The maple is the prevailing taste, but the brown sugar makes a great undertone taste, which is how come it tastes so good. I personally love the taste of this stuff as it indulges my kidlike sugar jonesing and my adult sensibilities.

But how full does it keep me? I'm going to employ what I call the "10 a.m. test" in gauging this; namely, how hungry am I at 10 a.m. after chowing down a bowlful at landspeed record time at 7 a.m.? Most cereals fail this test miserably, and in fact seem to make me hungrier than I would be skipping breakfast altogether. As for this, well ... it does better than most. I was able to fend off a coworker's very aggressive offering of a doughnut this morning because I wasn't hungry enough for it. Other days (I'd say about half the time), I get some moderate pangs, but haven't felt an out-and-out rumbly in the tumbly, which is commonplace with other bowled breakfast bounty. I'd say it passes well because I'm deciding to grade on a curve.

According to Sandy, I like this too much. Out of the latest box, she's gotten only a handful or two, mostly because she prefers other breakfast cereal to pack along (that and she's lucky enough to have a breakfast option provided for her at work ... ah, the perks of being a topnotch early childhood educator. Don't you dare call it daycare). Sandy's had some opportunity to fully enjoy the mini-wheats, and she has here and there, but said she didn't feel like she could give it an informed grade other than to say "it's maple-y." Something about me hogging it too much or something. Probably at least partially true. Anyways, I'll pull out the old trick of doubling my grade sans the wifey score ... I feel a little extra insecure when doing this, the weight of responsibility and all .... eh, screw it, eight and a half, which I think is about as high I can rank any cereal. This has been and will be a regular in the pantry rotation.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trader Joe's Lavash Flat Bread

Am I wrong, but there's something to be said for good, cheap carbs, right?

Probably the most famous cheap carb is the beloved Ramen noodle package. Well, "beloved" might be a stretch, but it's a pretty universal experience for college kids to subsist on them for long stretches of time. I certainly was one of them. My sophomore year, I sincerely doubt I went a day without a meal that involved either Ramen or leftover pizza from the dinner shift at Papa John's. It certainly helped that they were 10 for a buck at the local grocery shop. Some nights I'd eat two packages, other nights I'd mix in some frozen veggies and maybe make a piece of chicken. But man, all the Ramen ... I don't know how I didn't die from malnutrition. Once I was really, truly, ineffably sick of them, my grandmother came to the rescue and sent me a Ramen noodle cookbook. I had no idea about all the different possible uses for Ramen ... all the different stir-fries and noodle-based dishes, and even things like salads and pizza (using the noodles as a crust). That kept me going on them throughout the rest of my college years until I could finally routinely afford better starchy goods, like shells and cheese.

Anyways, I love me some carbs. I could never be a legit vegetarian because I like meat waaay too much, and Dr. Atkins and I would never be dietary BFFs because he'd be slapping bagels out of my hands way too often. And the more ways I can use a single form of carb (like the Ramen noodles) the better.

That's why I like Trader Joe's Lavash so much. It's a pretty simple product, it's just a legal-document sized ( 9.5 x 13) rectangle of rather plain baked dough. But, like the package says, this is some fairly versatile stuff, and there's a lot of it. The first time Sandy and I broke it out, we used it as a crust for a thin crust basil pesto pizza. It was good enough that we've used it a couple more times as a crust since then. When baked, it gets really crispy and crackery when the sides and corners get browned and curled up. I'd definitely recommend if using it for a pizza, let it bake for a little while longer than you'd figure otherwise as the middle can get a little sogged down with sauce, etc, but rebounds nicely if given the proper oven lovin' time. But that's not the only good use of the lavash. I've made a breakfast wrap or two with it, and it held up with the eggs and cheese well. Sandy's taken it to work a couple times and used it like a tortilla with some rice and beans, and reported satisfactory results. The great thing is, there's six of them in a package ($2.19, so a decent value), so there's plenty of it with which to experiment. I'd imagine they'd be pretty good cut and baked to munch on like a pita chip, or maybe even buttered, sugared, and cinnamoned, then cut into strips and baked for a dessert. Or maybe make some garlic breadsticks out of them in a similar fashion ... the possibilities may be endless.

The form of the lavash is pretty pliable, too. We tend to keep bread in the fridge to extend the shelf life some. I just wolfed down the last two-week old half-sheet remnant a few minutes ago, and it was as soft, floury, and flexible as the first time we used it. I could literally bend it any which way, and it wasn't stiffened enough to crack or break. Yet, it easily rips in a straight-enough line if you ask it to. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed overall.

Sandy gives it a 4.5 overall. "Mmm ... carbs ... it's good and it works. Not much else to be said," she says. Considering that I find myself craving a lavash-crust pizza once or twice a week, I'm inclined to be in the same ballpark. Part of me wishes it had a bit more flavor, like some sesame or poppy seeds mixed in (that's pretty common in Middle Eastern countries, from where this was inspired), but its plainness lends itself better to the overall versatility to use it to make it part of something of your own creation. Sounds like a 4.5 to me as well.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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