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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Distinqt Tequila Reposado and Trader Joe's Margarita Mixer

Since Sonia and I moved out of California and crossed the country, we haven't been able to get our hands on any alcoholic beverages from Trader Joe's...until now! To celebrate finally selling our old condo, we decided to check out the Princeton, NJ Trader Joe's, which surprisingly has an extensive selection of not only Three Buck Chuck, miscellaneous wines, and Trader José beers, but also Trader Joe's brand hard liquor! It's a bit of a trek from our new home—right across the river from Wilmington, Delaware—but we had to go up there for business anyway. We were completely overwhelmed with choices. But since it's still warm-ish and still September, the month of Mexican Independence, we decided that margaritas wouldn't be out of the question.

We were hoping to find some TJ's brand mezcal, a liquor native to Sonia's parents' home state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It's a smokey-tasting alcoholic drink made from a plant in the agave family. However, we selected another fine Mexican beverage: tequila! It wasn't cheap: $22 for the bottle. But tequila isn't something you can "go discount" on even if you wanted to. I'm no expert when it comes to hard liquor, but I couldn't tell the difference between Trader Joe's Distinqt and any other major brand I've ever tried, like José Cuervo or Sauza, which are all in the same ballpark price-wise.

Tequila's always a little harsh as a shot, but it mixed together beautifully with the margarita concoction. The best thing about the mix was the absence of high fructose corn syrup and weird artificial stuff, unlike a lot of other major brands. And unlike the tequila, the margarita mixer was very affordable at $2.49. We added a little salt on the rims of our glasses, poured both liquids on the rocks, and stirred. We skipped the triple sec this time around. It was delicious!

As with most margarita mixers, the sweetness of it offset the bitterness of the tequila. Along with the salt, it made for a wild rollercoaster of a ride for our taste buds. It's been over a year since my last visit to Margaritaville—and this will undoubtedly be my last until next summer at least, so I enjoyed it while it lasted. Since I lack the expertise to critically score a tequila, I'll go with a positive, yet not-overly-exuberant score of 4 stars. Sonia will match that. I think the margarita mixer deserves a little more since it meets the taste and quality standards of the other brands I've had, but does so with better ingredients. 4.5 from me. Sonia gives it 3.5, stating that it's a little too sweet for her tastes, and that it burns her throat slightly. (I think it was the tequila burning her throat.) 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Distinqt Tequila: 8 out of 10 stars. 
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Margarita Mixer: 8 out of 10 stars.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Trader Joe's Original Coconut Creamer

It's been several months now, since Sandy's sudden evolutionary epiphany, that we've bought any cow milk for ourselves. Our dairyfree beverage of choice has been almond milk, though I'll admit, about the only one of us who really drinks it is our toddler, who drinks cupful by insistent cupful every day. Sandy will have some from time to time, especially if it's some flavored variety, but aside from the occasional inclusion in a smoothie, since I've given up cereal on my Paleo quest, I rarely if ever have any. Coffee creamer, though, has been the exception - well, not for me, I've gotten used to enjoying my coffee in the manner consistent with the infamous Airplane line - but we've just been buying regular half-and-half all along, and haven't thought much about it.

Until now. Here it is, an answer to dairyfree coffee creamin' dreamin': Trader Joe's Original Coconut Creamer. Unlike some other coconut milk creations TJ offers*, this seems, to my (limited) knowledge to also pass the Paleo test. No dairy. No soy. No gluten. Just some water, coconut, sugar *ahem* "dried cane syrup", and some chemical stuff which I don't know what they really do but I suppose it's important and hopefully not caveman-adverse.

And it works too. There is a definite yet slight coconut taste to it that does come through, so you have to plan a little bit for that, especially if you're planning to enjoy a flavored coffee. Sandy and I made a pretty vibrant "symphony" coffee (light and dark) over the weekend, and while I personally felt that the creamer dulled the flavor a little, the coconut still made a decent flavor accompaniment. Perhaps that "flavor dulling" is more due to it being the first coffee with creamer I've had in weeks, not sure. Generally, it seems like it'd work fine with regular roasts, but if your coffee has a taste that wouldn't mingle with coconut, then I'd say definitely avoid. The creamer won't get your coffee quite as tannish-brown as the regular moo juice will, but it gets the job done pretty well.  Sandy, who enjoys her sugar and creamer with coffee and not the other way around, had absolutely no complaints.

For a $1.49 for the pint, I'd imagine this being a regular pick up going forward. While I've now gotten to the point where I'm much more partial to black coffee than I'd ever thought I'd be, TJ's coco-creamer is still a nice little product option for anyone looking to avoid some dairy for whatever reason, or even just for a nice change of pace from the same ol' same ol'. I'll dabble from time to time. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Original Coconut Creamer: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

* Stupid maltodextrin AKA processed corn sugar junk.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets

It's been an even more interesting than usual past couple of weeks come dinner time in here, at the Western PA homefront of the WGaTJ's crew. In one corner, there's me, trying to stick true as best as possible to that pesky Paleo diet, making only occasional concessions for you, our readers. Great results so far - haven't weighed as little as I do now since the Bush administration, and by that I probably mean not the W one. Still got some work to do, though. In the other is my wife Sandy, nearing 8 months pregnant, after a long day of wrangling other people's kids at her preschool before tackling our own sweet little toddler for a couple hours while trying to make dinner while waiting for me to get home from work. Is she entitled to be hungry for whatever and that just has to be okay with me? No question, absolutely. But do I want to keep watching what I eat to keep on track? No doubt. Add in tiredness from work, lack of willingness from either of us to make two separate dinners, and pressure to maintain the appearance that we know what we're doing and not psychos less we equally confuse and confound our aforementioned two year old and  teenaged foreign exchange student we're hosting, and, well, it's been a delicate dance at times. At least neither of us is losing.

How do Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets fit in? Not in my caveman diet - oh, that pesky breadedness with all those yummy, crunchy, metabolism-killin' carbs. But, they're a good example of the compromise we've brokered - I eat Paleo for breakfast and lunch (not too hard during the week) and at dinner, we make reasonably healthy choices (these were a "one of those nights" bagged dinner nights) and I watch my portion sizes. Dropped a couple more pounds this week, so it doesn't seem to hurt too bad.

Besides being a symbol of peace thankfully made of chicken, not doves, these nuggets are pretty darned tasty too. That is, if you can call them nuggets - they're more like huge chunks of white chicken. Seriously, I'd say almost half the mega-nuggies we got were several bites each, and huge. Even better, it was actual chicken too, not the stuff that Snopes swears doesn't compose your McNuggets (jury's out if you ask me). I kinda liked how the bag proudly proclaims that the chicken contains up to 15% of a solution, implying that being 85% problematic is fine. Sorry, lame joke. As a small nod towards my 'lithic-classed leanings, the breading is also gluten free, relying instead on cornmeal and the like. While that still DQs this from any stone-aged supper, the cornmeal does add a pretty nice crunch, and a certain almost homemade flair. None of the seasonings particularly stand out, but instead keep themselves balanced nicely that make this chicken ideal for chunky-dunking into a dip of your choice, such as some barbeque sauce.

Overal, I gotta say, both the wife and I are fairly pleased. There's something a little fishy about them, though, which I can't quite figure out. Somehow, when eating these, I thought I was tasting something a little seafood-y. It's nothing unpleasant - I won't call fowl play on it - but I still couldn't quite shake that thought. Maybe it was the salt (trying to cut down that, too), I don't know.

Regardless, we liked 'em.  The birdy bits were a reasonable price ($5 for the sack) and will probably be a repeat purchase soon. Matching fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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