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Monday, July 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Purple Maize Flakes

"Open your mind...harmonious convergence...Transcend the ordinary..."

From a breakfast cereal? Seriously?

That's what the back of the box says about Trader Joe's Organic Purple Maize Flakes. I get the punny Hendrix connection and motif, and there's always been a hippie/hipster vibe to TJ's (at least in ym area), so it kinda works, but still. A breakfast cereal. It's corn flakes. I can understand folks looking for a transcendental expereice in a bowlfull of something or another, but...cereal? Well, alright...I guess.

The obvious draw, Woodstock-era connotations aside, is the fact that these are purple corn flakes. Oooooh, pretty, right? My kids like purple, maybe they'll eat them. Organic is, as always, a plus. That "harmonious convergence" the box speaks of is between purple maize and brown rice flours, additionally making this cereal gluten free. All well and good. Kinda groovy. Cereal for the people, man.

As with anything, there's plusses and minuses. Let's start positive. These flakes are seriously crispy. I'd even say almost downright crunchy to the last spoonful. Seems to be due to the basic flake construct being a little thicker than most typical flakes I've had, which easily get limp and soggy quickly. Not here. And there's nothing too funky about the taste - the fact that it's purple has no bearing, and corn and rice usually work well together, except....

Salt. The corn flakes are downright palpably salty. It's enough that if TJ's were to market these as tortilla chip cereal, I would think it appropriate. I kinda want to dump some salsa on the cereal to give it a try. it just might work. Granted, the saltiness does kinda dissipate once milk is poured on and a little sugar added, but still...there's no reason to get 1/7th of my daily sodium in one cup of breakfast cereal.

And no, the flakes won't turn your milk purple either. I'm alternately gracious and disappointed.

Overall, though, it's a decent enough cereal. Both my kiddos liked it enough to have multiple bowls, while both Sandy and I snacked on a few extra handfuls. I don't do cereal often, and neither does Sandy, so this is definitely on the fence as a repeat purchase. Not that there's anything too horrendously wrong, but once our girls' fasconation with purple cereal goes away, it'd take forever to get through a box. Not terrible, not awesome, and certainly not transcendental. Maybe the purple maize isn't all in my brain. Good.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Purple Maize Flakes: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Chocolate Filled Crêpes

Long before we met each other, Sonia and I both had opportunities to travel to Paris, independently of one another. We each did the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs Elysee touristy thing and had a lovely time in the City of Light. Someday, we hope to return as a couple, but for now, it's fun recounting the few days we had there and comparing our experiences.

We both found Parisians to be kind and helpful, despite the many stories we'd both heard about how rude they were to American tourists. We both ate at a French McDonald's—because, you know, it doesn't get more authentic than French fries in France, complete with mayonnaise and very vinegary ketchup. And, of course, we both ate chocolate crêpes from street vendors, because they're everywhere, inexpensive, and scrump-dilly-icious.

These Trader Joe's crêpes aren't too far off from the authentic street cart crêpes we both had all those years ago, but there are a few distinct differences. First, the flour portion of the pastries is a little too thick here. When heated according to the instructions, the bread winds up just slightly stretchy and almost chewy—not to the point where it's unpleasant, but we both remembered a thinner, crispier crust on our crêpes. 

Straying from the printed directions, Sonia proceeded to heat one of the crêpes on the stove top in a little butter. The texture became significantly more crispy, and the flavor a little more indulgent. We preferred them that way, although heated in the oven, as per the instructions on the box, wasn't bad by any means. I even ate one straight out of the box after thawing for an hour or two. Honestly, taste-wise, there wasn't a whole lot of difference from the ones we heated in the oven. 

The shape of the crêpes is a little strange to us. The crêpes we'd always had before—not just in Paris, but most of the offerings we've tried stateside—were like thin pancakes folded over in a semicircle. These are more like little rolls, folded over multiple times. It's nothing to complain about—just a difference we noticed.

The filling here is a nice thin Nutella-esque chocolate creme—not too sweet and not too bitter, either. Just about perfect.

With a price point of $2.69 for seven crêpes, this is one of the more accessible international snacks from Trader Joe's. Four stars from me. Sonia was going to go with three and a half until she tried her own stove top butter-fried heating method. After trying them that way, she's ready to give a solid four.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Wild Blueberry Preserves

Here is the easternish part in the ol' U-S-of-A, there's two main types of blueberries, at least as far as I can discern. One I'll call the "New Jersey blueberry." Those are the huge, round ones, can be as big as marbles. No Chris Christie jokes, please.While they can be sweet, more often than not, those berries tend to be a little more bland to downright sour, and can be mushy very easily. There's not a whole lot necessarily wrong with them - as a kid in suburban Philly, we'd often cross the Delaware River and pick a few quarts for pies and whatnot - but they're not the "good ones" compared to their brethren, what I'll call the "Maine blueberry."

Wild Maine blueberries are the bomb. Small, potent, often extra sweet naturally, without anything else added to them. I associate them with Maine because I can recall picking and eating them right on the spot on family vacations visiting my grandparents and traipsing around the south central part of the state.

Seeing as that Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Wild Blueberry Preserves is both very sweet, with smaller looking berries in here, it seems a no-brainer that some berries akin to my preferred Maine blueberries are used. It's also a Canadian product, so probably Canadian berries, and NJ is a bit further away from Canada than Maine, so...there's that, eh?

As one should expect from preserves (as opposed to jelly or jam), this is some think, chunky stuff, with the emphasis on the fruit. I swear there's whole berries in almost every bite. It's simplistic enough of a recipe for sure, almost bordering on what you Aunt May would do while canning her own. No hint of anything fake. Except...probably less sugar. It seems odd that a concoction that is composed of 7/18ths added sugar is considered "reduced", and I think I just got a cavity thinking of how much must be in normally sugared jam. Ugh. Anyways, as I said, it's thick and chunky, and almost bordering on a high quality pie filling-type consistency. Yumz.

Delicious stuff, it really is. It's enough that my daughters have asked for "yogurt with blueberry jam" for breakfast every morning for the past week - pictured is our second jar in as many weeks. Seems healthyish enough I don't mind giving it to them so often. And I'll admit to eating it straight off the spoon. Anything else you'd like to do with some good preserves - scones, toast, alongside some cheese, etc - go for it, it'll work. And all for a very reasonable price - only $2.99 for the jar! Nice!

Really can't argue or find many nitpicks - I can't, Sandy can't, our kids can't. Our five year old gave it a perfect score, and I can't argue that. Tastes like summer in a jar - this might be our main jam for now on.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Wild Blueberry Preserves: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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