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Monday, September 16, 2013

Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps

Finally over the weekend, it came. You know what I'm talking about. This past weekend in Pittsburgh was the first that offered the cool entrance of fall times, promising to leave behind the heat and humidity of summer. "Get out your hoodies and kick back on the couch with a warm blanket and watch some football, summer will be over soon enough," that cool, refreshing air said.

A lot of people I know, particularly in the usually-yoga pants-wearing crowd, associate this time of year with pumpkin here, pumpkin there, pumpkin everywhere. Not me though. I realize I may be stoned for saying such things, but I'm not a huge pumpkin fan. Pumpkin pie's alright but I'd prefer a good fruit pie like apple or cherry, or the undisputed King of All Pies - my Aunt Brenda's pecan pie, which no one can ever replicate. There's a new bar/grill in the neighborhood that advertises all the pumpkin beers they're getting in - let me know when you get Oktoberfest beers in, please.

To me, though, Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps taste like fall. I realize I may be straddling a fine line here, as ginger is a major ingredient in pumpkin pie and all, but no pumpkin pie has ever had ginger like these cookies, on purpose at least. As the name suggests, there's three types of ginger in here, and no, I'm not talking about nerdy, sturdy, or downright purdy. Fresh and ground ginger provide a good, solid gingery base, but the crystallized ginger really steals the show when you crunch across one - there's a certain momentary chewiness with a little crispiness, too. It's perfect and there's neither too much nor too little. And make no doubt, these wafers are all about ginger - look at the ingredient list, there's nothing in them except pretty much the bare minimum needed to form something like a cookie, then lots and lots of ginger. The resulting flavor is deep and savory, almost bordering on a cinnamony spiciness (but, hey, look, no cinnamon!). They're so good they're intoxicating.

I want to eat these with apple cider. I want to dunk them in milk. As inspired by this gone-but-not-forgotten ice cream, I want to eat them with lemon creme frosting. I want to eat them by the handful. Which I have - if you look closely at the picture, you'll realize I took a picture of an empty container. Whatevs. Although they're available year-round and have been for years (a true, enduring TJ's classic in that regard), I'll always associate these with fall. I think it's because my dad would buy Sweetzels every fall, and while they were an acquired taste for me growing up, I love that my 14-month old daughter seems to like these. I'm not sure if these are the best cookie that TJ's sells (there's some good competition) but it's close enough for me to call them a perfect five. Sandy counters with a measly four. I think she's just mad I ate more of them. For $3.99, dear, you best be assured we're getting these again, and soon.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons       

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trader Joe's Mini Pie Medley

C'mon, sing it with me! (to the tune of "Sweet Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac)

Give me pies, give me sweet little pies. (Gimme, gimme pies) Oh no, no, you can't disguise...that these are tiny pies.

You'll soon be able to purchase that track, along with many others, when Russ, Sandy, Sonia, and I finish recording our second album, Jammin' with Joe, which will be available on iTunes shortly. It will also feature hits like "This Cheese Is Made for Grillin'" and "It's a Super Fruit!" It's the long-anticipated follow-up to our hip-hop debut, TJ's and DJs. We'll hopefully be going on tour in the spring, opening up for the newly-reformed Nirvana with Joe Jonas doing his best to fill the shoes of the late Kurt Cobain. It's gonna rock.

Know what else rocks? These tiny pies. That is, unless you're trying to lose weight. Or maintain your current weight. Or not become morbidly obese.

I know they're desserts, but seriously? 20% of my RDA for saturated fat in one pie? And who really stops at one pie? Not I, certainly. Sure, leave a comment belittling my lack of willpower, hinting that only children eat foods like this and that furthermore, your five year old was able to stop at just one pie. 

But really, you've got to try at least one of each flavor, right? Ok, that puts you at 60% of your RDA for saturated fat. And they're not very big at all. They are truly miniature pies. So you eat three and you're still hungry. And we're all shopping at Trader Joe's to pretend that we're eating healthy, right? 

But yes, they do taste good. However, not all pie fillings are created equal. I found that the amazing, soft, buttery crust overshadowed the fruit filling in all but the strawberry pie. The strawberry flavor was tart, sweet, and strong enough to blend with the bready parts. It's not that I didn't like the others, I just wanted the fruit flavor to be stronger. It felt and tasted like I was eating a hot, soft butter cookie—the kind with the little globs of purplish or yellowish jam in the middle, except in my opinion there's never enough of the jam...and man, that crust just melted in my mouth and was so rich and yummy that I just forgot all about the fruity center. And it's strange that I liked strawberry the best because in almost any other scenario, blueberry would be my favorite flavor and strawberry would be my least favorite. 

Sonia felt like the fillings were more or less the same. She actually preferred the blueberry slightly. She wishes there were more pies in the box and thinks that $4.49 for six pies isn't a very good value, but because she was absolutely wowed by their decadent taste, she gives this product 4 out of 5 stars.

Because of the amazingly delicious crust, I can't go lower than 3.5 stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Trader Joe's Organic Super Fruit Spread

I could chalk it up to me being some kind of berry snob, but unfortunately my slight aversion to the taste of this spread is more likely a consequence of a lifetime of eating non-organic, heavily-sweetened, fake-flavored, overly-processed products of our modern industrial age. Sad. This stuff kinda reminds me of the blackberry spread we reviewed a long time ago. Like the blackberry spread, I feel that this "Super Fruit" lacks a certain punch. Unlike the blackberry spread, this stuff doesn't have corn syrup or added sugar, which is always good.

My 13-year-old palate wanted both of those products to taste like Trader Joe's Blackberry Crush. But I suppose if something's gotta have a grown-up taste, it's better if it does so with truly organic ingredients. I'm still waiting for the spreadable version of Blackberry Crush, but until it comes, there are always brands like Smucker's that offer organic jellies, most of which have "organic sugar" added. I'm pretty sure TJ's has similar products, but we just haven't gotten around to reviewing them yet.

But to be fair, I must mention that Sonia really liked this spread. She doesn't have the sweet tooth I do, so the natural fruit was plenty potent for her. She liked the consistency of it, too. It's pretty
smooth overall, yet there's enough mashed up berry bits that you really believe the product is coming straight from crushed fruit. And I must say, I enjoyed the product much more when used in a PB&J sandwich, rather than just by itself on toast, although people who really enjoy the taste of organic fruit might disagree, Sonia included.

I thought for a minute when I first looked at the jar that maybe "Super Fruit" was some kind of amazing, recently-discovered plant from the Amazon that tastes like chocolate and has preposterous amounts of antioxidants or something like that. Kind of like an "açaí berry" or "passion fruit," but you know, like, more super. I was wrong. Super Fruit is nothing more than the amalgamation of cherries, grapes, blueberries, and pomegranates.

Since there's basically nothing but fruit in the jar and since Sonia loved it so much, I can't give this a worse score than I gave to the blackberry preserves. So 3 stars from me. Sonia gives it 4 stars. That puts this product squarely in our "not bad" category.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 stars.

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