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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Stirring Spoon with Mini Marshmallows

How can anyone resist picking up something like Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Hot Coca Stirring Spoons? With Mini Marshmallows, to boot!

It's such a simple, easy, almost no-brainer kinda concept. Get a cheap mini plastic spoon, stick in an ice cube tray-type square of chocolate, with a couple mini marshmallows on top. Package up in small individual sized packets, charge 99 cents a pop.

What this causes, naturally, is people like me to say "OOOOOOOOO" and without much regard to either grocery store budget (to channel Macklemore, shoot, it's just 99 cents) or the incoming surge of Halloween candy to pick it up as a) something fun for ourselves or b) something fun for ourselves and the kids. I mean, hot chocolate is already a pretty fun deal, but something like this? Watching a big blob of chocolate melt and slowly darken and sweeten a hot steamy mug of milk seems so much more fun than incessantly stirring a packet of powder.

If only.

It's a great concept, these TJ's cocoa stirring spoons, but it just doesn't quite work as well as hoped. First, they kinda take forever to melt, and my kids only have so much attention span, as do I. I didn't clock it, but it was more than advetrtised, for sure. Secondly, the melt isn't even all that great - there's still specks of stuff all over the place in there, which helps leave a kinda chalkiness or clumpiness. It's not as smooth as hoped.

A lot of this could be forgiven, but the outcome isn't even terribly tasty hot chocolate. it's very meh, kinda bland, even. I'm thinking it might be because of the combo of two chocolates, dark and milk. Either one or the others, all by themselves, would make a much more developed flavor instead of more or less cancelling each other out. It's extremely mediocre hot chocolate, at best, lacking a lot of richness. I can't imagine using water instead of milk for these - it'd be a lot worse, I think.

This is definitely one of those one-time gimmicky kinda buys for us, in all likelihood. Although we are somewhat tempted to buy once more but try them as a candy snack and not a beverage kit, so there's still a chance...yet our family is all pretty underwhlemed, even the kids. Mehs from all four of us.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Stirring Spoon with Mini Marshmallows: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Trader Joe's Pepita Salsa

"Pepita" sounds more exotic than "pumpkin seed." Maybe that's why Trader Joe's employs that word here...and other places. I mean, they're clearly not shy about slapping the word "pumpkin" on their products left and right, although we've seen that trend slow in 2018. To everything, turn, turn and all that. Maybe The Age of the Pepita is upon us...?

If you type "pepita" into Google Translate as a Spanish word, the corresponding English word they give you is "nugget." I asked Sonia, who's bilingual, if that's correct. She wasn't sure. She just thought it meant pumpkin seed. Whatever. Nuggets or seeds or exotic Latin snacky things, I was just expecting this salsa to be full of them—crunchy, nutty chunks of delight. I'm not saying they're not there. I'm just saying they aren't there the way I expected them to be there.

The salsa is chunky, for sure. That's always good in my opinion. There are tomato chunks, onion bits...and maybe some pieces of other things. But I wanted big crisp seeds. We're not sure if they've been partially dissolved in the liquid parts of the salsa or if they're chopped up into teeny tiny little bits, but there aren't any big crunchy pumpkin seeds. That's my complaint. It's a big complaint. BUT, it's also my ONLY complaint.

Because other than that, this salsa rocks. It's flavorful, smoky, harvesty, and thick. There's a bit of a kick to it. Not a lot. I think it's more of a garlicky kick than a hot peppery kick, if you know what I mean. Still spikes all that flavorful pleasure with a touch of lovely pain, but it lacks the intensity of a truly hot salsa. Okay, "pain" might be a little too strong a word to use. Discomfort? I dunno. There's a certain quality in good salsas that just lets you know you're alive. That's here. This product has that, most definitely, despite a lack of traditional heat. It has a bit of a chipotle flavor, but not so much the chipotle spice factor.

Sonia liked it as much as I did, immediately spouting positive remarks about the savory flavors in this tomato, onion, and red bell pepper-based condiment. It's a win—a sure contender for the Pantheon had it been full of crunchy pepitas. I'm not sure if it's been done before, but how about a salsa with a cellophane baggie of dry pepitas that you mix in when you serve it...? I guess you could always purchase a bag of pumpkin seeds separately and create a salsa worthy of even more praise. $2.99 for the jar. Probably a repeat purchase for us.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Trader Joe's Donut Bites

From across the aisle, it beckoned. I was solely aiming for some frozen chicken when it's bright cheery blue neon packaging called out, an irresistable siren. "It's just not fair," I exclaimed to the nice woman stocking the frozen goods case nearby. "You all need to stop doing this." We laughed, smiled, and shared a nod of understanding.

The cashier smiled, grinned and exclaimed, "Oh boy? When did we get these?!??!?! Where are they?" Promptly after checking out my cart, off he ran, undoubtedly an impromptu sample party on his mind.

The wife cheered. The kids surprisngly got a lot more interested in eating their dinner in a timely fashion. Even their spinach, of all things. And me? I felt warm and happy inside. Anticipation for something good is a healthy drug.

What singular thing could possibly elicit all these responses? None other a brand new box of Trader Joe's Donut Bites. Donuts! Who can hate on donuts!?!!?!? Everyone loves them! At $2.99 for a boxed dozen, it's a no-brainer buy. I mean, just look at them on the package...flaky sugar atop warm sofy doughy donut with some sweet 'n tart raspberry jam oozing out...good luck resisting that.

Well, I will be going forward.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news...but this isn't close to being a particularly good product. It's enough that I really wonder how anyone can mess up a donut so bad.

First of all, look at them, straight out of the oven. It's a nondescript semi-leaky doughball. Looks nothing like the package. Second, who bakes a donut, really? Third, the donut dough tastes alright and has an okay feel to it....but it's more bready than an actual donut should be. Which makes no sense, but it doesn't have the donut feel or taste at all. And fourth...the jam. A good filling could salvage a lot here. Nope. It's more red pectin ooze than anything. No sugariness. No tart as one would expect from a raspberry. The jelly's almost completely devoid of flavor by itself.

It's hard to be let down by anything claiming to be a donut, but here we are. The kids were just happy to have something with sugar, and they devoured enough spinach to earn them that they were going to enjoy this supposed treat no matter what. Sandy and I are both thoroughly not impressed. The bites are just so bland. There's the smallest of comfort vibe coming from these bites (presumably because warmed and carb-y equals comfort) but it's about the only thing going for them. These are not going to be a repeat purchase as they're not worthy of the premature hype we ascribed to them. We're going pretty low here...

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Donut Bites: 3.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

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