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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread

As I sit here composing this blog post, I am, rather hypocritically, eating a non-gluten-free slice of pizza. And although I was diagnosed with a low-level wheat allergy as a child, I have never been instructed to follow a gluten-free diet, and I don't suffer from celiac disease or any other condition that would necessitate a gluten-free diet, at least as far as I know. 

Yet I can feel my stomach puffing up slightly, causing mild discomfort, as I consume my early dinner. Weirdly, both Sonia and I experience this phenomenon when we eat glutenful grains and traditional wheat-based products. Not so when we eat gluten-free.

So why don't we eat gluten-free all the time, you ask—aside from the need to review glutentastic products every once in a while? Habit, mostly. Cost is also a factor. You can buy traditional whole wheat bread for just over a buck, but this loaf of gluten-free goodness, for example, will run you about $4.50. It won't break the bank, but unless it's absolutely necessary, it's hard for me to justify spending four and a half times as much for essentially the same product.

But to be fair, it's NOT the same product—particularly for those of you who eat gluten-free out of absolute necessity. I'm sure for you guys, a couple of bucks is a small price to pay to enjoy sliced sandwich bread—something the rest of us take for granted each and every day. And I would say this gluten-free bread is the closest we've had to actual wheat-based white sandwich bread to date. Both look similar, toast well, and make great sandwiches. Taste-wise, I think I actually prefer this gluten free bread. It has a great nutty essence about it that you won't get from cheap old Sunbeam or what have you—toasting it brings out this nuttiness even more. It's somewhat similar to a multigrain artisan bread in terms of flavor, but not quite as complex.

Texture-wise, it's definitely stiffer than traditional white sandwich bread, but not at all unpleasant. Sonia states that it's "fluffier" than millet bread or brown rice bread, which in her opinion, makes this product superior. I'll admit that the texture of this bread is closer to that of traditional bread, but I've always enjoyed the thickness and firmness of millet and brown rice toast.

This bread is great for making sandwiches, with butter and fruit spread, or even just by itself. We've got no major complaints about the taste or texture, and we love eating stuff that doesn't make us feel all bloated and weird. I'm sure celiac, IBD, and Crohn's sufferers have their favorite stand-by sandwich breads already—like Udi's and such. For all I know, this may be a repackaging of some third party's brand that many of you have already tried. But if you're on a gluten-free diet and shopping at TJ's, Sonia and I both think this bread is worth a whirl. As the back of the packaging points out, the best thing since sliced gluten free sliced bread. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Trader Joe's Sriracha Sauce

Kinda disappointingly, there's no great or even interesting story behind why the famed Huy Fong brand of sriracha sauce is also called "rooster sauce." it's just because they have a rooster on the bottle. Why? Who knows. Why is there a lemur on one of my favorite teas? Does it matter? probably not. But here's a cool tidbit I found: Huy Fong sells over 20 million bottles of sriracha sauce every year. Their advertising budget: $0. Sweet, spicy profit. Cha-ching!

So, there's no rooster on Trader Joe's Sriracha Sauce. Can't call it rooster sauce then. But there's a dragon, so...dragon sauce? I don't know. Sounds kinda lame. But better than an alternate name for rooster sauce that I'd rather not type out for fear of sounding too crude. We try to be family friendly here.

Anyways, the animal decoration of choice isn't the only difference between the typical and the TJ's version. First things first, there's the consistency. Not that sriracha is generally all that chunky, but there's a micro-chunkiness to it, in some ways. Not TJ's. It's as smooooooooth as a freshly greased Justin Timberlake. No glop. No plop. It just squeezes right out of the bottle when provoked and doesn't even make that awful gassy sound that make me hate squeeze bottles. I'm not sure if the textural difference is an overall plus or minus, but the lack of fart noises when trying to enjoy my dinner is an absolute plus.

Then there's also the taste. Maybe I've dabbled too much in the sriracha-derived condiment world to remember what sriracha actually, truly tastes like in an unadulterated state, but...this stuff tastes sweet. Like, really sweet. Don't get me wrong, there's a good chili wallop that can be sinus-clearing worthy but...I taste a lot of sugar too. With sugar being a key ingredient in fermentation, and fermentation being one of the main steps for sriracha production, I'm thinking that perhaps there's something different going on here, but I can't quite figure it out what it exactly would be. Maybe it's a fume-free process - the factory neighbors would be grateful. Don't know.

Still, there's enough here to like overall. I've paired the sriracha with grilled chicken wings, eggs, sweet potatoes...all with good results. Sandy mixed some up with soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and probably another ingredient or two for a shrimp and broccoli stir fry the other night that was deeeeeeelicious. Good taste, with good flavor profile, just a little extra sweet with the heat. I will add that the following day after ingestion, there have been some mild digestive side effects that I will not elaborate on (yet again in fear of sounding crude). I will instead invite you to listen to this classic tune by Johnny Cash. Anyways, for no more than a coupe bucks for the bottle, this sriracha was a good buy which will be repeated.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sriracha Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Although she never expressed it quite the same way, I think my mother might have had the same irrational fear as Russ. No, not the one about scurvy. The one about being buried alive. Because she was always a big proponent of cremation. I just never thought I'd see that day so soon. Two weeks before Mother's Day and just about a month before her birthday, I attended my mother's memorial service

So that's why I've been MIA for the past few weeks—a difficult few weeks for my family and me. Hopefully Russ has kept you informed and entertained in the meantime. At any rate, Mom's moved on to a better place, and the rest of us have to lumber on through this earthly life for a bit. Thank God for the good things, like TJ's food (most of it, anyway). And a special shout out to a couple people that were not only friends to my mom, but have also been fans and boosters of this blog—big thanks to Mrs. Erwin and Mariann M. (Bring a Trader Joe's to Chambersburg, Big Joe!) Just as all things must come to an end, my little break has reached its terminus. It's time to rejoin Russ and get back to reviewing the heck out of TJ's treats.

Today, we're looking at Trader Joe's Peanut Butter and Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt. This sure ain't my mama's PB&J. It's slightly lower in carbs, for one thing (duh, there's no bread). And it's also not very sweet. Sonia claims she didn't taste any jelly. I thought I tasted something strawberry-ish and fruity, but it just wasn't particularly sweet—like not nearly as fructosey as fruit normally tastes when swirled into Greek yogurt. Usually the tartness of the yogurt sets off the fruit flavor and makes it seem extra noticeable, but not here. Peanut butter is definitely present, but it still doesn't overpower the Greek yogurt. I think the tart/sour Greek yogurt taste is the dominant flavor in this product.

I'll be honest, I was hoping for something a little more dessert-like—a tad more treat-esque, if you will. But then, I'm always looking to quell my sweet tooth. It's insatiable.

Texture-wise, Sonia thought it was pretty run-of-the-mill for non-fat Greek yogurt. I felt it was particularly soupy. I stirred and stirred and still had pools of peanut butter-flavored milk with large globs of Greek yogurt floating through it. All in all, this was a slight disappointment to Sonia and I, despite all the Instagram hype to the contrary. What do you guys think? We give this product 3 stars a piece.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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