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Friday, June 19, 2020

Trader Joe's Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

Neither Sonia nor I can recall ever having truly homemade lemonade in our lives, which probably puts us among the least-qualified Americans to review this product. But heck, it's almost summer—the solstice is this weekend, in fact—and lemonade is very much a staple of these warmer months, so we'll take a look at it anyway.

I grew up with store-bought lemonades of various brands, most notably Minute Maid and Turkey Hill. I'm not sure why, but I don't think I had even heard of limeade until my teens. My head exploded when I first realized people did to limes what I had previously thought only done to lemons, and since that moment, I've been a limeade devotee.

Maybe it's a Latin-American thing, or possibly a west coast thing, but Sonia grew up with limeade as the staple citrus fruit-based beverage available in her childhood refrigerator. She's always preferred it to lemonade. So again, considering our bias towards limes over lemons and commercially-manufactured juices over the kind mama made, maybe we shouldn't be reviewing this fresh squeezed lemonade product...but here goes just the same.

We've seen numerous iterations of lemonade from Trader Joe's throughout the years, although most have been combined with other elements like tea or other juices. So what makes this one different?

First, it's unpasteurized. They keep all those tasty bacteria in this version—for extra flavor, I guess? Maybe the acidity of the lemon juice keeps the little buggers at bay without necessitating any heat via pasteurization. I'm sure someone will enlighten us via our illustrious comments section.

Second, there are only three ingredients. Three. Water, lemon juice, sugar. That's my favorite thing about this product. It's simple. In these days of complexity, it's nice to see something so clean and straightforward.

Mind you, if I had been the one formulating this product, I might have reversed those last two ingredients. I might have put sugar ahead of lemon juice and made this beverage predominantly sweet, rather than tart. I'm not saying it's not sweet. I'm just saying it leans in the direction of sour more than sugary. Sonia agrees. It's still refreshing. It's still got what I would assume is a "homemade quality" about it.

We both liked it just fine, but we would like to see a Trader Joe's Fresh Squeezed Limeade on the shelves next time with the exact same ingredients used here, except with "lime juice" replacing "lemon juice." Limes are sweeter than lemons, so that might knock the tartness down a notch. Also, tequila works okay with lemonade, but it's absolutely perfect with lime-based beverages. Am I right?

If you love the tartness of real lemon juice, you'll likely love this remarkably uncomplicated beverage. $3.49 for the 1.6 quart bottle. This product gets three and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Mix

Corn. It's everywhere and in everything. It's across the street from where I grew up in suburban Philadelphia - even between all the fancy residential developments and retail shopping centers that seemingly try to devour them all, a corn field still remains. It's like the entire middle of America, right? I know that's not precisely true but it's what a lot of people say anyways, and most of us kinda smile and nod. It was on my dinner plate last night in it's classic on-the-cob form, and is most nights anyways as a somewhat sneaky food ingredient that's in almost everything it seems.

That's not all, of course. Corn is used to make everything from fuel to plastics to heck, even spark plugs these days. You can't get away from it even if you tried.

Despite all this, seeing something like Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Baking Mix was a bit of a surprise. Cookies...featuring corn? And we don't mean like candy corn, either. Like, actual real a selling feature and not just as HFCS or any of that stuff.

Apparently the concept of a corn cookie has been around for a while. I've just never heard of it, which is par for the course for me of course. At first impression and without much further research, there seems to be like a 1950s vibe to the idea. I'd welcome to be corrected by anyone more knowledgeable than me.

Anyways, the TJ's cookies. They're super easy to make. A cannister of the mix, two sticks of unsalted butter and a large egg are all that's needed to make two dozen corn cookies. Or if you're like me and can't make even sized dough balls, it might be more like 30. Anyways, just mix those all up to a smooth batter, which will likely take a few minutes - I was staring at a mishmash of crumbs for a while until it just magically came together.

Now, imagine cornbread. And imagine a decently crispy, light sugar cookie. And think of the two of them smashed together, with the graininess of the cornbread being stripped away. That's almost precisely what these cookies taste like. It's a bit odd at first but it gets more comfortable on repeated bites. the flavor comes in a wave - first, it's unmistakably corny, but then transitions to a sweet, almost creamy cookie taste. It's like cornbread but sweeter, and like a cookie but cornier. And it actually kinda works.

Naturally this got me a little curious to try a little experimentation. I sprinkled a little cinnamon atop one. That worked nicely. But then I got the courage to go bold. How do these corn cookies and, say, a little Everything but the Elote Seasoning go together? Or heck even a cookie and a pickled jalapeno? I will say I tried them both and wasn't completely offput by the experience. The pepper pairing was better than the elote eloping in my opinion, but then again, I'm not a huge fan of the elote stuff anyways. I know. Shame on me. 

It is important to note that the first ingredient of the TJ corn cookie mix is, in fact, wheat. Sorry, glutenfree folks out there.

As a whole, neither my lovely bride nor I nor our kids absolutely love or hate the corn cookies. A repeat purchase is entirely debatable and may be subject to any suggestions for other ways of using the mix. There's nothing revolting about them, for sure, but nothing that really gathers our enthusiasm either. We'll go double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Corn Cookie Mix: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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