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Monday, March 25, 2013

Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini

So, I get why Sandy and I picked up the box of Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini a few nights ago. We were both in the mood for an easy dinner, and definitely not in the mood to go grocery shopping, yet we felt compelled by the power of our rumbly tummies and empty fridge. Normally, in this kinda situation, the veggie corn dogs and some Trader tots would be high on our list, but we've had that dinner a few times recently, and wanted something different. For whatever reason, this caught our eye, and for the $3.99 for a box of 16, we figured, why not. One can do much worse for a midweek dinner, I suppose.

But I don't exactly get the point of these overall. Now, I'm not that dumb. These are obviously meant more as a snacky hors d'ouevres than an actual dinner dish. I get that. But even in that regard, that kinda fall a little bit short. It's not that they taste terrible, because they don't. It's kinda of everything else.

For a few small bites, the preparation is kinda silly. You have to take them out of the package, let them thaw out for 20 to 25 minutes, bake them for about 15, then let them sit for a few before eating them, leaving a small window of time before they get cold and not as appetizing. Maybe that doesn't sound that bad. But let's talk about that, with the theoretical happenstance you're making these for a shindig at your house. Perhaps you're much different than my wife and I, but the last few minutes before any guests arrive, we're usually shoving plates, pots and random doodads into the dishwasher and tossing all of our dirty socks down to the basement and out of sight. There's not much time to be spared for panini prep time management, assuming we'd want these on the menu.

Plus, kinda the whole point of a panini, at least to me, is having a big ol' oversized sandwich. The piccolo squares are teeny little bites, maybe two midsized nibbles each square. It just doesn't have the same kind of satisfaction. Maybe that sounds like a silly thing to say, in light of the fact we purchased them, knowing what they are and their size and all, but while eating these, we just became that much more aware of that fact.

Buuuuttttt....they tasted okay enough. The bread got nice and reasonably toasted and crispy on the outside, and while the pesto and red pepper spread were nothing special, they weren't terrible by any means either. They made a good enough side dish for some orzo and peas. The panini bits even made a decent enough leftover lunch, even though the bread got noticeably chewier and denser overnight. But all in all, they're just very much in the middle - nothing that bad or too wonderful to say about them. Sandy's reaction summed it up about perfectly when I asked for her opinion: "Mmmmeeehhhhhhhh...". I interpret that as a three. Mark me down for that too.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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

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