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Friday, May 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Fuji Apple Slices

Man, there's some times when I begin to feel old.

I'm not just talking about the ever-emerging bald spot, or the semi-regular chiropractic appointments. it's the other, smaller kinda stuff. Like the extra stiffness in my ankles when I wake up. Like lusting after low interest rates and not the newest gizmo I wouldn't know what to do with anyways. Or realizing there is such a thing as "I'm playing Pearl Jam too loud" when all by myself in the car or wishing the women at the bar (on the few occasions I go out) would use their "inside voice." Now, I won't reveal how old I actually am, because if I did, probably half of you out there would want to reach through whatever you're screen you're staring at right now and smack the stuff outta me, and rightfully so, and let's keep this friendly.

I bring this up because I seem old (to myself, at least), while really, I'm not. Kinda like these Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Fuji Apple Slices. They seem like old, crusty, dried up mummified remains of apples, while really, of course, they're not. Just freeze dried, however that works.

Hate to bring up a negative first, as usually that's not the way I roll, but it seems appropriate. What makes them seem old to me is the texture of them. There's a little crispiness, yeah, but there's a compressed Styrofoam quality to them that honestly reminds me of stale cereal. Of course, there's not too much of another way a dehydrated apple slice could feel, so take that for what little it's worth.

I will admit, I was pretty surprised with the taste. Like a good Fuji apple, it's a strong, vibrant flavor - tart, almost bordering on sour except for a little tinge of sweetness. Honestly, I didn't expect that for something that, based solely on appearance, seems like a dried up shell of the real deal. It's kinda like those TJ crispy oranges in that regard. But like those oranges, the complete lack of any juiciness kinda left me wanting the real deal.

I'm an apple-lovin' guy who regularly eats at least two a day, so while I appreciate what Trader Joe's is trying to pull off here, they just don't completely do it for me. This all sounds so negative, and I don't mean to be (maybe it's me being cranky - getting old again!), so let's hit some rapid-fire positives here: Great work desk stash-a-snack. Satisfies crunchy, sweet, candy cravings in healthy way. Toddler loved them. Easy to eat just a few, then put back down for later - good for snacking, but not feeding-frenzy trigger worthy. Lots of Vitamin C, less chance of scurvy. Priced okay at $3 a bag.

Sandy agrees with much of the above, adding that she wonders if they'd be good with oatmeal. Merits an experiment, I suppose, although I'm not too inclined one way or another to pick them again or not. Kinda one of those "If they fall in my cart, or the kiddo insists, I won't be upset" kinda deals. That means a middling score from us both.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Fuji Apple Slices: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trader Joe's Scallion Pancakes (Pa jeon)

I hate the end of a long weekend. Really. Three days of freedom, fun, and sun, and then back to the daily grind on Tuesday. It's jarring. My soul really wanted to stay in summer mode and take another three months off. 

I mean, I had a great weekend—and regardless of your politics, you have to have crazy respect for the people who laid down their lives and gave the ultimate sacrifice, many of whom died in a trench or jungle far from home. Those wars seem so far removed from our typical Memorial Day activities: picnics, swimming pools, and baseball games. Yesterday, Tuesday, wound up being my day for reflection. On Monday, I was too busy having fun.

Plus, yesterday I was still in a pollen haze. I have weird allergies to pollen, mold, and dust that not only affect my sinuses, make me dizzy, and give me headaches, but the toxins that my body produces affect my entire system, including my thought processes and, to a lesser degree, my emotions. Sounds weird, but it's true. And instead of locking myself indoors for weeks on end and going nuts from cabin fever, I simply bite the bullet and go outside, taking whatever preventative measures I can, but I usually wind up paying for it later. And honestly, sometimes food is the best remedy. The more I eat and drink, the better I tend to feel.

So in between writing assignments yesterday, I took a nice long break at lunchtime and looked for some comfort food in our cupboards. Finding none of my traditional stand-by's, I decided to break out this pa jeon—Korean "pancakes" made with scallions. And boy, did they do the trick. They're not unlike the Vegetable Bird's Nests we reviewed a while back—these are just larger, and they have more scallions and less of every other vegetable. We've seen TJ's brilliantly employ the use of scallions with another Asian food in recent memory, too.

I heated the pa jeon on the stove top with a little Coconut Oil Spray. They browned up nicely in a few minutes, just as the directions indicated. They were perfect just by themselves. I didn't feel the need to add rice, soy sauce, or sriracha, although some of that sweet Bird's Nest sauce might have been nice. They were a tad oily, but that's kind of what I was in the mood for yesterday. Plus, I was able to put the remaining two pancakes back in the resealable package for Sonia to try later. She loved them, too, but she wishes there had been some kind of sesame sauce or something to sex them up a bit. We've always been fans of Korean barbecue, and we're both glad we're able to expand our horizons to other authentic-ish Korean foods. This pa jeon is a winner. Four and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Trader Joe's Coconut Cranberry Granola

Today's gonna be a good day.

It's Thursday morning when I'm writing this. I have this theory about Thursdays: they're the worst day of the week. Monday gets a lot of flak, yeah, but for me, it's the start of the work week, and I got a decent job which I'm thankful for and enjoy enough, so the start of the work week, although daunting, isn't that bad. Tuesday, Wednesday, eh whatever. But Thursday? Blah. By Thursday, I'm beginning to feel a little worn from the week, I'm ready for the weekend...but I still have Thursday and Friday to go. Friday? I'm in love.

But yes, today is going to be a good day. Doesn't matter I'm one week out from an emergency root canal (done on a Thursday, naturally) - Hey I can close my mouth and chew again. It doesn't matter that last night I got ripped off $10 at a local bar on a wings and beer night when someone (probably barstaff) pocketed the tenspot I paid for my first beer with - wings were good, had a good time with coworkers, I supported the local economy, and I'll consider it an extra generous tip, although I probably won't go back, Mike's Wife's Bar in Oakmont, PA (if you go there, pay with card, apparently). And, well, anything that can happen today shouldn't really matter or be all that bad, cuz I have me a good belly full of Trader Joe's Coconut Cranberry Granola.

I've been a big fan of TJ's granola in the past - maybe too earnest a fan, according to some of you. No matter. I hate too dry, too hard granola which I've gotten too often in the bulk bins at places like Whole Foods. This coco-cran-concoction is perfect bitewise - a little crunchy, a little crispy, even a little chewy, but remains crunchy from first spoonful to last gulp from the bowl. There's bigger and smaller clusters all over the place, interspersed with light, crispy coconut flakes and chewy, tart cranberries. It's a joy to eat. The granola itself has a light cinnamon flavor that jives with everything else perfectly in a tasty little balance - yum yum extra yum.

And like a good granola should, this gets me going for the day. Way back in the day I alluded to a "10 a.m. test" for cereals - namely, if I'm still reasonably full from a bowl at 10 a.m. Too often regular cereals just seem to make me even hungrier somehow, like they're made out of Chinese food or something. But oh no, not this granola. I ate a bowl a day or two ago at about 8:30, and it held me clear over til my lunch break at about 2 or 3. That's impressive. Well done.

Sandy also likes it, maybe not as much as I do, but still a pretty decent amount. "It's great for a little snack on the go, or if I save some for my afternoon yogurt, for a little crunch," she said. I've never been a huge fan of the yogurt and granola combo, but if you are, I'd imagine this would be a perfect mix-in. Speaking of perfection, I'm going with a full-out five, while Sandy is going a little lower but not by much. If Thursdays and the TJ's coconut cranberry granola could collaborate on a theme song, it'd probably sound a lot like this. It's gonna be a good day.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Coconut Cranberry Granola: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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