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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies

Most normal years right around now, my lovely bride and I are busy as all heck, cleaning up the house and baking cookies for what we call our annual Holiday Cookie Potluck. It's...basically what it sounds like it is. Cookies, friends, family, gathering together, hanging out...but not this year. Not sure if you've noticed, but 2020 isn't exactly what any of us would call "normal" except if you're a weirdo. 

Anyhoos, we're adaptable and doing a smaller thing this year and taking it on the road. Yup, still making cookies, and gonna deliver to some folks this weekend, so we've still been busy with making cookies..and storing them...and smacking away each other's hands so we have enough for the cookie tins...and kids (myself included) still want to eat cookies while staring at them all day, literally within arm's reach, as we're doing work and school from home. 

So if we wanted to get some Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies to help hold us over this week, who can blame us? 

Look, there's nothing absolutely magical here. Really not. No offense. Take your basic cookie, add a little chocolate, then a little more, add some spirit fingers  I mean "festive sprinkles" and that's about what it is. I'm pretty sure we could easily make a homemade replica pretty easily here. 

But that doesn't mean these tree cookies aren't any good. Nah. They're downright delish. That cookie base isn't quite a shortbread - it's not as crumbly - but not exactly a sugar cookie - not crispy enough - either. Nah. it's like a nice little marriage of the two for texture, with a little hint of sugar. That's all that's needed to serve up the milk chocolate filling, of which there is plenty. The cookie itself even seems a little indented so to have a reservoir to have a little scooch extra filling, which, let's be honest, should be okay with literally everyone reading this. Gotta love the milk chocolate. I usually side more towards darker, but if this were a dark chocolate, it'd likely be too rich a cookie with the amount of filling/frosting slabbed atop. That white chocolate drizzle is a nice little touch, as is the sprinkles. Do they literally meet the definition of "decked out"? likely not, but the cookies are kinda cute, kinda snazzy, and definitely tasty, and what else does one need from a Christmas cookie really?

While not worthy to be the centerpiece of a holiday cookie tray, there's not a thing wrong with them either. Kids will likely love them. Mine sure did. And heck I don't really mind them either. And at like $3 for a tray of 8 cookies it's not a bad deal either. While not blown away, we are quite happy enough to give them a good score. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Italian Panettone

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't supposed to be born into a big Italian family. I'd never even heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes until a couple days ago, after watching the 2018 indie film by the same name. Seven types of fish and seafood all on the same day? Yes, please. I like the way you Italians roll.

Likewise, I'm becoming more and more fond of the panettone each year, thanks mostly to Trader Joe's. This is the fifth type of panettone product we've reviewed on this blog, and I don't think I've disliked any of them. They're tasty, festive, and Christmassy. Look, you can even hang this one on your tree. It's an ornament and a snack all in one.

Like the other panettones I've tried, this one is made with soft, supple, lightly sweet, slightly buttery bread. But this one's gluten-free! Goodness. I'm almost always stating that Trader Joe's gf products taste great but have a weird texture. Not this one. The texture here is amazeballs. I probably wouldn't have even guessed it was gluten-free if I hadn't known any better.

There's a good bit of packaging around the product. Maybe it's overkill, but it keeps the bread remarkably fresh. There's the decorative outer cardboard box, then there's a cellophane wrapper within, and finally, there's a cupcake-esque muffin liner on the bottom and sides of the panettone.

The product is spongy and pleasantly moist. The bread alone would make a great little treat, but there are "golden raisins" and teensy bits of candied orange peel scattered throughout the loaf to make it even more interesting. The sweetness level is probably on par with a breakfast muffin, rather than a dessert like cake or cupcakes. In fact I had my panettone for my breakfast yesterday, and it was the perfect size and density to serve as a morning meal.

At $1.99, it's plenty affordable. If you've got anybody with a gluten-free diet on your Christmas list, this product has Sonia's seal of approval and mine as well. The original glutenful version is still available, but the taste and texture of this one doesn't suffer much if at all for want of wheat or gluten. Four Christmas stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Trader Joe's Stepping It Up Spicy Snack Bar Mix

Around this time of year, there's routinely some homemade Chex mix around the house. For whatever reason, during the holidays, it's a constant, and, well, why should this year be different? Tradition, right? Nobody needs to shout that from the rooftops for me. 

Along with the Chex mix there's a constant chorus, and I don't mean just from 'last Christmas" or 'All i Want for Christmas is You." No, in reference to the Chex mix, it's "no mining! No mining!" What's that mean? That means no digging around for the very best bites, like the wheat Chex that got a little extra soaky in Worchestershire sauce. Take a scoop, and you get what you get and you don't get upset. No mining. It's sacred tradition.

We may have to make a new one for Trader Joe's Stepping it Up Spicy Snack Bar Mix.

Acutely minded readers and shoppers may recall the Step Up to the Snack Bar Mix that TJ's has peddled in recent years. This is a spicy sibling, a seasonal sidekick, a spirited sequel. 

And man, it's good. 

There's some of the usual suspects around - almonds, cheese sticks, big clunky pretzel pieces a la broken up sourdough bites - all covered in this dusty, spicy seasoning blend. It's everywhere and while mostly tasting like seasoned salt, there are some hot pepper kicks sneaking through here and there. Allegedly some of the pieces have different seasoning - like the pretzels are supposed to have "sweet jalapeno" - but a lot of that gets lost literally in the mix. Not a complaint, it's good. 

There's also these "chile lemon corn nuggets" that deserve their own mention. What the heck are they? Well...they're kinda like the Peruvian corn snacks TJ's has carried in recent years. If you're not familair, think huge, crunchy corn kernels, all crispified and mummified. It's a bit of an odd bite if you'tre not accustomed. While I don't mind them particularly, the "big crunch" factor for a good snack mix has already been satisfied by the pretzel chunks, so i would have preferred a smaller or alternative form.

All of that doesn't mention the absolute best part, though: the pasila chile and sesame chips. My goodness. I'd inhale a sack full of these bad boys. I love sesame chips and sticks and all that kinda stuff, so naturally I'm inclined to be fairly fond of them, but there's something about them - maybe their own chile flavors, maybe the excess seasoning shook off on them - that make them extra tasty to snack on for a fine snacking target. No mining? No rule here, though yes, my lovely bride invoked it to make sure she got some.

Overall spice level isn't too bad, maybe a 5, perhaps a 6 at most. Most people can handle it. My kids couldn't, which is a plus - more for me! The Stepping It Up mix goes very well with an IPA, as I confirmed on a few different nights recently. Pick some up for a little kick - at $4.99 for the can, you may discover (as we did) that it goes fast. Double fours here!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Stepping It Up Spicy Snack bar Mix: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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