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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Fruit Spread

Exactly 400 years ago today, the Mayflower arrived at what is now known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims had been at sea for 66 days. They weathered heavy storms between England and the New World, many had been severely ill during their journey, and one sailor even died. They nearly lost one of their main masts but were able to repair it as they traveled.

Their first winter in America was even more harsh than their voyage across the Atlantic. Nearly half of all the Pilgrims perished in the next few months. The First Thanksgiving wouldn't take place until over a year after their first landing. By then they had food, shelter, and Native American friends, but the road to that point was a long and bumpy one. I was originally going to segue with something about apples, but turns out apples didn't even exist in North America at the time. So I'll go with this: the point is that they never gave up, not even in the darkest winter.

Likewise, Trader Joe's never gave up on this product—or, more precisely, its predecessor, the Apple Cider Jam. I thought it seemed popular enough and it was definitely good enough, but Trader Joe's saw fit to rename, repackage, and reformulate it, resulting in the fruit spread you see here. It could be they just went with a different supplier, but who knows? Honestly, who cares? Because this version is at least as good as the last.

At first glance, the spread seems to have virtually identical ingredients to the jam. But upon closer inspection, we see that the sugar is now "organic cane sugar." Okay, that's good. There's "apple juice" in this one, rather than "cider" in its predecessor. Hmm, weird. But if anything, I think it makes this iteration just a hint sweeter. Also, this version actually lists "cinnamon, mace (not like pepper spray) cloves, ginger, coriander, allspice, and cardamom" rather than simply the mysterious and vague "spices" noted in the older version. It's a great spice blend to complement the sweetness, not overpowering at all, but festive and fall-ish.

It could be my imagination, but I think the apple chunks here are more angular and irregular than the jam version. It was almost as if the chunks were all the same size and somewhat cubicle shaped before, while these are more random. It feels like someone cut these apple chunks by hand while the other chunks felt like they were diced by a machine.

Like the original, this one is great on toast with cream cheese, plain yogurt, waffles, as a filling for a pie, or as a baste for poultry—I'd totally try it on a Thanksgiving turkey. We even used it as a marmalade type sauce for fried butterfly shrimp and we both loved it. At $3.49, this one's a tad cheaper and it's still the same size jar (12oz).

Four and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Trader Joe's Everything but the Leftovers Seasoning Blend

What does a good holiday dinner taste like to you?

Key word: dinner

There's so many great desserts, of course. Plethora of pies, preferably pecan, possibly pumpkin. Apple acceptable, cherry is choice. A cacophony of cookies, munchable mint, chewy chocolate chip, peanut butter is plenty better. Quality cakes as well...I could go on...

But we're here to talk the dinner itself. Tons of turkey, mounds of mashed potatoes, steep states of stuffing, generous grabs of green beans, copious corn...anything else? Oh goodness, gallons of gravy.

Don't you wish everything could taste like that?

It's now possible with Trader Joe's Everything but the Leftovers Seasoning Blend. 

You know that scene in the 1970s version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory where Violet Beauregarde marvels at the different elements of taste in the gum? Like how it tastes like roast beef and gravy and all that, just like that? That's almost the same concept here, except of course this isn't gum and I'm fairly certain the TJ's seasoning won't turn you into a giant blueberry that needs to be juiced. I mean, it is mainly salt, so a little ballooning is possible, but I digress. 

My potato of a phone isn't capable of getting a good pic of the ingredients for some reason, so here they are, in order: dehydrated onion, sea salt, yeast extract, salt, ground black pepper, dried yeast, turmeric powder, natural flavor, dried celery seed, citric acid, ground sage, rosemary powder, dried thyme, dried parsley. This kind of blend leans more towards turkey and poultry than beef, but it could still probably work.

Different aspects come out at different points. Sometimes it's more Scarborough Fair-inspired parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Other times there's a little more black pepper kick, and sometimes, yeah, it's kinda straight up salty. But overall, the savory impact implores the memories of great holiday foods, so sprinkle some on some eggs, veggies, meat, taters, heck, even popcorn for a little reminiscing treat.  That's the real winning part of the EBTL spice blend: while not tasting precisely like any dish in particular (closest to gravy and stuffing, but not quite), it tastes enough like any of them that you're sure to find a particular taste to latch on to and think of while this is sprinkled on something else.We love it. Likely we're late to show as we usually are here for anything new in Pittsburgh. I mean, Bon Jovi still takes up a third of the local hit charts. Pick it up if you see it, if you haven't already, as the EBTL won't be a bad medicine for everyday use. I won't give it a bad name with double fours. Have a nice day.

Trader Joe's Everything but the Leftovers Seasoning Blend: 8 out of 10. 

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