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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Protein Smoothie

Growing up, my family had exactly two sit-down meals a year when my mother and father and I would eat together in the same room: Christmas Day and Easter Day. They were both uber-formal, awkward, starchy events that none of us really looked forward to. Thank goodness it was only twice a year. Even Thanksgiving was usually a buffet-style, eat-whatever-you-want, whenever-you-want type affair. Sonia ate with her parents a little more regularly than that, but often just winged it and grazed like I did.

We've both carried those habits into our adult lives and into our marriage, for good or ill, and we're constantly snacking here and there rather than setting a designated time to consume a large portion together in the same room at the same moment. We're at home far more often than usual recently, but in years past, while we traveled, and before that in the normal commuter workaday world, we were both frequent smoothie and protein shake consumers, since in many cases, these types of beverages make an excellent, filling meal-on-the-run or meal supplement.

Fiber-rich fruit smoothies were generally my personal preference, although a protein smoothie was occasionally more convenient. I just found protein smoothies to seldom have a taste and texture that appealed to me. This one's no different. The texture isn't particularly gritty in my opinion, but the flavor doesn't really lend itself to pumpkin spice. It's not sweet enough to be dessert-like, and there's too much whey protein and soy protein taste to really be palatable to me. It still tastes like "health food" that they're desperately trying to dress up as something fun and chuggable. If you ask me, it's simply not.

Sonia disagrees. She's probably more accustomed to the typical taste and texture of protein smoothies more than I am, and she definitely has a bit more affinity for pumpkin spice come fall time. I had about two or three sips up front and let the wifey drink the rest. It didn't take her long to polish it off. She thinks there's enough pumpkin spice flavor to keep it interesting. We both agree it's very filling and most of the ingredients are pretty decent.

Sonia also points out that there's not only pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but also a good amount of pumpkin puree. So I guess you're getting your veggies in addition to your protein.

There are two servings in the 16oz bottle for $2.99. Since the texture wasn't awful and the smoothie delivers 11g of hunger-curbing protein, I won't shaft it completely and throw out two and a half stars. Sonia gives it four stars and her seal of approval.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup

Got a meal rotation in your family?

We don't precisely...but we do have a fairly regimented meal concept rotation.

Monday is "breakfast for dinner" AKA "brinner" night. Wednesdays are "pack a dinner" night for the two hours of dance lessons we have the joy of being subjected to. Fridays are "jammie movie pizza night" and Sundays are generally leftover days. Conspicuously missing is Taco Tuesday, but tacos can work their way into all those themes easily anyways. Plus my kids are weird and don't like tacos. More for me. Shrug. 

As for that it's officially crockpot season, it's gonna be Soup Saturday, and kicking us off, no crockpot required, is Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup. Hey sometimes we're low on groceries and have errands including a TJ's trip to do....skip leg day, but not Soup Saturday. 

Warming up on the stove, the aroma of the broth is nearly intoxicating with its promise of salty savoriness. That's the miso magic - who knew fermented soybeans could be so umami-fully delicious? Whoever invented that deserves a medal. But lay in a little lemongrass, gin up a little ground ginger, and boom! It takes off to another level. If this broth were sold separately as a warm sipper, I'd be all in. 

There's nothing wrong with the rest of the soup. There's ample pieces of white chicken that taste and feel just right, and all the veggies are that perfect not too firm/not mushy either. There's...just not quite enough of it. Interestingly, the chicken seems about right but the veggies feel skimped on. For instance, my lovely bride doesn't like mushrooms while i do, so she picked the maybe one or two max out of her bowl to give to me, which gave me like three total. Most of the soup seemed "empty" and was closer to that sipping broth than i would have liked right out of the package. It worked well for a lighter soup, but for something heartier, you may want to consider adding some rice noodles or something of the sort. 

Regardless, the soup tastes pretty great. It must be all that salt. It doesn't taste too salty, but it just is as part of the package deal with soups like these. You can find it in the refrigerated section for about $3 which makes this an easy, reliable, good option for Soup Saturdays or whenver the mood may hit. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chicken Ginger Miso Soup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims

So much in life is about adaptation. 

Take that metal rack behind the bag of PS pretzels in the photo, for example. It's an Asian dish drying rack we bought when we were full-time RVing. It just sits over half of your sink and lets wet dishes drip dry. It was perfect for the limited space, lightweight, and was far easier to fold up and toss in a drawer for travel than any traditional dish rack might have been. We got in the habit of only using one half of our sink for dirty dishes and the other was reserved for drying, which forced us to do dishes once the sink was just half full. Dishes are only daunting when you've got two sides stacking up and don't have much space to work in the sink. If you're forced to wash when it's only half full, it never seems like a big chore. The method worked so well for us that we still use the same space-saving drying rack in our home, and we've stuck to the unspoken rule that dishes get washed before even one half of the sink is full. 

Likewise, the sun wasn't out yesterday when I went to snap the product pic, so I improvised and used the nice even lighting we have right above our sink to take this photo. I don't think it'll win any Pulitzers or anything like that, but it's adequate considering the lack of natural illumination. To quote Albus Dumbledore, "Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

Trader Joe's seems to improvise similarly with their products. "What else can we pumpkin spice-ify?" they ask. "The peppermint pretzel slims that worked in December will work as well in October if we pumpkinize them."

And they do. This is probably the most traditional "pumpkin pie spice" item we've reviewed this year. The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice wafts from the bag from the moment it's opened. The pretzels taste distinctly of the same pumpkin spices, but they don't overdo it either. The product is very sweet, dessert-like, but the salty "crushed pumpkin seeds" help balance out the sugariness. Those are one of my favorite elements in this offering. Who knew pepitas would get even tastier when smashed? 

The number one ingredient here is actually the yogurt-based coating. There's more of that than actual pretzel material. I like yogurt coating just fine, but these pretzels wouldn't have suffered much if they had been, you know...actual pretzels. I think I made the same complaint about the peppermint slims. In the end, they're still very tasty. The yogurt > pretzel vibe just sends these more in the direction of dessert than salty snack. There's not a ton of breadiness in the flavor, either, if you know what I'm saying. It's almost a white chocolate + pumpkin spice taste more than a pretzel taste.

If you're big into pumpkin spice or have a wicked sweet tooth, I could see these being pretty addicting. I'm sure Sonia and I will plow through our bag fairly expeditiously. I think we're looking at about four stars a piece for Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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