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Friday, June 13, 2014

Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce

Confession time: As much as I love grilling, last summer...I didn't grill once. Not a single time. My excuses for that are numerable, but basically boil down to: The grill we owned (ten years old, passed down from my older brother's college house) crapped out. Would be cheaper to replace than get all new parts. Was planning to move, and not only did I not want one more thing to move (and a pain in the butt one at that), but if there's anything more expensive than buying a house, it's trying to simultaneously sell a house and buy a house and not have any potential creditors either knock on your door or implode your finances (i.e., pay them bills and keep that money in the bank). And as much as patience is a virtue that I am so aware that I so sorely lack (and I so want, right now!)....I just don't have it for charcoal. Never have and never will, except for the occasional tailgate, of course.

So, I'm trying to make up for it this year. Got the new Brinkman on my grilling patio - nothing fancy, but can sizzle up 24 burgers at once, according to the specs, so it works. I still don't break it out as often as I'd like, but when I do, it's fantastic.

Wish I could say the same for Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce. It's alright, don't get me wrong, but it's not my bag. A previous confession a while back revelealed I'm not a fan of most condiments (especially ketchup) but I do like most barbeque sauces, and every once in a while, in moderation, some mustard isn't terrible. But it has to be used lightly.

Well, due to my complete lack of critical thought and basic color/potential flavor reasoning, it never occurred to me, pre-purchase, that this could be a mustard based barbeque sauce. Not familiar with that concept - that's what i get for never having barbeque on the two or three times I've been in the Carolinas, I guess. Is that a North/South Carolina thing? I just know what the bottle tells me.

Basically, think of mustard, add a bunch of sugar and molasses and some smokiness, and a good dash of black pepper, and that's more or less what this TJ bbq sauce tastes like. It's a little discombobulating, trying to balance out the sweet smokey of most barbeque sauces with the mildly innocent acrid taste of mustard, but it kinda works, and the spices (most noticeably the aforementioned black pepper) help by adding a decent wollop on the back end. The sauce is pretty sweet, though - sugar's the first ingredient, for goodness sake.

It works...but for me at least, only in moderation. When I glazed some over some chicken breasts a few minutes before dinner time a few nights back, both Sandy and I were pretty happy with results. When I thought I'd add some flavor to some leftover grilled potatoes and corn for lunch, I must have dumped in a little too much, because my stomach spent the rest of the afternoon quietly debating what to do before settling for nothing.

There ought to be some more ways to lightly slather this on my meals of choice, so I'll keep trying it, but I'm not exactly all gung-ho at this point, either. Sandy pretty much agrees. A pair of matching 3s seems more than reasonable.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's

It's really hard to look at Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's and not remember that old Saturday Night Live commercial for Colon Blow cereal. RIP Phil Hartman, you're one of the great ones. 

I guess this particular TJ cereal can be filed under "the epitome of adult cereals." It's boring. It's bland. There's no cartoon characters or prizes buried. And perhaps worst of all, it's healthy. 

See...I like cereal a lot. Sandy says I like it too much, but usually I can't hear her protests over my munching through a Jethro-sized mixing bowl. It's a replacement vice for too many other bad eating habits I have, like greasy late night/mornings before work drive thru cravings, or all-out fridge foraging. A good bowl of cereal either late at night or first thing in the morning is tough to beat, and if I can find one I like that's undoubtedly healthy, I'm all for it.

Listen: I tried to like these high fiber O's. Really, I did. But after giving them a good honest try and crunching thru the whole box over the past week or so, I can clearly state that these aren't for me. There's many reasons. First, the texture. Don't think these are just light, little crispy Cheerio knockoffs with some extra fiber magically infused, like I somehow thought they were pre-purchase. Nope, they're heavy, dense concrete doughnuts that give your molars a run for it. Seriously, if a mouse were to train for the discus toss for the Mouse Olympics, one of these O's would be a great choice. Even the last few bites are almost as equally crunchy as the first. 

Also, tastewise, they don't offer much. I don't need a cereal to be all super sugary as long as it otherwise tastes good - I love just a bowl of Cheerios and milk, for instance. There's a slight sweetness to these, but it's all swamped by this taste of condensed sawdust that was strangely reminiscent of one of my least favorite TJ products ever. Must be all that fiber. It's not for me.

For a positive note, though, just a regular sized serving of these Fiberios is enough to satiate a rumbly belly all the way to midafternoon, when I take my usual lunch break. And they do pair well with some almond milk, and I suppose a handful of berries would make a good accompanient. Plus, fiber and protein are good for you, and there's plenty, without any of the side effects SNL alluded to. And the fact I ate the whole box in about a week means they can't have tasted that bad as I said they did....hey, me, stop sounding so responsible!

So Sandy didn't get around to trying these, so it's all me. I'll give a voice to my more juvenile and more adult side. Youth before beauty, so youngyin' first: Blahhh. No likey. One spoon, and that's because I'm being nice. Older me: They're not great, but they're not that bad, so suck it up and eat them, your body will be happier for it, and maybe you should start taking care of it. Four spoons. So I'm right down the middle, what's your take? Share in comments below.

 Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

I accidentally threw out the box before snapping pictures. Box front picture borrowed from and nutritional info picture being borrowed from 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trader Joe's Just the Clusters Ginger, Almond & Cashew Granola Cereal

There are certain bites of this cereal that taste like delicious gingersnap cookies with a dusting of cinnamon and spices and a few choice cashews. Other bites taste like pungent, raw ginger root and not much else. The discrepancy between those two types of bites is harsh, and it grates on your taste buds the same way a glob of horseradish might after a few pleasant sips of root beer

I'm guessing the bites are inconsistent because there are chunks of actual ginger floating throughout the cereal, but not enough that you get one in every bite. Or, perhaps, certain bites contain only small bits of ginger and others contain large chunks. Whatever the reason, it's difficult to
avoid while eating the cereal since each ingredient is more or less the same beige-ish color. I suppose one could inspect each spoonful meticulously before shoveling it down, but it would take a great deal of time, care, and effort to do so. It's much easier to make the following generalization: The only people who should consider buying this cereal are people who are madly in love with the taste of raw ginger.

I was skeptical when I saw this box on the shelf. Could ginger really work as the centerpiece in a breakfast cereal? The Ardmore, PA Trader Joe's was a madhouse on my last TJ's run, and it provided the kind of full-contact shopping experience I hadn't seen since I braved the hordes of colorful characters at 3rd and La Brea in L.A. There wasn't much time to linger there in the aisle staring up at the cereals, and much like my last review, I made a hasty decision. I'm a fan of certain ginger products: ginger beergingersnapsginger ice creamand even ginger wontons. But when it comes to ginger candy or raw ginger root, that's where I draw the line. As a spice, ginger should be used sparingly. It's simply too pungent when it shows up in abundance.

Sonia liked this cereal even less than I did, pointing out that the bites with excessive ginger kind of ruin all the other bites. That stuff lingers. She only gives this breakfast cereal two and a half stars. I think I'll be slightly more lenient and go with three and a half since there's definitely some potential here. I think this could be a really decent cereal if they toned the ginger down a couple notches.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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