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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Apple Banana Fruit Sauce Crushers

Sonia and I are thinking about having kids now that we know these little apple sauce pouches exist. We've been debating the pros and cons of procreating ever since we got married 8 years ago, and the debate always came down to:  "But think of how awful it will be when we pack our kid's lunch for school and we stick a little plastic cup of apple sauce in next to Johnny's sandwich and then we forget to put a spoon in the bag. He'll be taunted by his classmates ruthlessly—scarred for life, looking back on the day he had apple sauce smeared all over his face while striving in vain to lick the remaining sauce out of the cup with only his tongue."

"Also, I don't want to bring anyone into a world where apple banana sauce isn't a thing," Sonia would often interject as a closing thought to the conversation.

"Right, then it's settled," I'd say, as we'd both proceed to go about our child-free lives with clear consciences.

But of course this product shoots holes all through that argument. I mean, there's still the "I don't want my kids to grow up in a post-World War Three apocalyptic nuclear wasteland" argument, but that scenario has always seemed far-fetched compared to the "cup of apple sauce, no spoon" one.

Recently, I've seen these little squeezable apple sauce pouches everywhere. I guess it started with GoGo squeeZ, but now everybody and his brother has their own version—including, of course, Trader Joe. Just to be clear, we'll be reviewing the Trader Joe's version today—in case you didn't catch on to the theme of this blog...and all of our previous 1,030 reviews.

And honestly, this is the first squeezable apple sauce product I've ever tried, of any brand. So I won't really be able to compare it to any of the leading brands. I'm sure they're all quite similar. But I must point out at this juncture that this one is not only gluten-free (did anyone assume otherwise?) but organic and vegan as well. Eat your heart out, Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores with suddenly semi-reasonable prices.

These TJ's "crushers" are $2.69 for four, by the way. Not bad, considering how much packaging there is here. I know, I know, we're sacrificing a bit of "greenness" and cash for the sake of convenience—and the self-esteem of countless grade school children nation-wide.

Flavor-wise, it's a beautiful balance of bananas and apples, with apple shining through just slightly more prominently than its counterpart. I think I rather prefer the taste of this to plain apple sauce. Texture-wise, it's ever so slightly thicker than traditional apple sauce, by virtue of the pureed bananas. The pouch, with its little nozzle at one end, functions very well, and if you work at it for a minute, you can quite satisfactorily squeeze every last drop of the sauce out from the bag. Delightfully practical.

These would make great travel snacks for anyone, not just kids. They'd be great for hiking, camping, or even driving to work. We very well may purchase these again. There are a couple other flavors: Apple, Apple Strawberry, and Apple Carrot—any or all of which we may give a try.

Four stars from me, four stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks

So many varieties of cookies in the world, isn't there? there's hundred if not thousands. In Pittsburgh, it's traditional to have a "cookie table" at a wedding where it's veritable cookie buffet...which to me is usually the highlight of the show. Can't even tell you what my favorite cookie is, because there's just too many to choose from...

...but then there's the classic chocolate chip. It's all American and apparently a much more recent innovation that I had thought. Still, there's that timeless taste and feel, that though it may not be the absolute tastiest cookie in the world, it's one I'll go back to over and over again. The brown sugary batter, with semisweet chocolate chips, preferably fresh out of the oven, or least still a little soft and hopefully not too crunchy siding a little bit towards melty....mmmm.

I'm not one to think that such a recipe needs to be doctored up with too many add-ins like nuts, oatmeal, or, in the case of Trader Joe's Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks, a bunch of sodium. Other salty baked goods from TJ's have been darn near overkill. Still, I had to wonder how TJ's would pull these off.

I think they forgot the salt.

From previous experience, I was expecting big crunchy sea salt crystals in these cookies. Though not visible on the outside, there was the possibility they were baked in. Na. No crunchy salt pockets anywhere. To me, this is kinda a plus, but if it's what you were expecting, you may be disappointed. Or we may have gotten a bum batch. Or something.

The rest of the cookie confection is okay at best. It's a decent chocolate chip cookie-type deal - still soft and a little chewy, not all crunchy like a biscotti - but it also tastes a little off somehow. Like there's an extra bittersweet essence in the midpart of the bite. Maybe this is where the salty part sneaks in, where it heightens the contrast of brown sugar and butter against the semisweet chocolate. It doesn't taste wrong, per se, but a little off perhaps.

Also, going back to the texture...I'm not a big cookie dunker by habit, so this is untested personally, but seems like the cookie stick would probably crumble and break apart if submerged in coffee or milk or whatever. Thing is, the cookies even remain that way - we've had the package about a week, and they haven't dried out. Which is a plus to me.

Then again, that a package of chocolate chunkers have lasted that long around here says to me that maybe we don't think they taste all that great.

Meh. Lots of cookies in the world, they can't all be slam dunk winners. C'est la vie. Even our kids were noncommittal about them, favoring chocolate bananas for their dessert of choice recently. Meh all the way around. Both Sandy and I are around a 2.5 to 3 for them, so let's go with one each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas

I've always been a fan of not only chicken tikka masala, but chicken tikka as well—basically just boneless chicken with tandoori spices. And overall, I've been super impressed with Trader Joe's Indian offerings throughout the years. Plus, I love me some samosa-type purchasing this new-to-me frozen noshable was a no-brainer. And I'm glad I did.

The shells came out of the oven flaky and crispy, if perhaps a tad greasy. No need for pan-frying these puppies—they provided more than enough oil of their own. Taste-wise, the dough was extremely pleasant and flavorful, not to mention structurally-sound for hand-held snacking straight off an hors d'oeuvre tray know, right from the baking sheet if one were so inclined. Note: that structural integrity guarantee does not remain in effect if one were to, say, cut the appetizer in half with a fork to share with a friend, or to, perhaps, take a picture for a blog or Instagram or what have you. In fact, cutting these little triangular morsels caused most of the chicken tikka filling to squish out onto the plate, which brings me to my next point...

The chicken tikka filling was good, but it's extremely shredded, to the point where it's nearly liquefied...okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I guess I'm trying to say I wouldn't have minded some actual chicken bits, but that's nitpicking on my part. 

Also, the flavor was pleasant, but it just wasn't intense enough for me. The Indian spices weren't as potent as other chicken tikka offerings I've had. There was just enough spice to tell that this was, indeed, an Indian-inspired appetizer—but no more than that. I like my Indian food to boast strong, spicy, vivid tastes. This was a much more mild flavor here.

Sonia didn't seem to mind it as much as I did, but she immediately pointed out that as good as the product was, in her opinion, it would have been much better with a sweet, spicy Indian chutney of some kind.

Even though I'm able to point out a few things that might be labeled as "flaws" in this product, it's still pretty dang snackable. The true test is how long the tray lasts in our household of two after it comes out of the oven. In this case, barely 15 minutes. It could have had something to do with the fact it was close to lunch time, but we can't score this too harshly based on that fact alone. Again, we're looking at twelve pieces for just about four dollars, so it's a pretty standard value we've been seeing at TJ's lately.

I'll throw out three and a half stars here. Sonia will spring for four.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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