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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Joe-Joe's

After our third or fourth pumpkin product review each year, you'll start to see my scores drop dramatically from that first pumpkin product of the season. There are a couple of reasons I can think of for this phenomenon. First, I think we seek out the most-buzzed-about products first, and they tend to be the ones that taste the best. Second, I think our standard for pumpkin products goes up after having a few stellar pumpkin desserts and tasty pumpkin brews. And the third and least likely reason is that we might actually get just a little sick of pumpkin and/or pumpkin spices.

But then there are products that, in my opinion, are simply not that good. This happens to be one of them. I really don't think my low-ish score for this product is due to any of the reasons listed in the previous paragraph. I really just think they tasted weird. They certainly tasted like pumpkin spice, but the flavor struck me as being fake, even though the ingredients do actually list "pumpkin puree." The taste wasn't intolerable. It was just a little off—and not at all like the flavor of other Joe-Joe's. And I certainly couldn't feature myself snacking on these things at all if it weren't for it being fall and them being so seasonal and festive and all.

And that brings me to my next point: Sonia really liked them. She insists that they tasted great and that they had the most intense pumpkin flavor of anything we've looked at so far. But Sonia is a brilliant graphic designer. Is it possible her opinion was heavily influenced by the cute, creative packaging of the product? I say yes. She also swears by the combo of these cookies and pumpkin-flavored coffee. She's not wrong there. The earthy essences in a good cup of java tone down the unusual pumpkintasticality of the cookies. My score would have been much lower had I not tried these things with coffee.

And I must admit, these cookies had a nice texture. They felt fresh and had a nice sandwich cookie feel to them. They weren't at all stale or stiff. So...even though these cookies weren't really my thing flavor-wise, I think they're worthy of at least 3 stars. Sonia's gonna go with a solid 4.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.
Although I haven't tried them yet, I've heard mixed reviews about the recently-released Pumpkin Spice Oreos. I assume they're a very similar concept. Comment below if you've tried those!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Trader José's Hatch Valley Salsa

So here I am, on one hand, casually mentioning my diet here and there, while reviewing things like new fangled cookie butter and mini ice cream sandwiches and kinda disappointing chips and all that stuff. That obviously doesn't add up. So, what do I eat when not indulging myself for your sake, not to mention my very pregnant wife's?

Let's see...chicken. A lot of chicken. Eggs. Sweet potatoes, but not too often. Veggies. It's kinda surprising to me how much I've come to really enjoy good, fresh spinach. Lots of nuts (except peanuts). A lot of fruit. Black coffee. Water. And that, surprisingly, is about it - no dairy or carbs or anything. Still learning the paleo ropes to a great extent, but the results speak for themselves.

You know what makes almost all of that taste better? Salsa. Lots and lots of salsa. Gotta be careful perusing the ingredients list, which for the longest time left me basically with one TJ's choice (which was okay, it's my favorite anyways).

Well, here's another one: Trader José's Hatch Valley Salsa. I love it when that José hombré comes to town - almost always means a win. This take on a classic salsa verde is no exception. I'll admit, before this salsa, I've been somehow ignorant of the whole "Hatch Valley chile pepper" thang - like, yeah, I've had them, but just the mini-canned version, which don't sway me one way or the other. Not anymore. If this salsa is anything like "real Hatch Valley chile peppers," I have a new vacation spot in mind. Every bite is full of roasted, smoky chili peppers, with a little sweetness from the freshly crushed tomatillos adding a nice little balance. The lime and garlic are a nice little touch, too, giving plenty of flavor before the heat descends. If you're a spice-adverse type person, this salsa is not for you. The heat kinda meekly introduces itself, before beginning to build and build, and by the time you're a couple bites in, it's all there in its smoky spicy glory. Yet even then, each subsequent bite still has lots of flavor, from those tomatillos, etc, and it doesn't overpower your food, either. Me gusta mucho.

I've yet to find anything that I reasonably enjoy salsa on that this doesn't work. Meats? Eggs? Veggies? Even those couple tortilla chips I swore I wouldn't sneak and then did? Ab-sah-lutely all of them. One of our loyal readers, a "stevenp", mentioned in  a comment a week or two ago he used this and some coffee-garlic rub as a steak marinade with amazing results - haven't tried that yet, but I'm intrigued - thanks for the idea!

Sandy's not as enamored as I am. "It's just too spicy for me," she said. I guess this salsa is mas pica than most other salsa verdes, which she routinely chooses for her burritos at Qdoba (mmm,Qdoba....). I couldn't get a definitive score from her, but her voice was telling me she was wavering between a 2 and a 3, so I'm going with that for her. For me, I'm just glad to have another tasty, healthy salsa option that fits in my diet pretty easy. As tempting as it is to five it up, I can't give those out too often, so here's a 4.5 instead.

Bottom line: Trader José's Hatch Valley Salsa: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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