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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Trader Joe's Organic Gingermints

It's pretty silly, the mental gymnastics and justifications that Sandy and I routinely do this time of year, and especially this year, when we're going without meats and sweets for a spell. It's part of that four-letter L word I pledged to not go on and on about. I think we've eaten more fake meat products in the past two or so weeks then we have eaten actual meat since the beginning of the year. It's close, at least. As for sweets...Sandy and I routinely have a "Is this or is this not a sweet?" conversation. Banana and oatmeal "cookies" made with just those two ingredients? Not a sweet. Fruit smoothie, made out of fruit? Not a sweet. Dunkin Donuts coffee? Probably, technically speaking, a sweet but uhhhh....nope. Chocolate milk? Yes.* Shamrock shake? Definitely, and sadly, yes. And on and on it goes.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Trader Joe's Organic Gingermints could be considered a sweet, as it is a hard candy and all. But for whatever reason, it hasn't crossed that artificial threshold we've determined. Not a sweet, and therefore, it's okay that we bought this for the buck or so it cost, and okay that I've more or less hoarded as a "Daddy's little helper" stash to get me through the work day.

It probably helps our justification that these gingermints aren't sweet (adjective) at all, really. Nor are they close to minty in a way I'd call anything minty. Nah, these fellas are pretty much straight-up gingery. They're moreso than the cookie butter (which we unwisely left a half jar-full in the pantry to taunt us) but much less than these candied bits o' napalm. It's ginger dore right, with a little bite but without the overkill. Looking over the ingredients, it was interesting to see maple syrup as an ingredient, because I don't taste it that much. If it's there, it's not too potent. Maybe it just helps keep the ginger in check. At least the tapioca doesn't do anything to screw up the flavor like it may have for these cheesesticks.

Since they're vegan, organic, and gluten-free, it's easy to chalk these up to being a crunchy-hippie cousin of an Altoid, because in all other aspects they're pretty similar. A brief skim over ingredients confirms these aren't made by the same company, though. The closest Altoid I can compare them to would be a cinnamon one, but a little less strong (at least in my memory), and of course more gingery than cinnamony. Whatevs. I like 'em. Sandy's neither overly impressed nor unimpressed, so she's going down the middle with a three. I see that and raise another spoon.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Gingermints: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Sandy drank some about a week or so ago after a long training run for her half marathon. I'd call shenanigans on that, but she just ran about eight miles. Dang, girl!    

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trader Joe's Powerberries

Whatever are Powerberries? Let me tell you, I've eaten an entire bag and I'm still not quite sure. But I can tell you this: they're covered in dark chocolate. The bag declares that the centers are made of "real fruit juice pieces." Right. 

So they are "pieces" of "fruit juice" covered in dark chocolate. But just for fun, turn to the person nearest to you and tell them you'd like a piece of fruit juice. I suppose there's a slim chance you have cubes of frozen juice in your freezer for some reason, and the person you've just asked for a piece of fruit juice will give you one of those frozen fruit juice cubes. But barring that unlikely situation, my guess is you'll just get a dumbfounded look.

As strange as it may sound, I still cannot deny the fact that I have just consumed a bag of "fruit juice pieces" covered in dark chocolate. Fruit juice pieces are soft, slightly chewy, and very sweet. They're not liquid. They're more like gelatin. 

For anyone who's been reading this blog for a while, you'll know I like sweeter chocolates more than dark chocolates, but the overwhelming fruitiness in the center of these snacky spheres offsets any bitterness in the dark chocolate. Sonia and I both bit Powerberries in half, attempting to get a better look at the perplexing centers of these confections. The middles are dark, with some highlights, and there's something jelly bean-esque about them. The overall taste of the Powerberries is not unlike a cherry cordial. But there's also something about them that reminds me of a truffle. 

They're like the illegitimate love-children of a truffle and a cordial. 

And yet I think they're a smidgen less caloric, thanks to fruit juice taking the place of traditional sugar and corn syrup. They're unique. And they're going to score at least two stars from me just for the weirdness factor. They get another star thrown on top of that for their good flavor. And they'll get another star for being healthier (or "less bad-for-you," if you prefer) than traditional chocolate candies. So I'll give them 4 stars. I can't go much higher than that because I'm just not in the habit of eating chocolate candies, and I can't feature myself buying these on a regular basis for any reason. Sonia will follow suit, adding that they'd be better if they had actual berries of some kind in their centers.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trader Joe's Breaded Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Ah, there's nothin' better than fried cheese. I've always loved mozzarella sticks. And I think it's awesome that people then dunk their fried cheese in some form of tomato sauce, usually marinara. Tomato is a fruit/vegetable, right? That makes it all healthy, right? You've got the fruits and vegetables group, the dairy group, and the breading would qualify as a grain. 3 out of the 4 major food groups. All you need to do is toss a sausage or hot dog on your plate, and you've got a balanced meal...or something like that.

The sticks came out of the oven with most of the cheese having leaked out of the side of the breading. So there would be this hollow tube of crust with a big wad of slightly-charred cheese right beside it on the baking sheet. And for some reason, they tasted freezer-burned to me. We ate them within a week of purchasing them, the bag was only opened within an hour or so of consuming them, and this was all well before the expiration date. So I'm not sure what happened there. Sonia didn't notice the freezer-burny taste at all, but then, she usually doesn't.

We dipped our mozzarella sticks in TJ's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. They went well together. I think it worked at least as well as actual marinara sauce would have. Once in the soup, I didn't notice the peculiar taste as much. It was actually really yummy.

I was surprised when Sonia pointed out that the breading contained tapioca. It was still made with wheat flour (sorry, gluten-free peeps) and it was very similar to traditional mozzarella stick breading, although I wonder if the subtle freezer-burn flavor was somehow connected to the use of tapioca...? Not that tapioca tastes like freezer-burn, but maybe somehow my taste buds detected an anomaly of sorts and just defaulted to the "this is just slightly funky" message, which my brain interpreted as freezer-burn...? And perhaps that last sentence is a good example of why I'm a foodie-hack blogger and not a neuroscientist...?

At any rate, I still have yet to be blown away or majorly disappointed by any mozzarella stick. Fried cheese is what it is. The tapioca starch was a nice touch I guess, but next time Trader Joe, we're counting on you to blow us away. Try putting marinara sauce inside the tube of cheese, add shrimp or something, cram cocktail weenies into the center of the sticks...for goodness sakes, be creative, TJ's! Entertain us! You do weird stuff better than anyone else. In return for your culinary creativity, we'll love you forever and continue to write this blog.

For those of you who've been pestering us for photos of the actual out-of-the-bag food, please click here. You're welcome.

Sonia gives these 4 stars. I give them 3.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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