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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie

"...with a touch of Maple Bourbon flavor."

SCREEEEEEEEEECHHHHH. Back up the truck! What's that again?

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie....with a touch of Maple Bourbon flavor.

Inconsistent capitalization aside, just how awesome does that look? If the words "sweet potato pie" didn't do it for you, I really hope that "maple bourbon" would.

Wednesday night was a perfect night for our family to gather 'round for a little warm comfort food dinner. Aside from a long day after a very short night's sleep, the cool, damp, chilly November air finally began sinking in around the 'burgh area. Sandy whipped up a fantastic homemade lasagna, which I probably (and unashamedly) ate four too many servings of, and would have had more if she didn't have this pie warming up in the oven in the meantime.

I love my wife.

I wouldn't say that I love this the TJ sweet potato pie - I'm too spoiled by generations of excellent bakers in my family, Sandy one of them - but for a simple, store bought pie with an autumnal slant, it's up there. Big time. You can keep your pumpkin pies to yourself. Although fairly similar, sweet potato pie is a tad different - more natural sugars, of course, but also a lighter, fluffier texture itself. The write up of this pie in the Fearless Flyer mentioned something or other about the taters being kettle cooked so as to more closely resemble whipped potatoes - presuming that's true, then it was very well done.

But of course the real star has to be that "Maple Bourbon" flavor, right? That comes in the form of an oatmeal-based crumble that was somewhat unevenly disbursed on top of the pie. The crumble did add a grainy feel, but with so much flavor - cinnamon, nutmeg, a lot of maple, and yes, even a little bourbon. I'm not sure if either of my grandmas ever made sweet potato pie for a holiday dinner, but if they did, this wouldn't be at the kid's table.

As for the crust, it fulfilled its duties admirably enough. It wasn't fancy, but not exactly nondescript - slightly buttery, a little flaky, definitely crispy, and held together. Made for a good bake.

It's $6.99 for the pie, and does require 25-30 minutes of oven baking as it's from the frozen section, so plan a pick up of the pie accordingly. For us, on a night a good family dinner without much fuss was needed, it worked great. Although I will say that our two kiddos opted for a popsicle after taking only a small bite - oh well - more for us then! Can't complain too much, although I would have preferred a little stronger bourbon presence. Then again, things are rarely perfect.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trader Joe's Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer

There's something very festive about cranberries. I guess it all started with cranberry sauce, an integral part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. I mean, they cram cranberry sauce into those ubiquitous Thanksgiving-themed wraps during the month of November. Cranberry is even part of most Christmas meals and many Christmas snacks these days. 

I'm sure there was some earlier version of the fruit that was consumed at the first Thanksgiving—something other than the shivering, gelatinous mass that slides out of a tin can and maintains the exact shape of the canister, right down to the ridges around the sides of the product. The Pilgrims and Native American Indians might have eaten, like, actual cranberries. Apparently, they're harvested up until the middle of November, so it makes sense they'd have a bunch of them on hand. Or, just as likely, they may have had cranberry juice to drink.

Raspberry is more of a summer fruit. But thanks to Ocean Spray, most of us know that raspberry and cranberry together is something pretty tasty and special. Add a little, spritzeriness? And how could you go wrong?

The taste is lightly sweet, but very natural. It actually tastes like fruit juice and sparkling water. You can taste raspberry, cranberry, and even a dash of lemon flavor, but it's not as tart and intense as the aforementioned Ocean Spray offering. Both beverages are good, in my opinion, albeit in completely different ways. The sparkling water adds the perfect amount of fizz and dilutes the juiciness and syrupiness of the product, so it seems just a bit more sophisticated than typical Cran-Raz. Ever have Izze sparkling juice drinks? It's very similar to those.

Speaking of sophistication, how about the packaging? It's a very nice, classy bottle. To be honest, I'm not even sure if the cap was twist-off or not. In my zeal to open the product, I pried the metal cap off with a bottle opener without even testing my hand at the bottle top. Even though I managed to snap the only-slightly-mangled cap back in place, the spritzer will most likely lose its fizz pretty quickly. Oh well. Good excuse to chug a bunch of it today.

Because it's not super cheap ($3.49) I doubt I'll pick this up each time I swing by TJ's, but I would most definitely consider this as the non-alcoholic beverage to accompany my Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinners.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Traditional Pot Roast

Disclaimer: With everything I'm about to say here, keep in mind: I'm not a pot roast guy. Never have been. I was the kid growing up who would run back and forth between the kitchen table and bathroom, flushing one mouthful of pot roast at a time. And there's a good cahnce I never will be. Swampy, stringy, fatty meat? No thanks. I'll eat it, but it's not something I'll really enjoy.

But here goes....a microwave? For pot roast? That's how you're going to tell me to prep this, Trader Joe's, with your Traditional Pot Roast!?!?!? What??? No! Listen, I don't care that it's fully cooked so it just needs to be warmed up - that's wrong. Pot roast comes from the one kitchen appliance that's even easier than a microwave - a crock pot. There's nothing complicated about about a crockpot - only three settings, set it, forget it, almost impossible to screw up. Microwavable pot roast is just bizarre to me - there's nothing difficult or time consuming about crock pots - did we really need to take something simple like a pot roast and make it zap-able?

So, naturally, we made ours in the crock pot, for tradition's sake, and also because we apparently have a compulsion to freeze every piece of meat that comes into our house. Doesn't matter if we're going to eat it in three hours, three days, or three years - into the freezer for you! Ain't no nuking a frozen meat lump properly.

So, pot roast. There's...not much else to say about it. There's nothing flavor or texture or anything wise that sticks out. Imagine a pot roast, and this is almost exactly what you'd get. I will say that the meat itself seems a little less fatty and stringy than the pot roasts I recall from growing up (no offense, Mom, but I always wondered what sins I committed when you served up pot roast), and is properly soft and tender. There's not much in the way of flavor except the natural savoriness of the meat and salt and pepper...

...and corn syrup solids? What....I don't even know what to say here. Except there are corn syrup solids on the ingredients list. I didn't think corn syrup was a thing Trader Joe's was into - well, apparently not, and out of anything, it's on pot roast? Can someone explain this? If some sort of sweetner is needed for whatever reason (you know, sugar and pot roast, BFFs), why not just do some honey or something along those lines? Corn syrup? I'm amazed.

Anyways, we have a split household on the TJ's Traditional Pot Roast. Sandy and B, our youngest daughter (almost 2!) really enjoy it. In fact, it was B's enthusiasm at the TJ sample counter that led Sandy to drop the $8.99 the pound package in the first place. I'm completely indifferent to it (which is actually a compliment from me to pot roast) while M, our four year old, went to bed hungry over the whole thing and ate it for breakfast the next day very begrudgingly. That's my girl. Take from all that what you will.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Traditional Pot Roast: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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