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Friday, November 15, 2013

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

These should be called "Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese" because as they are, it sounds like they're regular muffins with pumpkin cream cheese. But they're pumpkin muffins with regular cream cheese. Just sayin'.

Unlike the recently reviewed Pumpkin Croissants, the pumpkin seeds on these muffins didn't really add much to the product. In fact, I wish they had done away with them altogether. The cream cheese, while pleasantly creamy and rich, was just a single slab right in the middle of the muffin. 

Sonia kept expressing her desire for more cream cheese. I do agree with that sentiment, but I also must point out that my well-thought-out biting strategy went a long way in preserving the lone dollop of cream cheese until I was nearly done with the bread part of the product. The procedure involved biting straight in from the perimeter of the cupcake and placing the incisors just at the edge of the cream cheese center. In this manner, a proportional amount of cream cheese came with each bite, and there was even a tiny amount left in the core of the muffin which could be coupled with the portion of bread just beneath it. This method can be improvised, but for greater accuracy, you might want to employ the use of a compass and protractor. I would draw a diagram for you, but alas, I am not as talented as my cross-state blogging comrade when it comes to MS Paint illustrations.

I personally liked the bread quite a bit. It was moist and slightly pumpkintastic. I would have eaten it sans a heavy topping, but Sonia insisted that it required cream cheese or frosting to be palatable. That's unusual, since I'm normally the one pining for more sugar and fat.

All in all, I think these make a happily-autumnal snack or dessert. If moist pumpkin bread sounds good to you, check 'em out. Just don't expect a whole lot of cream cheese.

Sonia gives them 3 stars. I give 'em 3.5.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cashew Brittle with Sea Salt

Have you seen those Jimmy Kimmel videos of parents who tell their kids that they ate all of their Halloween candy? It's so cruel yet just so hilarious. I'm not sure that I'd ever do such a thing to my daughter when she's old enough for trick-or-treating and a big pillowcase full of candy to gorge herself on within three days just like how dear ol' dad used to do.

But I have no problem doing that with Sandy. None whatsoever. So one night, as she was coming down from upstairs, I hid the last few remnants of our box of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cashew Brittle with Sea Salt in our utensil drawer. When she asked where it was, I simply said, "Umm, sorry, ate it all." Please note: this was entirely plausible, as let's just say I have a history. Her reaction: Perfect, from the initial eyebrow raising, to the lip mini-quiver, to a definite pout, to only semi-playfully punching me in the arm. By that, I mean it's a good thing I don't bruise easily. It's also good that I'm a terrible liar (I smile waaaay too much), so she only half-believed me and took it easy. To really sell this next time, maybe I need to go get that plastic surgery some poker players get to help disguise their tells. 

Long time readers may know of my crazed, professed love of Trader Joe's Peanut Brittle. Seriously, it got weird for a while. It's safe to say I'm not quite as enamored with this particular version. It's not that it's not tasty or anything like that. Quite to the contrary. Much like it's aforementioned brethren, there's plenty of pieces the size of Greenland mixed in with itty bitty shards. Each piece is also definitely thicker than most brittles, adding an even bigger-than-usual crunch, and the sea salt makes a nice little addition. That's all well and good.

But there's two issues: the nuts and the chocolate. By "nuts" I more precisely mean nut distribution - some of those mega pieces had scarcely a nut or two in them, and if they were in there, they were hiding pretty deep down where you couldn't see them - like I said, it's very thick brittle. Meanwhile, some of the postage stamp-sized pieces had five gazillion cashews in them, which seems impossible except it isn't. Must be Time Lord technology, being bigger on the inside and all. And the chocolate - well, it's certainly good chocolate, as is most if not all of TJ's dark chocolate selections, but it just doesn't add that much, and instead kinda muddies the flavor some. Think about it this way: you already have a bunch of salty nuts fossilized into a rock solid chunk of corn syrup - how much more do you really need to play up the salty/sweet angle?

All that being said, yeah, Sandy and I housed it over two nights. The box isn't that big where we feel too guilty about it. It wasn't a terrible pick up for the four bucks or so, and it stands a more-than-decent chance to be a repeat purchase, even if just for something like a worky-office-holiday-party-type thing. Sandy's between three and a half or four spoons, and I'm a smidge behind that.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cashew Brittle with Sea Salt: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Soup

This might have been the most pumpkinnish product we've had so far. Not in terms of ginger, allspice, and nutmeg—although "spices" were present in moderation—I'm talking about the actual large orange squash-like vegetable (or is it a fruit?). I felt like I was tasting pumpkin for the first time. And for those of you who've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that it's definitely not my first time eating a pumpkin product.

This soup had a very natural flavor. Similar to butternut squash soup in terms of taste, this dish was just creamy enough, flavorful enough, and spicy enough to not seem, well...weird. Unlike tomato souppea soup, and lentil soup, pumpkin soup was entirely unfamiliar to me up till now. And when I try something brand new to me, my biggest fear isn't really that it will taste bad. If it's simply unpalatable, I'll just steer clear of it next time. I'm most scared that it will taste so strange to me—that the flavor and texture will be so far outside my experience—that I'll somehow be unable to appreciate a perfectly good product because of my own personal shortcomings; my failure to expand my horizons wide enough to incorporate this unfamiliar substance into my realm of appreciation.

Fortunately, neither of those scenarios was the case here. It was just really good soup that happened to taste like pumpkin. And Sonia and I were both appreciative of the fact that it's pre-mixed. There's no digging through the cupboards to find that measuring cup and then wondering whether you should use skim or whole, or whether you can substitute almond milk for cow's milk, or any of that nonsense. The mix was already done, and it just happened to be perfect. Plus, the box was less than $2. 

Our only complaint would be to point out that by itself, the soup is a bit boring. Some crackers or grilled cheese sandwiches are definitely in order if you want to turn this stuff into a meal, but happily, both crackers and grilled cheese complement this product perfectly.

If you're averse to pumpkin or plain, creamy soups, this product ain't for you. But if you're on the fence about trying it, Sonia and I both think you should check it out. Double four's.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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