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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trader Joe's All Butter Shortbread Cookies

When I was a young, strapping lad, I nearly qualified for the Olympics in the very popular event of Underwater Basket Weaving. They called me a phenom in the sport, but an unfortunate sprained left thumb prevented me from fulfilling my dreams. Now, watching the 2012 London Olympic games reminded me of those days and the dietary restraints that I, and indeed all such athletes (except for that robust-looking American sharpshooter lady) must deal with. In celebration that I no longer must repress my sweet tooth to such a degree, I decided to indulge on these shortbread cookies while enjoying the spectacle of the fittest humans in existence competing on the world's biggest stage and performing feats of athletics that even great warriors such as I could scarcely perform in my prime.

Apparently, each tiny cookie has approximately 11% of your daily saturated fat. Each cookie. Talk about indulgent. The good news is, they taste like they have 11% of your daily saturated fat. In other words, they're worth it...almost.

Sonia wanted them to be "softer." I'm not sure what she means by that. They're not hard. They're made of shortbread, and they have the consistency of shortbread. Really buttery shortbread. We both wanted them to have more fruit filling because we both like raspberry and apricot fruit stuff. But fortunately for raspberry and apricot-haters, a love of those two fruits is not requisite for loving the taste of these cookies, because you can barely taste the fruit. There's a slightly gelatinous texture in the center of each cookie, but any fruit flavor that might be there is slathered in a pound of butter and lost in the sweet cookie goodness.

In short, these guys are a nice treat for a party or something, but if we had these in the cupboard on a regular basis, I'd weigh 300 pounds. And honestly, I'm not sure if I'd want to waste my precious allocation of fat and calories on something with such a one-dimensional flavor. A big boost in the fruit department would have helped these cookies immensely. I give 'em a 3. Sonia gives them 3.5.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 stars.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn

Growing up, my family definitely went through a Smartfood* popcorn phase. But it wasn't just my folks and us four kiddos. Our cat loved it, too. I'll admit, I don't recall if it was Greta or Cleo, but whichever feline it was, she couldn't get enough of it. She'd almost beg like a dog for it, and if you dropped a kernel on the floor, you had no chance (we were all strong proponents of the five second rule). Know Cartman's cat and his chicken pot pies? Totally plausible, except for our cat it was Smartfood. Back then, Smartfood would put little customer stories on the back of their bags, and so we wrote the company about it, along with some photgraphic evidence. I don't believe our story was ever deemed baggy-reading-material-worthy (probably because I wrote it, and it was way too long. Go figure.), but they still sent us a whole case of Smartfood. A whole freakin' case. We ended up eating so much of it (we also believed in not wasting food) that by the time the last little crumbles in the last sackfull danced down into our tummies, I don't think we ever bought it again. I certainly haven't.

Anyways, sorry to continue the snack food phase we're doing here, but as the pile of other folk's ceramic dishes and Tupperware on our kitchen table attest to, we're being very well fed right now as Sandy, Baby M and I are adjusting to being a family of three. Such a blessing. I'm loving all the homecooked meals made in somebody else's oven. We would've had kids earlier if we knew we'd be eating so well.

My one buddy (same guy who tipped me off to the best chocolate bar in the world) and his wife stopped over a few nights back, and, among the homebaked bread, fresh fruit and chicken avocado spread (delicious!), they snuck in a bag of Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn. Even though it's not something I wouldn't have bought on my own, I figure, it's in my house, it's a freebie, it's probably good, so why not review it?

I'll start with the good...not that there's really anything bad. It's perfect texture-wise - kinda pillowy, kinda Styrofoamy, and very munchable. That I like. Cheddarwise, it's alright, too. Kinda sharp but...there's just not enough. I seem to remember Smartfood being coated all over the place, with the white powdery residue caking onto your fingers no matter what you did. These kernels have one foot in the plain world, the other in the cheddar world. It's true as we get towards the bottom of the bag, that may change. I suppose one could choose to have the snooty, pinkie-in-the-air attitude that the popcorn is so much more refined this way. I choose not to, and that's coming from a guy who hasn't had white cheddar popcorn in years, and pretty much hates the orangey cheesy variety. Maybe I miss Smartfood more than I thought. Maybe I'll check the vending machine at work sometime and find out.

There's nothing all that bad with the popcorn. Sandy and I will eat it all and be happy enough. It's just there's not enough right with it. I think that may be a classic Trader Joe's problem with some products - they pull off enough unexpected surprises that it's a bit of a letdown when one of the more basic items is average at best. Sandy said she'd like it more if they were either more or less cheddar. I think I'd side on the "more" side. There's enough other Trader Joe popcorn varieties that you'll find another one or two that might fit the bill a little bit better. Put the two of us down with some matching 3s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Why the heck is it named Smartfood anyways? It's packaged powder-cheese popcorn for goodness sake. While not a dumb idea, that doesn't seem overly intelligent, either. Does buying it make you a genius? Did Einstein invent it? What a silly name. Next thing you know they'll name something Skinny Fries...wait, what?

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