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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute

So, I'm not going to bore you with the details of my job, but generally speaking, when not moonlighting as amateur foodie hack extraordinaire specializing in all things Trader Joe's, I work at a durable medical equipment company that specializes in cardiac patients who are, generally speaking, post heart-attack, or at high risk for one. If you're intrigued much beyond that, here's my company's website. In my role, I get to read lots of doctor progress notes and whatnot for insurance authorizations. It's not a bad gig at all. It can be just...very repetitive. One thing I see overandoverandoverandover again: doctors advising patients to quit smoking, quit drinking as much, start exercising...and limit salt intake. Over and over and over again. Those are pretty much the four best things you can do for yourself, unless you partake in nonprescription drug use - cut that junk out too! Your body will thank you and just might last a little longer.

The salt thing is kinda tough, as it's in just about everything. And it's no secret why: it tastes gooood. Personally, I love me some sodium. Kinda hard for me to say "Na" too (Get it? Periodic table joke!). I just try to not add it too often to foods and avoid too much processed junk, and hoping my heart is happy for the effort.

Fortunately, there's stuff out there like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. Here's a spice blend that's decently full of flavor but...wait for salt! None! I can use as much as I want! Well, maybe, I don't know. But I know this: it works. I sprinkled some on some potatoes to cube up into foil packs and grill. Yum. The next night, Sandy made a delicious sausage-and-greens soup, for which this was a perfect match. Yum. It also works decently well on some eggs I scrambled for a quickie meal the other night. It seems kinda all-purpose and versatile, which I like.

You may wonder what it tastes like. Good question. As kinda a duh-ism, it tastes like whatever spices happened to be most prevalent on your bite. For a base, it's pretty close to a basic Italian seasoning blend - not too surprising given the basil and oregano and thyme and other usual suspects. Every couple bites, though, something else pops out, like the black pepper or cayenne or even the lemon or celery seed (enough so that I asked Sandy if she put celery in that soup, which she did not), so every bite is a little bit different. It's nothing earth-shattering or world changing by any means, but for me at least, it's the occasional viable alternative to the usual bottle of hot sauce that I dump on most everything.

If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Mrs. Dash...well, Google says you just may be right. At  least 21 Seasoning Salute is a much cooler name, and from the looks of things, comes in a more spice-rack friendly bottle. Also, I haven't priced Mrs. Dash recently (or ever), but the $2 or so for the TJ's version seems like a pretty solid deal.

Tried to get Sandy to say something interesting about the spice, and she just kinda looked at me. I don't blame her. The fact that she opted for this over hot sauce for said scrambled eggs, an upset perhaps on the level of Foreman over Frazier, does say a lot though. I think we're both pretty happy with this seasoning, so we salute you, Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Soft Pretzel Stick

Despite multiple promises to review more gluten free products, here's another review of something that is most definitely not gluten free. I hope this doesn't come as a slap in the face to you gluten-intolerant folks out there—it's just that we haven't seen anything interesting in the gluten free category in quite a while, and we couldn't pass up this tasty-looking 99 cent soft pretzel.

I never realized how many pretzel products we've reviewed on this blog until I searched for the keyword "pretzel" just now. As Russ observed a few years back, it probably has something to do with the fact that the German-speaking settlers who brought pretzels over from Europe many generations ago kinda made this area (southeast PA to central PA) the pretzel capital of the US—and possibly now the world. One could argue that the Germans who invented the pretzel should have that title, but while our Deutsche freunde balanced their interest in twisted bread with beer,
sauerkraut, and chocolate cake, we Americans took to marketing the pretzel as far and wide as we possibly could. We not only have the headquarters for several famous hard pretzel brands in this area, but we also have pretzel-based restaurant chains like Philly Pretzel Factory and Auntie Anne's. So we Pennsylvanians know our pretzels.

And considering that this pretzel is pre-packaged, shelf-stable, and inexpensive, I have to say that it's not bad at all. In my opinion, it's not particularly pretzel-like. It's more like soft white bread if you ask me, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It does have the typical brown "skin" of a pretzel, but even that is pretty soft. Sonia was mesmerized by the softness of this pretzel. She sat there staring at her piece, squeezing it, and smiling strangely. I asked if she was going to eat it, and sensing that I might snatch it away from her if she didn't, she quickly wolfed it down. She loved it. It tasted like lightly salted fresh white bread. It made great sandwiches and tasted good with cheese and chili. 

It's nothing very fancy. But the genius of a pretzel is its simplicity. Sonia gives this a near-perfect score of 4.5 stars. It's certainly not bad, but I might have marked it higher had it been more pretzel-esque. As it is, I give it a respectable 3.5.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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