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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trader Joe's Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

For those of you who want the bottom line first, I'll just say that if you like Nature Valley Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars, you'll like these.

For those of you who'd like me to entertain you for a couple of minutes, read on.

Ever notice how the Nature Valley commercials always show people eating those granola bars while sitting on a rock next to a crystal lake among pristine mountains and pine trees? The woman takes a bite, closes her eyes, and appears to climax for a moment. In reality, most people are eating these bars in their car on the way to work, and bursts of crumbs are popping off with every bite, soiling nice suits and business slacks, garnering curses with each crunch, causing near-accidents as drivers take their eyes off the road to swipe crumbs off of their laps and onto the floor mat. Drivers know they should just stop eating the bar and finish it in the parking lot, but they just taste so darn good that people can't stop. Yeah, well, these TJ's bars are the same kind of deal.

In the past, we were delighted with TJ's Fiberful Peanut Butter Bars. And the Peanut Butter Oat Bars were pretty tasty, too. Trader Joe has this peanut butter bar thing down pat. Especially when they're really just ripping off companies like Fiber One and Nature Valley. But hey, if it saves me a buck, I won't call you out on your unoriginality, Big Joe.

With two grams of fiber per bar, they're good for the digestive system, not to mention, quite filling too. And five grams of protein is nice for energy and stuff. All in all, a healthy, tasty snack. 3.5 stars from me. 4.5 stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trader Joe's 100% Whole Wheat Everything Bagel Slims

Back in mid-November, I started a new job. The details of it are quite inconsequential, so I'll skip over them. The highlights: closer to home, less stress, better hours, and more pay. Tough to argue with that combination! Anyways, I split a double cubicle with a guy there who I've gotten to be decent enough buddies with. He's...interesting. I mean that in a good way. I genuinely like him. But like the rest of us, he's got his little things and minor hang ups. For him, it's his bagel. Every day I have eaten lunch with him (which has been most every day after my first week or two there), he's had an asiago cheese bagel (bought day-old and half price from an outstanding local bakery) sandwich with precisely the same amount of sliced lunch meat and cheese on it, with probably the same number of lettuce leaves and jalapeno slices. Every day, without fail. He's funny, too, because he obsesses over his bagels, to the point he claims he can drive by and spot when they're available on the halfprice rack and when they are not, and if they are, he will stop and buy every single one. I don't doubt him one bit.  

Anyways, my bagel of choice is usually an everything bagel. They're far from an everyday thing, but when given the opportunity, I'll bite. When we're shopping, Sandy is usually on the lookout for new and interesting carby creations to use for sandwiches and whatnot, and the sleeker and sexier, the better. She got really excited over some "pocket bread" she saw recently and got, while I tried my best to point out to her it was really just a pita. Not to her, though. "It's pocket bread!" I gave up. Fortunately, when those were gone, we both managed to spy the Trader Joe's 100% Whole Wheat Everything Bagel Slims, and needless to say, we were both on board. The pack of 8 cost something like $3.

 I completely neglected to take a picture of them, but they look about as exciting as they actually sound - round, slim, hole in the middle. You probably could've guessed all that. And you probably could have guessed what they taste like, too - whole wheat, onion, the usual seedy suspects. And further, you probably could have guessed that they resemble something much closer to a slice of bread with all that in it and on it, instead of an actual bagel. Yeah, these kinda are what they are, without too much surprise. They're not bad, but they don't blow me away either. Even when we toasted them up, they still lacked the bite that I knew they wouldn't have but wanted them to anyways, if that makes any sense. The way I figure it, if the Food Network can find all these chefs to make a dessert incorporating stuff like peanut butter, green tea leaves, duck eggs, and Cinnabon icing (or whatever), they should be to find someone with a useful skill like making an actual slim bagel, with the tough egg-brushed skin and chewy middles that an good bagel has, without all the Atkins-cringe-inducing carb crushload. Maybe that person is out there. Heck, maybe it's you. Get to work! 

All that being said...we'd buy them again. They matched every kind of sandwich we made wth them, from tofu parmesan to veggie masala burgers to egg and cheese. They're solid if not spectacular, perhaps an unsung hero in some ways. You need something to help hold your sandwich together, and these do an admirable enough job. Sandy made a satisfied Mmmmm when I asked for her score, so I knew she liked them, and she did, well enough to give them a four. That's a bit high in my book. Here's a 3.5 from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 100% Whole Wheat Everything Bagel Slims: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trader Joe's Coconut Caramel Dark Chocolate Bar

Ah, that checkout counter at TJ's—the display is tailored to ensnare the strongest of men. And the strongest of women. Like my wife Sonia. She has an iron will.

She can place a chocolate bar on the counter in our kitchen and not touch it for weeks. And the thing is, she loves dark chocolate. She walks by it day after day, simply ignoring it. She manages to ignore all manner of goodies. Ice cream in the freezer. Butter cookies on the table. These incredible feats of self-discipline are routine for her.

Me? Not so much. I can usually muster up the willpower not to buy those tempting treats in the first place. But once they're in the kitchen, it's "game over." Sweets and treats in the house taunt me, break my concentration, crush my will, and leave me utterly defeated. Fat—and utterly defeated.

This chocolate bar was no exception to the rule. I knew from experience to expect deliciousness from Trader Joe's products featuring dark chocolate and caramel. In fact, TJ's seems to have mastered all of the dark arts—dark chocolate arts, that is: dark chocolate-covered fruit, dark chocolate-covered mints, dark chocolate-covered cookie butter. You name it, they've done it, and almost always have done it very well.

This bar follows in the footsteps of those other great products. If you're a fan of 70% cacao dark chocolate, caramel, and coconut, you will like this bar. The coconut adds a Mounds-esque tropical element to the confection, and it works pretty well. It looks like they're playing up that whole tropical theme on the wrapper with exotic flowers, flamingos, and such.

The sections of the bar are huge. Ideally, I would think they'd be a tad smaller. And yes, we included a pic of the product out of the wrapping. Just click here to see it.

The balance of flavors is good. The texture is pleasant, and the coconut makes everything a bit more interesting. They even threw some "black Hawaiian sea salt" in the mix. Even the salt has to stick with that tropical theme. Nice touch, TJ's. But I'm still pining for more white chocolate and milk chocolate options from that infamous Trader Joe's checkout display. I know, I know, it's not "good for you" like dark chocolate is, what with all the antioxidants and stuff. But let's go ahead and mix acai berries with white chocolate or something to add the goodness back in. Just an idea. But I guess they're on a roll with the dark chocolate caramel business. I can't really complain.

Sonia gives this candy bar 3.5 stars. I give it 4.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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