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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trader Joe's Journey to the Center of the Cookie

Sandy and I gave up sweets for Lent this year, and let me tell you: it sucks. It's way more difficult than I imagined it'd be. A couple years ago, I gave up beer and alcohol. It really wasn't that bad, aside from a night or two when I had a passing hankerin' for a Yuengling. Last year, we gave up meat. Now, that was a little tougher, but it led me to discover all sorts of vegetarian goodies, so all good. But sweets? Man, I never realized it, but I count on those to get me through the day. It's easily the toughest of the three things I mentioned to give up. I think it's because of where and when all of them are socially acceptable. Drinking in a bar's okay, while it's not while working or driving. Meat's okay in your cubicle if your workplace has a lenient "food-at-desk" policy and in your vehicle if you don't mind dripping a turkey leg around everywhere, but it's not like you would keep a bag of bacon stashed away somewhere for constant snacking (unless you're more awesome than I am). Sweet sugary stuff? Acceptable everywhere except maybe the dentist chair or a diabetic convention. Candies and cookies and all that are just everywhere - you can't avoid them. I never thought it'd be so tough.

Fortunately, we ascribe to the practice that on Sundays you can take a break from your Lenten fast. Count the days up from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday and subtract the Sundays - it equals 40 days. That's why on Sunday, Sandy and I had peanut butter Oreos not once but twice before lunch, plotted a late night Rita's Italian Ice trip, and in between, when we stopped at Trader Joe's for our weekly grocery haul, we just knew we had to get these Journey to the Center of the Cookie(s) to get our chocolate fix in while we could.

Yeah, we're bad, but these cookies certainly aren't. In fact, they're pretty fantastic despite being such a basic product in the freezer section. All it takes is about 10 minutes in the oven to turn these tundrafied cookie pucks into warm, soft, chewy, gooey, oozey chocolate chip cookies with a lake of milk chocolate in the middle spilling all over the cookie and into your mouth. Oh goodness - so good. If you're familiar with the Nestle Tollhouse recipe for chocolate chip cookies (the best in my opinion), the cookie portion is a dead ringer for them. Sandy and I ate at least the first few bites of ours with a fork (calling to mind a classic Seinfeld episode) since they were so gooey and melty. These would be perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice ream, which we unfortunately didn't have. These cookies are large, soft, delicious, and after a week of being self-deprive of chocolate, simply hit the spot.

"I really can't think of any way these could be any better," Sandy said. I agree. The only negative I can think of are the nutritional facts (avert your eyes! - sorry it's so blurry, that's not intentional), which let's face it, these are certainly not an everyday kinda treat anyways. If you're gonna spoil yourself for a day, you gotta go whole hog. Also, at $2.99 a pair, they're not exactly overpriced, but not cheap either. With a little ice cream, though, just one of these cookies makes a good shareable dessert for two, I'd think. unless you and your dessert buddy are chocaholics. That may become an issue. Perhaps it's because of the lack of sweets from much of the week, but Sandy went ahead and gave these bad boys a perfect five? Me? I'm tempted but objectively, to me, they're not quite pantheon level. That doesn't mean I can't put these journey cookies on the doorstep of greatness.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Journey to the Center of the Cookie: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, March 19, 2012

Trader Joe's Shredded Hash Browns

Irish people are into potatoes, right? Or at least they grow potatoes in Ireland I think. So it's kinda fitting that we review some kind of potato item around St. Patrick's Day weekend, right?

I've never been into hash browns or potato tots or anything super potatoey—except fries. (Although I must admit TJ's potato snacks are tasty). Even chips aren't my favorite...unless they're super saturated with sour cream and onion or barbecue sauce flavor. I'll eat a baked potato now and again because they're sorta good for you (until you slather them with sour cream, butter, and salt) but overall, I'm rarely in the mood for actual potato flavor.

For breakfast yesterday morning, Sonia cooked up a nice, tasty omelette and these hash browns. Just as I was about to dump salt, pepper, and hot sauce on them, I hesitated for a moment. Perhaps one of my Scotch-Irish ancestors whispered in my ear..."taaaaste the potatoes..." So I did. I ate them plain. Although, my Scotch-Irish ancestors would have been Protestant and loyal to Britain, not Catholic and loyal to Ireland, and would probably not have celebrated St. Patrick's Day nor held any sort of national pride associated with potatoes or potato products. But who cares, anyway? Irish people are cool and potatoes are a staple here in the States, too.

The only ingredients in this bag are potatoes and dextrose. Apparently dextrose is basically the same thing as glucose. Personally, I'd rather see "glucose" on the ingredients list, because I have a pretty decent idea what that is. Why we need dextrose or glucose in our hash browns, I'm not quite sure. But considering those are the ONLY two ingredients, I'm not going to complain a whole lot. They tasted very natural to me...and surprisingly flavorful even without salt or anything. (I did eventually put some hot sauce on them. Hot sauce makes everything better). But I could have eaten the whole serving plain.

Sonia said the opposite. She thinks the Crystal Farms Simply Potatoes that we get from Target on occasion taste more fresh and natural than these. To tell you the truth, I think I like TJ's a bit better, even though they come frozen, and Crystal Farms just come refrigerated. But anyway, I think it's time for last looks. I'm gonna give 'em a 3.5 out of 5. Not bad for someone who's not into plain potato products. Sonia gives them a 2.5. She thinks if Target can beat TJ's, that TJ's just has to work a little harder. But what are they going to do? Add more dextrose?

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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