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Friday, June 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Sweet & Salty Granola Bars

Granola bars can fall anywhere on the healthiness spectrum—they can be nothing but organic whole grains glued together with natural honey on one extreme, or they can be thinly-veiled excuses for chocolate bars on the other. In my opinion, these fall directly in the middle: a nice balance of nutrition and taste. If anything, they err on the side of desserty, rather than wholesome. But any way you look at it, they're convenient and fast, especially for those last-minute, late-for-work, eating-breakfast-during-the-commute type situations.

Trader Joe's is once again blatantly imitating another major brand's offering. This time, they're emulating Nature Valley's Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars, a product I've been enjoying for years.

As far as I can tell, they're only offering this almond variety at TJ's so far, while Nature Valley makes a number of other flavors, including peanut and cashew. At full price, the Nature Valley bars are usually slightly more expensive than these Trader Joe's granola bars ($2.69), but I've often found the Nature Valley version on sale at the major grocery store chains. Both offerings contain almond butter, almonds, whole oats, and various sweeteners, but the one thing TJ's version boasts that NV's does not: that ever-present Greek yogurt.

If only all of their exports were as ubiquitous as the yogurt, I'm sure those Greeks would have been able to avoid all that financial trouble they got into a few years back. But the fad has not yet died, and at least in this case, I'm grateful, because it works quite well here in this product, providing a nice subtle tang to the sweet and salty base of these snack bars. 

The sea salted almonds are balanced out by sugar-sweetened crisped rice and a confectionary coating, and the overall texture is chewy and soft, except for the nuts, which taste and feel fresh and crunchy.

There are six individually-wrapped bars in the box, and the serving size is just about perfect. I'm hoping TJ's will continue to copy Nature Valley and roll out a full line of these bars with other nuts and flavors.

Four stars a piece for these tasty granola bars.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Nothing But Fruit & Nuts - Date - Hazelnut - Cacao

Busy busy busy. Bizzy. Biz-zay. Bizzybizzybiz.

No matter how you say it, or spell it, that's what we are.

There's the normal everyday grind of errands, jobs, and chores. Then whenever we all have the day off together, we try to have a family fun day. In a span of less than a week not too long ago, Sandy and I took the kids to Idlewild amusement park, the zoo, the science center, and the pool. That'd be a whole month, if not full summer, of activites for me growing up. Here's to reasonably priced family memberships! Sandy and I also finally had a little weekend to ourselves not long ago either, where we packed as much as we could into about two days in NYC - a show, a ballgame, the Met, Times Square, and all sorts of touristy crap like Ripley's Museum.

So busy....we're kinda in need of a TJ's run. Supplies are low.

Fortunately for all aspects of our busy lives (and fortunately Nathan chose another flavor for his review), Sandy picked up a sack of Trader Joe's Nothing But Fruit & Nuts - Date - Hazelnut - Cacao. I'm really not sure if that's the official name of these guys, but no other way seems quite right.

At least I am very sure of the ingredients. Dates, hazelnuts, and cacao - that's all there is, there ain't no mo'. They come all formed together in a medium sized disc, individually wrapped. If you're familiar with date-based Larabars, there's some similarities but also a key difference or two. First, I think there's an even higher percentage of dates in each TJ's nutty cacao date cake thing. I say that because the date flavor seems a little stronger - if you don't like dates, you have no chance of liking these - but also there's a textural difference. The TJ's are a touch tougher as well - perhaps dried a bit more? Not sure. They're still plenty easy to bite through, but it was a changeup from the usual Larabar softness I'm more accustomed to.

There's not an abundance of hazelnuts, but there is enough cacao/cocoa/chocolate flavor slipping in to hit a good chocolate spot. The richness of flavor though seems to come mainly from the dates, however, which isn't a bad thing. The snacks are easily portable and filling making an ideal on-the-go energy boost. All. That. Fiber. With, um, all the effects as well, FYI.

It's $3.99 for the eight discs. While I get I could probably make more of my own for a similar price point, I for one don't mind paying a small premium for convenience. I've made similar stuff to these, and it takes some time, and I think I burned out a food processor motor once. Time is money.

Both Sandy and I like them, and they're be sure to be one of our go-to on-the-go get-up-and-goers for go-time. Go!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Nothing But Fruit & Nuts - Date - Hazelnut - Cacao: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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