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Friday, September 28, 2018

Trader Joe's Harvest Spaghetti Squash Spirals

Hey you! Like squash?

How about squash with squash?

How about squash with squash in a squashy sauce?

How about squash with squash in a squashy sauce...with a side of squash?

That's what my family more or less ended up with for dinner the other night, due to my brilliant planning. But I'll limit my guiltiness to only the last part of "a side of squash." Hey, without thinking too hard, some zucchini sounded like a great idea to go with our Trader Joe's Harvest Spaghetti Squash Spirals. Probably shoulda gone for some leaft greens or something instead. Oh well.

Everything else though? That's all Trader Joe's Harvest Spaghetti Squash Spirals. Sorry for the cruddy pic, I just got a new better camera but still figuring out how to take pics of shiny packages. So in case the description on the front is unclear, it says spaghetti squash spirals and chunks of butternut squash in a seasonal tomato sauce. "Seasonal tomato sauce" paired anywhere close to "harvest" with a TJ's item is a code for pumpkin puree being involved, as is the case here...pumpkin is like an honorary squash, right? So it's squash with squash in a squashy sauce. Period. At least there's none of those purported "spices" really bandying about in here.

Wish I could say I liked it more. It's not an awful product, and I kinda like the presentation. Our particular frozen package contained four small squash tumbleweed/bird nest type deals which heated quickly on our stove top, and combined well with the sauce and butternut squash chunks when added. All the squash was on, or on enough for a frozen product - the spaghetti was mild and firm, and appropriately noodley,  while the butternut was soft and sweet with a good touch of earthy. The sauce was a little sparing, as I would have liked more, as I feel it didn't offer much one way or another. Although pictured on the package as small shreds, the cheese on top came out as large flakes, and was a highlight. We love our Parmesan-esque cheeses here.

Still, there was something that felt lacking or at least not compelling. The spirals were small enough to leave us wanting more, so maybe that's part of it. Or maybe it just wasn't our favorite presentation...we're admittedly more of a roasted veggie kinda fam. Still, for relative ease and convenience, with an acceptable price tag of $2.99, the squashy spirals are a decent enough product. Just don't expect to be wowed.

Double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Harvest Spaghetti Squash Spirals: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Trader Joe's Caramel Apple Flavored Granola

Rise and shine, autumn aficionados! We're looking at another applicious treat this fine morning—another mashup of two great foods. Every one of our last five posts or so have been mind-blowing mergers of two or more fascinating foods and/or beverages. Today: what happens when a caramel apple explodes into a bag of ordinary granola?

It gets...way less boring!

Not that I have a problem with plain old granola. It's a classic. Always will be. But if you're looking for something with a little more flavor and excitement, look no further.

Large slices of dried apple grace the sides of the massive hunks of granola here. Those big "rocks" of cereal do break apart fairly easily with a spoon, particularly after soaking in milk for a minute or two. Some of the heftier chunks are way too sizable for being shoveled directly into the mouth—even if you have a particularly big mouth like me.

There's an immediately detectable apple presence in most bites. It's sweet and tart, but it tastes much more like dried apple than an actual caramel apple. No biggie. There's still a caramel-esque sweetness, though, too, even in bites with little or no apple. They must have used caramel to fuse all the granola bits together. Actually, now that I've checked, I don't really see "caramel" on the ingredients list, but maybe it's, like, the combo of brown rice syrup, cane sugar, and vanilla extract...?

Guess what else I see in those ingredients? "Pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds!" I guess Russ is right. I just can't escape being a basic white boy...even when I'm trying to strategically balance pumpkin spice with the other flavors of fall. Oh well. You can't really taste it here. At least I can't.

Also, both Sonia and I were surprised to see "peanuts" in the ingredients. We didn't taste them or see them much at all. I mean, it's quite possible that they've fallen to the bottom of the bag. We haven't finished the whole thing yet. 

As a side note, our resealable bag wasn't resealable. It had those two ziplock-like tracks, but when pinched together, they failed to mate like they're supposed to. Again, no biggie. We just used a chip clip dealie. Problem solved. Don't think the bag will be around long enough to get super stale anyway.

Double fours.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts

Nope, still not going there. Nathan caved first...I'm holding strong with my "alternative tastes of fall" binge for as long as possible!

If you ever find yourself driving along Rt 100 in Waterbury, VT, chances are you'll stop for ice cream and maybe the tour at the Ben & Jerry's Factory. Been there probably 100 times on vacation, as my family vacationed in Vermont almost every summer for years. We still occasionally do. And dang it, we love ice cream. But there's much more to be had on that stretch of road. There's a Cabot cheese outlet annex store (oodles of free samples) and also Cold Hollow Cider Mill...with more free samples...and freshly made cider donuts to die for.

No, Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts don't hold up against Cold Hollow's, or probably any local apple orchard that makes their own cider donuts. There's just too much to be said for freshmade from a local source that make cider donuts an undeniable treat.

But if you're not anywhere close to anywhere that makes cider donuts and these TJ's ones are available, it's a more than adequate consolation prize.

These cider donuts from TJ's are thick and dense and cakey. There's nothing light and airy about them at all. The distinct lack of overall greasiness to me that suggests perhaps they're baked and not fried.

Biting into the dough past the cinnamon and sugar sprinkled outside, there's subtle appley sweetness with a little twinge of typical cider spices like nutmeg and clove. Admittedly, tthese particular cider donuts, as with most, aren't an overwhelming flavor experience, but go more for a comfort vibe. Eating one of these is good enough to hold me over for several hours, which is no easy task, and certainly not something an average donut could do.

Still, having had truly exceptional cider donuts both on vacation in VT and closer to home from our local orchard, I can say these TJ's ones just lack a little something. I can't think of it being anything other than freshness and local taste. I'm not calling them stale tasting, by any means, because they're not, but a donut made moments before consumption tastes much different than one that's been in a box for at least a day or two.

If you have no other options, go get 'em, you won't regret 'em. At $3.99 for the six pack, it's a good deal. I was happy enough to eat them alongside some coffee for breakfast the other morning, as well as enjoy part of one for a late night snack with a little bourbon. Our kids liked them but weren't wowed....just wait til I take them on vacation and stuff them full of free samples, donuts and ice cream right before they pass out for the long drive back home from Vermont, just like my dad used to do. Then they'll love cider donuts for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

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