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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Cornbread Crisps

Somebody please explain the appeal of hot soup in the summer time to me.

In the fall when the leaves are turning and there's that cool crispness in the air? On a blustery cold wintry day? Even in the springtime, when it's not all that warm yet? Sure, soup to you on all those kinda days? But summer? Precisely what makes soup great on all those other kinda days is what makes soup awful for the summer - that warm, full, salty, brothy feeling in your stomach. That's the last thing I want when it's pushing the 90s for both degrees and humidity.

Yet I see people eat soup all summer long. Even when complaining how hot it is outside. Even when living in a 100 year old brick house with no AC. I don't get it.

Yet...I've never wanted to make a big ol' crock pot of chili or potato or chicken noodle soup in August like I do right now. All thanks to Trader Joe's Cornbread Crisps.

These better be around come autumn, or me and Big Joe will have some words. Serious words. These chips are all the classic comfort taste of high quality cornbread in a highly snackable form. If you have bad impulse control, you may want to avoid - there's some serious binge-eating potential here. Think cornbread, with it subtly earthy sweetness and salty, greasy vibe, mixed with a crumbly Wheat Thin, and that's about what we have here - but better. Crispy, crunchy, and light, but with every bit of cornbread essence, even down to the grittiness of cornmeal in the last bite or two. Delectable, delicious, delightful....devine even? Not that far of a stretch. At first it felt odd to make the Wheat thin comparison, but then I saw wheat flour was the first ingredient - apologies to the gluten-free crowd - so it's not too far off base.

These crisps are begging for soup to be crumbled atop. They'd be perfect alongside my chili. Sure, there's some other, much more summer friendly applications possible, like tossing in with a salad, eating straight, serving with some cheese, or even smushing some up to use as a pie crust. My only disappointment is that the crackers didn't match quite as well with either my family's new favorite fruit jam or my favorite store bought salsa as I would have hoped.

Definitely try them out, and maybe some stock up on some for when it's crockpot meal weather. Can't say there's much wrong. Double fours from the Mrs and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cornbread Crisps: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

To be fair, I've only ever had sticky rice one other time, and even that instance was just snagging it off a friend's plate at the end of a Thai meal we had in Los Angeles, circa ten years ago. After doing a little Google research, I stumbled upon this informative article that not only refreshed my memory about the fun Asian dessert, but also illuminated much about its history, origins, and typical methods of preparation. Among other things, I learned that sticky rice is also known as "glutinous rice," and despite the sound of the name, it does not contain gluten. This product does contain gluten, however, since there's a wheat-based covering on the spring roll. 

Not surprisingly, there's nothing about sticky rice spring rolls in that article, nor have I ever heard of such a thing before.

But as Trader Joe's is well aware, just because something doesn't exist, doesn't mean it shouldn't exist.

Enter: Trader Joe's Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls. The photo on the box makes it look like the filling is mostly a mango-based jam-like substance. The filling is mostly sticky rice, but there's plenty of actual mango in there, too. And the mango gets slightly gelatinous, surrounded by all that yummy stickiness, but not to the point the cover art would have you believe.

And that's just fine by me. There's plenty of authentic mango flavor as it is. The sticky rice is nice and sweet, and the "wrapper" on the spring roll gets warm and crispy when heated on a skillet with oil.

While the spring roll version of sticky rice isn't necessarily traditional, it apparently is traditional to serve the sticky rice covered with coconut milk and mango, both of which are present here. It's a great combination, and I look forward to having it in its more traditional form next time I find myself at a decent Thai restaurant—or Laotian restaurant, should I be so fortunate.

This dessert (or appetizer, as the case may be) is dense, heavy, and filling. The rolls are surprisingly structurally-sound, as they never completely disintegrated as I ate them with my hands. Even the mango pieces stayed right where they were supposed to, in the middle of the rolls.

$2.99 for five rolls—more than enough dessert for two. I'd definitely consider purchasing this one again. It's got a great, unique flavor, quality ingredients, and it's easy enough to prepare. Double fours here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Hot & Spicy Dill Pickle Chips

Alrighty, confession time: it had been weeks, perhaps even months, since I'd last stepped foot inside a Trader Joe's before I went there a few days ago. Kinda surprising, but kinda how we roll, too. My lovely wife, in all her semi-stay at home mama madness, already goes to TJ's probably three or four days a week and makes a regular route to scout out anything new or exciting. I (and you, the readers) reap the spoils.

Anyways, she and the kiddos left town for a few days to visit my folks, leaving me here by myself and in need of sustenance and supplies. Off to TJ's for me! Off to wander and frolic along the aisles once more, foodstuffs untasted, yearning to be brought home with me in my week of bachelor mayhem....

Nothing. Nothing new, exciting, interesting, or untried. I looked hard, everywhere. Maybe I'm off my game. Or maybe TJ's is in that weird "prepare ye the way of pumpkin spice" mode they seem to do every August and so there's not much new til then.

While I briefly considered picking up a big hunk of some cheese so my Week of Russ could mirror the Summer of George, I settled on a jar of Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Hot & Spicy Dill Pickle Chips. Woohoo. See, dear, I told you I was behaving myself.

I like 'em, quite a bit. There's few simple little simpler pleasures than a good pickle sometimes. Kosher dills that are closer to cucumber than overly pickled ones are the best IMHO, and that's the case here. Fresh, firm, fleshy, with a little crunch - yum. The heat level is pleasantly a little spicier than anticipated - imagine a fairly feisty banana pepper, and that approximates the heat level emanating from pretty much every chip. Of course, they are decidedly more pickle-y and vinegar-y than a pepper, but it's close enough. The heat blends well with the garlic and dill to make a smooth, even, pleasant taste.

Anything that you'd like pickle chips on, these would work. Burgers, sandwiches, straight from the jar like I did for dinner last night...hey, don't judge, not my fault there was leftover pizza at work and I needed something to go with my Mountain Dew...bachelorhood for the win. And for only a couple bucks for the jar, it's a quality pickle chip too. Good times. I have nothing overtly critical to say about them one way or another - I'm not in love with them, per se, but I certainly recognize their goodness and tastiness. Just me, so I'm doubling my score.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Hot & Spicy Dill Pickle Chips: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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