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Monday, June 29, 2015

Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bars

Here's a question I found myself pondering the other night while chomping through a Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bar: What, exactly, is the divining criteria used to determine whether or not a frozen summer treat will be served on a stick? Is it potential mess factor? Structural integrity? Ease and comfort? I'm not really sure. I get why ice cream sandwiches (whether cookie or wafer ones) are stickless - there's a built-in easy way to hold them that unless you're a toddler (or me) it won't create a mess. Also, Klondike bars with no wooden pole make sense - although the potential mess is through the roof, I think a stick would only exacerbate since it's a big ol' quickly melting rhombus. But, other than that, and excluding ice cream cones (duh) and the cheapie colored sugar water freezy pops, pretty much any ice cream bar or popsicle or anything is a perfect candidate to be plunked on a stick, right?

Except....these TJ mango cream bars don't have a stick. They're prop-less and pole-less. Instead, it's just the bar itself, lonely, in a little wrapper just waiting to get all sticky and melty in your little grubs, unless you actually take the care to try to eat it from the wrapper, which seems silly to me. Really, these should be plopped on a little post.

Thankfully, though, I won't let that skewer my perception too much. In all, these do make a tidy little treat. Each bar is about 75-80% typical frozen mango-esque popsicle, with the a little side section of smooth chilly cream that complements the rest of the bar pretty well. I'd personally like if the cream and fruit part were a little more intermingled so each could be present in each bite. Regardless, the mango tastes all summer-y and sugary and all that enough by itself to work, but the cream really adds a nice touch to tie it all together.

A small side note: Not liking the ingredient list, which I neglected to doublecheck before purchase, mostly because so many TJ's products don't have it that I take it for granted: glucose syrup, with corn in the parentheses. There's a lot of noise online clamoring about glucose vs high fructose corn syrup (here's one link I found - can't vouch for its truthiness) but...I don't know. It sounds too much the same to me, in that tt's added sugar, and in some sort of form that's different from the sugar already mentioned in the list. Seems like a lot of extra sugar, when I think God made mangoes taste the best, personally - nothing extra needed.

Anyways, both Sandy and I, and our almost three year old (time flies!) enjoy them enough as is. They're smallish enough to perfectly sized for the kiddo and to not feel like too guilty an indulgence for us big kids. There are other varieties of these bars out there, like raspberry or coffee ones, that I'm sure we'll try before the summer's up. The box of six desserts cost no more than a couple bucks, making it a relatively painless pick up. It'd just be nice if there were a little something that made them a little more special or unique, but alas, these bars are a pretty solid choice as is. Not bad at all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bars: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Coconut Water

When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally bring home whole coconuts from the grocery store. I used to love the water that came straight out of the coconut, and I'd chug it down just as quickly as it flowed from the fruit. Back then, we erroneously called that liquid coconut milk. It was actually coconut water, same as this product. But I swear, in my memories, the liquid was much milkier and much whiter than the beverage now known as "coconut water." I also remember it being much sweeter than this coconut water. 

I'm not sure what I can attribute those discrepancies to. Perhaps it just tasted much fresher since it was literally only seconds out of the coconut. Or maybe it's one of those dimensional shift conundrums I've been reading about. In my home universe, we read Berenstein Bears books, Nelson Mandela died in the 1980's, and coconut milk came out of tapped coconuts instead of coconut water—not to mention Joe Cocker's "With A Little Help From My Friends" intro to The Wonder Years was pretty good, unlike the one that plays during the opening credits now. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's a syndication/copyright issue rather than a dimensional shift, but it's still pretty terrifying nonetheless. Seriously, if you have Netflix streaming, go play the beginning of an episode of The Wonder Years now. I'll wait for you here.

Weird, huh?

Know what else is weird? Sonia LOVES this coconut water stuff. She says it tastes much better than the Maple Water and it does at least as good a job at hydrating her. She often uses the term "sock water" when describing a beverage she doesn't like—as in water that's been used to clean dirty socks. I might be tempted to describe this coconut juice as just a small step up from sock water.
It's not that Trader Joe's offering is any worse than other pre-packaged coconut water. I'm just not really a fan of any coconut water since I transitioned into this peculiar universe—and likewise, Sonia generally likes any coconut water. Somewhere in one of our podcast episodes, I said something along the lines of, "If I were forced at gunpoint to choose between the Maple Water and the Coconut Water, I'd take the Maple Water." It's true.

Anyway, Sonia gives this product 4.5 stars, and I'm gonna give it 2.5. That still yields a respectable score of 7 out of 10, but be advised, if you're not a huge fan of other pre-packaged coconut waters, you probably won't be a fan of this, and vice versa. 

Now bring on the onslaught of "You're an idiot but your wife isn't" style comments that I've become so accustomed to these past 5 1/2 years ;)

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli

TJ's has done Chicken Pot Pie before, but never quite like this. In the past, we've seen them offer us Bites (please do not read that review) and quite recently, we sampled a delicious British/East Indian pot pie of sorts. As Russ reminded us, it wasn't all that good-for-you. But let's face it, when a dish has more than a whole day's worth of saturated fat in a single serving, it's never the nutrition facts that are going to redeem the dish—it's that rich, delicious flavor.

Thankfully, this product has good chicken pot pie flavor, and it won't send you to an early grave—at least not as early a grave. There are still a good bit of calories, fat, and sodium. But compared to the Balti Pies, this is diet food. And again, it's fairly filling like a real pot pie. It's all there: the carrots, the peas, the chicken, the white gravy sauce. It's like there's a whole balanced meal inside each little square. The only thing different here is the "crust." It's traditional old ravioli style pasta. And somehow, it works. It works quite well, in fact. Each element wound up cooked to perfection by following the simple stove top heating instructions. There was no user error this time. Er, I mean, not that I've ever heated anything incorrectly. (Again, I must remind you all to NOT read that Chicken Pot Pie Bites review.)

When Sonia and I found out they stuck chicken pot pie in raviolis, we started arguing about what sauce to use, if any, before we even saw the package at the store. Sonia was leaning toward a white Alfredo type sauce, while I was thinking a traditional marinara might work. Turns out we were both wrong. This pasta works best with nothing but a little olive oil. Reader Haley suggests butter, rosemary, thyme, and grated parmesan on top. We'll have to try that next time, Haley. Thanks for the tip! Any other serving suggestions are welcome in the comments section below.

Sonia found herself wishing for more chicken inside the pasta, but still really enjoyed the flavor overall. I agree. It's a hearty, all-American type taste wrapped up in little raviolis. Very unique. It's about $4 for a two-serving package. Four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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