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Friday, November 6, 2015

Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Filling in a Jar

Here's another $7 item from TJ's. One might justify that lofty price tag with the added bonus of a quality mason-esque jar you can keep long after the pie filling has been consumed. One might also justify that seven dollar premium with the notion that this stuff is pretty tasty. Because it is.

After making the purchase, Sonia and I mused about whether or not we'd need to employ the recondite prowess of one skilled in the culinary arts in order to enjoy this unique delicacy because, unfortunately, neither of us are particularly gifted in that department—at least as far as pies are concerned. Sonia can make some tasty Mexican dishes thanks to some family recipes handed down to her from her parents, who, incidentally, were in town this past week. They brought delicious, authentic Mexican sweet breads from a bakery in Los Angeles. It seemed an obvious pairing to me, if perhaps nobody else, so of course I slathered a piece of the bread with this sweet blend of nuts and syrup: Mexican-American fusion at its rarest and finest.

It worked. As long as you didn't mind the moderate alcohol essence from the bourbon in the pie filling. Other food pairings yielded similar results: ice cream, pancakes—and I can only imagine with cheesecake as well, as mentioned on the packaging—all super sweet and super tasty, but there was still that alcoholic kick. I'm well aware that the bourbon is less harsh after baking, and for that reason, I decided to try my hand at whipping up something in that big, hot, bakey thing in the kitchen that's not a microwave. What's it called again? "Oh-ven" or something like that?

My baking experiment was a reasonable success, as I modified the pie recipe on the jar to use the filling in little crescent rolls instead. The process of baking and a good bit of butter certainly helped to mellow out the bourbon zing, and the pecans were even more tasty, as they picked up a lightly-toasted flavor and slightly crispier texture in the oven. 

Straight out of the jar, it's extraordinarily sweet—and bourbony, as mentioned before. The first and fourth ingredients are both types of sugar. So yeah. Hope you brought your sweet tooth. It's really just a jar of rich, luscious, maple-esque syrup and a boatload of whole pecans. Between that Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie and this, Trader Joe's must be single-handedly keeping the pecan farming industry afloat. 

I think this product is vastly more enjoyable and successful after baking, but Sonia is perfectly happy with it as a raw topping on just about anything. She gives it four out of five stars. Because it's expensive, wants to be baked, and a little too much like drinking pecan-flavored whiskey, I think I'll keep my score to a modest three out of five. But don't let this average-ish rating scare you away, particularly if you're blessed with mad baking skills.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

Well, hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween. We sure did out here in the 'burgh, although our kiddos were too smart to fall for the Jimmy Kimmel "we ate all your candy" bit we tried to pull on them. Too smart, those kids. Anyways, on to the next holiday (and my personal favorite) - Thanksgiving!

One thing I'm thankful for, as triflingly unimportant in the grand scheme it is: Seems to me we're in the midst of a potato chip renaissance going on here. For the longest time, the only kind of chips out there, that I could think of anyways, were: plain, sour cream and onion, barbecue, and salt and vinegar, with the occasional rogue bag of cheddar and sour cream, but who really liked those, anyways? Maybe some slight variations in there, but all that there really was. Then....Lay's kicked up their "Do Us A Flavor" campaign and BAM. I didn't know that you could make chips taste convincingly akin to biscuits and gravy, or Reuben sandwiches, or a gyro, or...well, yeah, let's forget those cappuccino ones, shall we?

Now, just as November rolls in, a new entrant: Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips. I'm kinda surprised that they didn't go for a name like "Holiday Dinner", "Gobbler Goodies" or "Thanksgivingesque" - the name as is just sounds too straightforward. But too awesome to not try.

And not disappointed one bit. Not. At. All. Cracking the seal unleashed a very savory aroma much like a fresh dish of stuffing waiting to get devoured....yum. Salivating already. Quick visual scan: very much like sour cream and onion, but okay, who has time for that, it's munch time...oh goodness. The first taste that hits is hard on the stuffing. Very upfront. Sandy and my brother both said, independently, that it tastes very much like Stove Top brand stuffing - I'm picking that up, too, but I think that's mostly because that's what I first think of when I think of stuffing. There's the taste of celery and slight herbal bite of rosemary and thyme in there that really seals the deal.

That's fine, but....what about the turkey? It's present, but more subtle. The best way I can think of to describe it, there's a certain roastiness to these chips that slowly builds with each chip, and is more apparent on the aftertaste. It'd be impossible, probably, to perfectly replicate the juicy joy of fresh roasted turkey on a dry, crispy potato chip - but to the extent that a chip can, it's there. If you've tried the Lay's Reuben chips, for example, the "corned beef aspect" is perhaps the subtlest, but still present - these TJ turkey tater tidbits are similar in that regard.

Really though, in all, the stuffing and turkey flavors come together very well, and of course, some potato flavor pokes through as well to sell the "Thanksgiving dinner on a chip" idea even better. Now, some might say "well, you'd need gravy and cranberry sauce to really make it Thanksgiving dinner....." Look. There's enough salt on them, with enough taste, that adding just a little more to add a gravy spin would be a misstep. And adding something tart and sweet to them, like cranberry, would throw it all off. IT'S A POTATO CHIP, not meant to replace your holiday meal, or to be some Wonka-gobstopper-esque concoction that will taste like an entire holiday dinner, because then they'd have to include pecan pie and wine too, and now we're just getting carried away.

And they're perfect just as they are. No, I mean that. Perfect. Perfect turkey and stuffing taste. Perfect kettle chip crunch. Perfect for the snack budget at only $1.99 a bag. Just perfect. I love them, and I don't say that about chips often - I'm a guy who most days would prefer a handful of raw spinach over a baggie of average run-of-the-mill chips. I'm going to say these are now my favorite potato chips I've ever had, which will make their logical seasonal demise all the sadder. So, in the meantime: Indulge! Sandy and I polished off one bagful already, and went back for more - self control might kick back in at one point, but until then: Gobble gobble.

Bottom line:  Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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