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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trader Joe's Sauerkraut with Pickled Persian Cucumbers

2015: A year of a lot of achievements and milestones. Turned 33, celebrated sixth anniversary with my lovely bride, had a third and a first birthday in the house, hit the 100 pound weight loss mark, three years of the daylight job I tolerate, five years of the moonlight one I love (hint: this one!) complete with new podcast, and one, big, large, very expensive roof replacement job (ugh!).

On a much smaller scale of importance, but much more pertinent to this here review: I've learned to really like sauerkraut. Truth be told, I've spent most of my existence trying to outright avoid the pungent cabbage concoction that had me gag at the thought of it. but then: one night, at Hofbrauhaus, I forgot to mention I didn't want it as a side, so out it came. Now, I'm a believer in trying something you don't like every once in a while, just to see if you still don't like it, so I gave it the ol' college heave-ho....delicious. Then had it again on some kielbasa while apple picking when I "forgot" it might be on there. Then again at a church potluck. Then, on a whim, when out at Penn Brewery, the German-inspired brewery here in the 'burgh. Each time: Yum. Go figure.

Anyways, since it's New Years, and sauerkraut is a time honored tradition that's been with us longer than Dick Clark (I miss him more each year - go away, Ryan Seacrest), here's some Trader Joe's Sauerkraut. In the refrigerated section for $3.99. Of course, it being TJ's, it can't be played straight, hence the "with Pickled Persian Cucumbers" part tacked on. Also, unlike many store brands, this is raw instead of being heated to prolong shelf life before being schlepped in a can, therefore retaining a lot of the good bacteria that our tummies like after a weeklong Christmas cookie binge.

Well, that's all good and all, but how's it taste? Very...pickle-y. Especially those cucumbers, which are chopped up button style and intersparsed throughout the shredded cabbage thicket in each jar. Those bites straddle a line between cucumbery sweetness and garlicky wallop which can take you by surprise on first bite. The cabbage part isn't quite as pungent, but still packs a sharpness amidst the firm, crunchy shreds. Naturally there's a pretty decent amount of salt in here, but the garlic pokes through quite a bit, especially when any cucumbers are involved, making this a fairly different kinda deal from any other sauerkraut I've had, which admittedly isn't much, but still.

I could not pay Sandy to try sauerkraut. She just won't. But much to my surprise, her mom (who lives with us) did. She' do I say this?...very used to her foods being a certain way, and so, she bristles at most Trader Joe's offerings because they're not what she's used to. A shorter way to say this would be "picky" but that doesn't quite explain the depth this goes to. Yet, she tried this without much hesitation, when I asked her if she'd like to so she'd know if she needed to procure her preferred sauerkraut for New Year's. It had a little much garlic for her, but she liked it enough that we'll be splitting the rest of the jar come pork roast time. 3.5 from her. Maybe in 2016, I can slowly continue the conversion process....I don't like sad Germans, so I'm going with a near perfect 4.5 for this sauerkraut.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sauerkraut with Pickled Persian Cucumbers: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Sticky Toffee Pudding

A month or two ago, some readers mentioned both this product and the Sticky Toffee Cheddar Cheese in the comment section below my review of TJ's Rustic Apple Tarte. I agreed to try this pudding item if Russ tried its much riskier cheddar cheese counterpart. He did. So here I am to honor my delicious end of that completely unfair bargain. (Thanks, Russ!)

We were planning on having this for dessert over the Christmas holiday weekend, but when it came time to eat Christmas dinner, we realized we had vast amounts of desserts, cookies, and other goodies that could surely last us well into the new year. Plus, with one less mouth to feed (rest in peace, Mom) the food would most likely be devoured even more slowly than in years past. 

So, after putting a dent in all of our more perishable holiday treats, we finally got to this delicious pudding Monday night as a sort of midnight snack after our regular bi-weekly podcast recording. And since it was late, neither Sonia nor I wanted to consume many calories before bedtime, but man, we really had to exercise some willpower not to eat the whole thing. The readied product looks like it just emerged from a fancy jello mold, although we failed to snap a picture at that particular juncture, and instead captured what the product will look like after being divvied up among many hungry holiday guests.

It's like a delicious bread pudding, but full of yummy dates and covered in this amazing liquid toffee syrup. Just imagine a Heath bar, sans the chocolate, but melted into this perfectly smooth, sticky, butterscotch-esque topping. It's absolutely divine.

At around $4 a box, it's not too pricey. It supposedly serves two, although with the amount of fat and calories it packs, you might want to spread it around to the whole family. The packaging specifies microwave preparation in just a couple minutes. I think it might be a seasonal item, but I'm not sure. If so, well...then most of you folks will probably have to wait until next year to pick it up. But Sonia and I are here to tell you it's definitely worth it. You've heard all that fuss about "figgy pudding" in that Christmas carol. Well, bring us some more datey pudding, and bring some right here.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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