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Friday, August 10, 2018

Trader Joe's Sun Dried Apricots

Every time I eat apricots, I think of my childhood pet, Apricot. She was an apricot-colored miniature poodle. I called her Apricot because she was, well, apricot...and I'm a writer.

In my defense, though, I was only 6 years old when I named her. Also, for those of you who think poodles are sissy might be right. But they're also hypoallergenic for people like my mom who had a sensitivity to most breeds' fur and dander. I was just an elementary school kid who was very happy to have a dog at all. Apricot was my best friend until she passed away many years later while I was off at college.

Maybe that's why I don't eat apricots all that often. So sad. Apricot.

But these apricots are sun-dried, packaged in bright colors, and flaunt fun graphics and a whimsical font—one of the most cheerful-looking products I've seen in a while. There are three sections that break apart for easy travel with a peel-away top. Each little container has about 8-10 dried apricots, each roughly the size of a quarter. And to be honest, the packaging is the best part of the product.

Most of the apricots look pleasant enough, but Sonia and I both immediately observed that they're a bit more leathery than other dried apricots we've had. I know dried apricots tend to be a tad chewy, but I felt this offering was just a little too tough—not to the point where they were hard to chew once you had a piece in your mouth, but tearing off sections felt a bit too much like eating stiff beef jerky.

Flavor-wise, they were plenty sweet. There was nothing unpleasant about the taste at first, but we both agreed there was a slight odd aftertaste, almost as if there were a little too much of the "sulfur dioxide," which I assume is there as a preservative.

The three sections are super-convenient, and the price is reasonable at $1.49. If you need a blood sugar boosting snack that will easily fit in a small pocket, this isn't a bad product to reach for. We just can't tell you we were madly in love with these apricots. Three stars a piece here.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Bags

Hot coffee in the hot summer time? Who does that?

Not me. Just can't. There's so little worse than it being hot and sticky, only to get hotter and stickier by ingesting copius amounts of anything warm. I'd personally be happy to not eat or drink anything that wasn't hovering around frozen from June to a week or so into September. We don't have AC, so don't judge.

Still gotta drink coffee cold brew does it. Gets pricy buying it one cup at a time. Source: my barren bank account. Sandy and I bought a mason jar filter contraption for make-at-home cold brew, which works well, but we'll sometimes resort to concentration-type concoction, or in this case, Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Bags.

It's a simple concept, really. Put seven cups of water into a pitcher, stick in a couple of these coffee beanie bags, let it steep and chill overnight. It's premeasured and convenient and all that - it should be idiot proof. We know enough from experience now that if ratio of bean to liquid is off, it'll ruin the whole cup.

And by coffee beanie bag, I mean, think of a tea bag, or some coffee grounds sealed inside a filter. Works, right? Right?


I'll say this. It's a good concept, but not the best results. Neither Sandy nor I really enjoyed the coffee. It just tasted flat, dull and like dirt, which I wasn't fully expecting from the write up on the bag. It sounds like pretty premium beans. And I'd expect more flavor and depth and character, I guess, based on my at-home or at-coffee shop expereinces.

Then it hit me. The fatal flaw. And it's rather obvious. The coffee is pre-ground and has been ground for days if not weeks or longer by the time we're using it. You can't beat fresh ground coffee beans, which is what I'm used to. Actually, you can, if you also roast your own, as my dad does, but that's another story. It's not to say that these are stale, gross coffee - it's not - but there's a lot that's lost to time here.

All that being said, if you're the type who tends to doctor up your cuppa joe all orange mocha frappucino type, or add loads of cream and sugar and whatnot, this might be an okay base. It's not like you really taste coffee then anyways. But if you drink it black, as I do, you'd be better off with one of those aforementioned filter guys for an at-home batch. It's just as easy and convenient.

Eh well. These TJ cold brew pods cost like $5 for the four pack, which is enough for two large batches. So it's a decent value, but it's unlikely to be a repeat buy. Double twos here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Bags: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

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.

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