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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies

My wife told me something just a few days ago that may have literally changed everything ever: I, Russ Shelly, in my house, in my kitchen, on my IKEA-bought kitchen shelf, own my own candy jar, all for me. You see, up to that point, I knew we had three apothecary jar-type things up there above the microwave. One was for granola bars and the like, one for little hard candy things which are pretty easy for me to ignore, and one for all sorts of tasty looking treats that I have been told in no uncertain terms are absolutely off limits to me at all times. You can guess which one is mine, and I presume the reason why there's no little tasty-tasties in it is because I ate them all already. As I've alluded to before, Sandy's a lot more patient with her stash and even hides candy from me at times so she can enjoy them over days or weeks or even months. Relatedly, dear, that box of Girl Scout Tagalongs we have in the pantry? I haven't touched it but it's officially on notice - it's way past the statute of limitations of any claim of spousal ownership. Still, I think of all of the ramifications of this discovery - no more arguments over whose candy is whose, who ate it all, and so on -it's either in my jar or it isn't. I didn't know that's what the system was, and as long as I can fill it with tastier stuff than these nastastic chunks (which we still have half a bag of), I'm good.

Although, I'd like to point out that I sometimes buy candy for the express purpose of us sharing it and not me hording it. Case in point: Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies. I got them especially with Sandy in mind, as she loves gummy candies and is obsessed with anything penguin-related. Seriously, you should have seen her at the New England Aquarium a few summers ago - I'm just happy she didn't jump over the rail and start swimming along. So even though we had them a few weeks, and even though it crossed my mind multiple times to just take them into work for a snack one day, no, I held off until we needed an after-work snack to get us through our baby furniture shopping run (at IKEA, coincidentally or not. I feel like our house is like that scene in Fight Club sometimes).

Anyways, the gummies. Not bad at all, friends. Definitely good. Each bag has three flavors - cherry, lime and strawberry - and each "penguin" piece has two facets. The firmer main gummy body and the squishier, kinda liquidy tummy that kinda splash out as you bite them. That might bring to mind those Gusher thingies from back in the day, but these TJ gummies have more of a splash while being more gummy bear like overall. None of the individual flavors really stick out as being better than the others. They're all just good, and are just sweet and sugary enough without going overboard.

The only somewhat negative thing I can say about them is, for being advertised as penguins, the gummies sure look a lot more like a slightly frumpy Grimace than any type of aquatic arctic bird. In fact, I'd say they really don't resemble penguins at all. Although, I guess that can be positive, in that you're less likely to equate chowing down on them with spilling the blood of some poor penguin across your molars. Those soft tummies can really add that illusion if you allow it...sorry if that ruined these for anyone....

Other than that, these TJ Gummy Tummies work pretty darn well. Sandy and I plowed through the bag we had, even though there were plenty in there for the $1.99 we paid for the sack. I could tell we both liked them, even though when I asked Sandy for her expert opinion, she just kinda said, "It was there. It was candy. I ate it." Strangely enough, that's how I approach most candy, and that's why Sandy has all the goodies and I'm currently stuck with stale breath mints. Anyways, she didn't give an exact score, but I figure these are worth at least an 8 out of 10, and however you'd like to split our spoons from there, you're probably right.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Trader Ming's Citrus Glazed Chicken

We've all had one of those weeks. You know the kind I'm talking about. The ones where you (and perhaps your spouse or partner) look around in the fridge and pantry, kinda say "meh", then think of the all the busy nights and things you gotta do, and say "Screw it, I'm not going grocery shopping this week." It doesn't matter that you don't even remember buying half the things, or that saltines and peanut butter would have to be a viable meal option to make it all work, it's your decision and you're sticking to it.

Sandy and I had one of those weeks last week. We were literally busy with something every single night then we were going out of town for the weekend, so it seemed kinda pointless to make our weekly TJ trek. While we weren't quite scraping the pantry enough to unearth some garlic bread sprinkle that expired in 1977, there still were few enough options that it took a little planning so we could talk ourselves into it. Dinners seemed to be doable enough if we relied heavily on our staple foods, but then my lunches came up - gotta eat, and no way in h-e-double bendy straw I'm gonna turn myself into a dollar menuaire for a week. That's just nasty.

That's when Sandy spotted the bag of Trader Ming's Citrus Glazed Chicken and gave me the look that said "There's a couple lunches for you right there, buster. I'm not gonna touch it, no matter what." We first picked it up months and months ago, hoping it'd be another Trader Ming orange-tinged classic, but were kinda disappointed by it, so naturally I bought it again soon thereafter if for no other reason to remind myself of why we didn't like it so I could warn all of you. That's what I do for you, readers. Anyways, naturally, since we remembered not liking the dish, we avoided it...and avoided it....avoided it some more...hid it in the back and covered it up...forgot about it...ate everything else...and now its time had come. There's only so many microwave quesadillas I can eat in one week, anyways.

The citrus chicken wasn't as bad as I remembered, but that's not to say it was all that good, either. Let's go with some positives first. First, it's ridiculously easy to make, to the point where Trader Joe's has taken the trouble of even cooking rice and including it for you, if you'd just be bothered enough to cook it up in a few tablespoons of water while you're sauteing up the chicken and veggies. Also, the chicken tastes about as reasonably good as some frozen white chunkified chicken can, unlike some other TJ's we call fowl play on. And the glaze, well, it's not overly citrusy, so it tastes alright, but you won't be scraping up every bit of it, either. Plus, you get a little baggy of cashews, kinda like how you get a little prize or sticker with your Cracker Jack.

The big problem is the veggies. I remember this being true the first time Sandy and I had it, and it was true this time around, too, so I'm thinking it's not a fluke. By the time they're stirfried up, they're just kinda mushy and bland. That's true for the green beans, red peppers, broccoli, carrots, and whatever else is in there. It's a shame, because I like each one of those, but was impartial to slightly repulsed by many a bite. For me, a good stirfry has veggies that are firm, with a little snap to them, and still have a lot of natural flavor to them. Not true here. Also, because there was so little chicken, it seemed like the bag was over 90% suboptimal vegetable matter.

Sandy has a lot of "food rules," and the biggest one is "no wimpy veggies - fresh is best." So yeah, she was only too willing to pass up a second round. Kinda like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the playoffs recently.* I can't really ask her for a grade, but I'll go out on a limb and assume. Really, knowing her, if she couldn't just pick out all the chicken and leave the rest to me, I'd doubt she'd give it more than a one. Me? Eh...I don't know. Part of me wants to give it the benefit of the doubt for being in the freezer for a while then eating it only reheated, but to my memory it tasted about the same both times. My general impression is, it's not all that great, so let's go with a 2.

Bottom line: Trader Ming's Citrus Glazed Chicken: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* I live in Pittsburgh so I can say that. If you don't, you can't.

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