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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Trader Joe's Toasties

On some mornings, I stumble out of bed feeling like a complete wreck of a human being—like using the term "hot mess" to describe myself would simply fail to capture the sheer magnitude of all the insecurities and secret vulnerabilities I hide from the world with marginal success on a daily basis. It's nothing unique to me—at least I hope it's not. And it's definitely not all the time. But certain steamy Tuesday mornings in August, I'm just not ready to face all those minute little challenges that life dishes out from all directions: from those work files that just magically disappear from Google Drive, to my uncanny knack of grabbing the shopping cart with the squeaky wheel, to my unfortunate inability to spread butter on a piece of toast without destroying the bread—and a similar ineptitude at splitting bready products like this one right down their middles. 

In fact, that's really my only complaint about this product: each piece should be just a tad thicker, and they should come pre-sliced. That was Sonia's first comment as well. There's a thin seam along the outside edge of the toasties that indicates that they might be pre-sliced, but upon further inspection, one finds that they most definitely have not been.

I have problems cutting bagels down the middle, let alone something this thin. Yes, I know they make bagel slicers, but I don't consume bagels with enough regularity to justify buying one. These "toasties" are even thinner than English muffins. And splitting English muffins has always been one of those life challenges that makes me wish I'd stayed in bed instead of braving the kitchen in search of breakfast. "You've failed as a human being, Nathan Rodgers," that little voice whispers, as bread crumbs and muffin chunks spill across the counter and onto the floor. As far as this product is concerned, we'll just say that the picture of the product in the middle of this post wasn't my first attempt at slicing and buttering these happy sweet bread rounds.

Now eating this bread is another experience entirely. After tasting it, I stopped feeling pathetic and frustrated, and began enjoying my day. 

There's a bright, tart, citrusy flavor, and a nutty whole wheat taste, as well. I'm not a huge fan of orange peel by itself, but it works here since it's subtle and faint, and is mostly overshadowed by the cranberries. The sunflower seeds are a nice touch. It's like they baked a trail mix into a loaf of bread.

The consistency of this product is more similar to a regular loaf of wheat bread than it is to either English muffins or bagels, but I guess those keep coming to mind because of the comparable round shape. It's nice and soft, and it toasts well—as long as you can manage to keep each slice in one piece.

I liked mine with plain old butter as the only topping. There's plenty of flavor present in the bread, even without any condiments. Sonia experimented with various jellies we had around the house—I don't think she was quite as thrilled with the flavor as I was, but in the end, she'll give the product a thumbs up as well. Four stars from her. Four from me. $2.49 for six toasties.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Trader Joe's Big Soft Pretzels

Show me a person who says s/he doesn't like soft pretzels, and I'll show you a liar.

It's impossible to not enjoy a quality soft pretzel. I mean...salty carbs, what else do you need, right? Some folks say that Philadelphia is the capital of soft pretzels, but even though I'm from that area, I disagree to an extent. Philly-style soft pretzels are often cold, a bit stale-ish, a bit more "hard" than "soft", and if bought from a street vendor who hasn't had a health department inspection in a while, who know what "extras." I mean, given the opportunity, I'll down close to my weight in them - soft pretzel party platters from these guys are the devil - but an actual warm, soft, slightly chewy pretzel with a slightly crispy outer shell? Give me that all day long.

That's what we got with Trader Joe's Big Soft Pretzels. Straight up, there's nothing too fancy about them. At $2.49 for a frozen foursome of handsized dough knots, it's a respectable value but nothing to get too crazed about...

...except, man, as any good pretzel, they're freakin' delish. To prep, you may choose to either heat for a couple minutes in the oven, or let thaw for about an hour or so. Most other frozen soft pretzels say to microwave them, which is a cardinal sin. That makes the pretzels hard and tough and generally not as enjoyable.

Sandy made these TJ's softies as part of a light "snacky" dinner the other night using both methods. The pretzels heated in the oven were softier and almost flufflier on the inside than the one we let thaw out, which makes sense. It's a pretty plain dough, with slight eggy flavor from the shell, and both types had that requisite chewiness. Couldn't seem to really get the salt to stick to the thawed out one, though, as much as we tried.

Oh. Salt. There's plenty of it, in the typical big grain crunchy crystal variety. I'm not even sure we used 10% of it. The rest is going into the winter sidewalk deicing stash for sure.

Not much else to really say, it's a good pretzel. Eat as is, melt some cheese on top, dip into whatever you'd'll all work. Can't exactly go wrong. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Big Soft Pretzel: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Trader Joe's Neapolitan Joe-Joe's

When I first heard Neapolitan Joe-Joe's were a thing, I thought maybe there were chocolate Joe-Joe's, vanilla Joe-Joe's, and strawberry Joe-Joe's all in one package, kinda like the ice cream. But when I realized all three flavors were present in each Joe-Joe, I was even more curious. Which flavor would dominate? Wouldn't all three flavors be at odds with one another, kicking, biting, and scratching their way to beat the other two to your taste buds like a cutthroat free-for-all of flavors?

The short answer to that question is "no." They actually work together. But if you're wondering which flavor would have won that hypothetical miniature battle royale, I'll just go ahead and say in my humble opinion, strawberry would have. Strawberry creme. Heck yes. Sonia agrees.

Chocolate comes in second in this equation. I think that I, personally, might have enjoyed these cookies slightly more if they had gone with two vanilla cookies on either side of the strawberry creme and simply called them Trader Joe's Strawberry Joe-Joe's. That would have allowed the sweet, delicious strawberry flavor to shine even more. 

The chocolate cookie part of a sandwich cookie is usually not bad, but it rarely impresses me either. The chocolate cookies have a slightly more pungent taste than the vanilla cookies, but they blend well enough with the strawberry flavor that I didn't mind them much at all. After all, chocolate and strawberry is an excellent flavor combo.

We've tried a lot of Joe-Joe's and Joe-Joe derivatives throughout the years, and these are among the best. $2.99 for a pound of cookies. 3 rows of 11, all wrapped together in plastic and cellophane. I suppose it would add some cost and a little extra packaging, but individually wrapping each row might help keep some of the cookies fresher longer in case you're not planning on eating 33 cookies in one sitting—but for the sake of being "green" I guess we can put the remainder in ziplock baggies that we already have around the house. 

Double fours.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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