Google Tag

Search This Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Cocoa Dusted Truffles with Toffee Bits

With a couple exceptions here or there, as a rule I don't write or talk too much about my kiddos on here. No particular reason why, except maybe I'm eternally grateful that my mom 'n dad didn't detail all my little kid foibles for all the world to know when I was wee lad. Well, today I'll let you in on a few little verbal treats that my older daughter, M, has laid on me recently. Keep in mind, she's still a couple months away from turning three. When I told her it was time to go brush her teeth: "Maybe you can go brush yo' teef by yo'self and I go hide." When I told her that she was going to wear tights on one particular day despite her protests but could wear pants the next: "Well maybe I will go pee-pee in my tights today so I can wear pants today." One last one, from when I said she would be a good mama one day because of how good care she took of her little sister (Baby B, just a few months old): "No I don't want to be a mama, cuz soon I will turn into a boy and then I will be Daniel Tiger!"

Seriously, that girl.

It was her cute toddler persistence that led us to buy these Trader Joe's Cocoa Dusted Truffles with toffee Bits. Every shopping trip we let her pick out a treat. I can only presume the packaging caught her eyes as she exclaimed "Oooooh I want that one! Pwease?" Of course, she can't read yet, so it might have contained sardines for all she knew. We asked her if she knew what it was. "No, but I like it already!" Well, okay, little love.

Turns out she knows how to pick them. These truffles were quite the hit over several nights at our house. In all, they're pretty basic: a milk chocolate candy shell with a cocoa coating, with rich choco-filling with a little hint of toffee here and there. I apologize for neglecting to take a picture of the actual candy, but for an adult they're pretty much bite sized - for M they were big enough for a multitude of nibbles and face smears. Eh, whatever. They certainly pack a pretty good chocolate wallop, especially with the filling. If the coating were dark chocolate (my general preference) instead of milk, these morsels would probably be too rich to truly enjoy. As they are, we were all usually happy enough to stop at one, maybe two for an after dinner treat.

Still, there's something missing: the toffee. It just wasn't all that present, and more of it would be a welcome addition for helping add a little more flavor depth and textural difference. When I happened across a crumble of it here and there, man, was it good - could just use more of it.

M, though? Loved them. They were her choice for an after-dinner treat every night we had them - "Can we have the treat I picked at Trader Joe's?" she'd ask in the sweetest way. For a little added parental bonus, these truffles were an awesome eat-your-dinner motivator. When asked after explaining to her the point scale, she gave these truffles an earnest five. Could be because that's also her favorite number. Eh, I'll take it. When asked what she liked about them, she exclaimed "Because they taste like blueberries! Hahahaha!" Err, well, okay then. Sandy and I enjoyed them too, just need some more toffee. Still, not a bad treat at all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cocoa Dusted Truffles with Toffee Bits: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend

It's funny, the ways parenthood changes you. All I've ever heard is "Kids change everything!" Oh, they do. Weekends continually being filled up with classmate birthday parties. Bank account continually depleted thanks to child care costs (seriously, more than my mortgage and car, put together!). Not being able to sleep past about quarter after 6. Having simultaneously more patience than believable, yet less than what is required. And on it goes.

One small thing that's changed: me and coffee. Now, coffee has almost been a morning need since the single bachelor days, especially during the work week. Key word: morning. Now, especially with Baby B making her debut back in the fall, coffee is now a morning and afternoon absolute necessity. Cannot function without. I used to have a strict rule to never drink coffee past about 11 a.m. unless I wanted to be up all night. Now I need one right around 3 or 4 p.m. unless I want my forehead to have an edge-of-desk shaped dent. Don't know which would be worse - the doctor visit or the meeting with the boss.

As you may be able to tell with my lovely cubicle corner and that voicemail I need to check serving as a typical corporate backdrop, Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend has been my work brew of choice over the past week or so. It's probably tougher to tell, but my black mug there is a pretty nifty French press that I use to make my coffee in a single cup size. Pretty nifty.

Now for the coffee, it's not bad. But nothing too unique, either. I drink my coffee black, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what exactly it tastes like: good, typical coffee. That's not a bad thing. My work has vending machines and pot downstairs that dispense tepid brown water that tastes like depression; this is obviously light years better. I'd agree with the package's assessment of being "mellow and smooth" but I wouldn't go for "sweet caramel notes" and "floral overtones" the write up on the side proclaims. If it's there, to be honest, I don't really taste it. Maybe some cream and sugar help bring those out, but I haven't tried it. I like my coffee to taste like coffee too much.

So, this breakfast blend isn't anything fancy, but it gets the job done. It's hot, it's wet, and it has caffeine, and when I need a change up from the darker roasts I find I'm beginning to enjoy more, this won't be a bad option. The fact that it's organic and fair trade is unquestionably a bonus, too, and I'm presuming that it was one of the lesser-priced TJ options because that's what I tend to choose for work consumption, saving the fancy stuff for at home with the wife. I wish it had little more something to it, but it keeps me awake, employed, and plausibly productive at the job so I can get home and see what those kiddos are going to be up to next. Like my older one likes to sometimes say with a little coaching, you can't argue with that logic.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 24, 2015

Trader Joe's South African Inspired Biltong Beef Jerky

Conceivably, there's any number of ways to start off a review regarding beef jerky, so let's do something a little unexpected here: respect for vegetarians. No, seriously, I mean it. Can't speak for all vegetarians, for their any number of reasons for deciding to eschew meat, but for me, who's dabbled in it: it's tough. At least was for me. I've given meat up for a length of time during Lent, and for also about a six month period a couple years back (primarily for weight loss reasons - I was a big boy), but it's just kept bringing me back. Fortunately, I've figured out a way that works for me to incorporate mucho carne* into my diet and still lose considerable weight - namely, Paleo. I get the arguments for a plant-based diet and I know that going Paleo, in careless application,  can mean too much meat overall, looking at it realistically from an evolutionary standpoint, but...I needed to find something that worked for me to get me healthier, which primarily for me means losing a lot of weight (I've lost about seventy since last August). Vegetarianism was great, in a lot of ways, but in the end wasn't for me. Paleo, despite forgoing lots of former favorites like cheese and bread (oh grilled cheese, how I miss you - if you're in/near the 'burgh, check out this place), does. If you're on a similar journey, I hope you find what works for you and you stick to it - lots of hard work but it's so, so worth it.

All this to say: palatable portable protein is a must for my busy schedule. I don't get it often, but I love good quality jerky, so when Trader Joe's debuts some South African Inspired Biltong Beef Jerky, I gotta give it a try.

This isn't quite like most jerkies I've had. Instead of indiscriminate chunks or (shudder) Slim Jim style, the beef for the biltong is cut into neat little strips. The write up on the back says it's from the rump, cut following the grain of the muscle. I'm not all that up on my cuts of meat to know if that's different than most jerky, but I will say this style is noticeably tougher and chewier than most. There's also not nearly as much fat as would be expected from bovine posterior,not that jerky has all that much usually anyways, resulting in lean, tough meat that will get your teeth working to get through. Almost more venison like in some ways. This is a plus - while I can easily overdose on other jerky, this was too much to eat more than couple strands at a time.

The seasoning's a bit different, too. Instead of being marinated in a bath of whatever with little to nothing on the exterior, each piece of the biltong is liberally coated with a thick dusting of spices - lots of pepper and garlic, and yes, salt. To my recollection, the seasoning tasted pretty similar to what's on the South African potato chips, but it seemed deeper and fuller with its beefy base.

As with most jerky I try, I had my work buddy, Alan, give it a try too. Now, he's actually been to southern Africa and has stated he lived on biltong and Coca-Cola for about three weeks, so I'll trust his opinion more than mine. "Hrmm," he said, giving the first bite a chew. "The texture's just about perfectly right, but the seasoning...." He looked on the back of the bag. "I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that where I was, there wasn't Worcestershire sauce. Or apple cider vinegar." Probably true. "Not bad, just needs some bloodborne pathogens and the occasional maggot, and it'd be somewhat close enough to what I got from the market in Africa. But it's been a while."

Well, he liked it, I like it, heck, even the wife (usually ambivalent about things like beef jerky) liked it too. "Heck, whenever you'll buy it, I'll eat it," she said, which is about as ringing an endorsement I could expect from her. Like most TJ jerkies, the biltong was in the roughly $6 range for the quarter-pound package. It won't be an everytime pickup, but this will definitely be in the work snack rotation going forward.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's South African Inspired Biltong Beef Jerky: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 
* Sorta. Still learning the whole "portion control" thing - have gotten much better, but still.

You Might Like: