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Friday, January 22, 2021

Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend

There's no other way to say it, except that 2020 was very much a mixed bag for us. In retrospect, and even now, it's apparent how fortunate my family and I were amidst everything going on, as we remained pretty much at home, pretty much safe. It was definitely not an easy time to be parents of young kids, as my lovely bride and I are, with the myriad of challenges presented, with little outlet. The pool we swam at every day last summer? Not open. Vacations and trips to our favorite amusement park? Not happening. Heck, even going and getting ice cream presents some challenges. 

One good thing I'll take from last year is the revelation that not only I can cook, but it's actually pretty easy and I enjoy it. Lots of time at home gave a lot of time for smoking, grilling, fermenting, baking. Got a lot of new kitchen goodies, too, and finally figured out how to effectively use the cast iron. 

It's January now, of course, and a new year and quite a bit colder out, with some of the same challenges in place. But we still need to eat, and I still like cooking, and it gives me a lot of joy when I have a new inspiration to work with. Sounds cheesy but true, and it's what I got. 

So when there's something like Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend debuting, I'm all in. And that's a good thing...

...'cause man, this stuff is legit. I don't mean legit as in 100% authentic to Cuban cuisine, because I'll be honest and admit I haven't ever had the real deal. Hope that changes someday soon. 

Back to the seasoning. Just open it up and waft some of the aroma on over. It's vibrant and bright and alluring, with a little depth that makes it clear it can back up its promises. I sprinkled some on my hand to take an unadulterated taste and it tastes like all of that  - so much lime and orange, and garlic, and with some cumin and black pepper to add just a little bit of spice. Other herbs like bay leaf and cilantro add a bit of body without trying to steal the show. it's a bit complex, but vibrant and delicious, without too much spices and scarcely any salt. See, I told you - it's legit. 

Made a "Cuban-style bowl" the other night that you can see - chicken thighs, avocado, fried plantains, black beans, spinach and rice. My lovely bride mixed in a hearty dose of the TJ Cuban spice with the rice, and then I added a good dose atop with some fresh squeezed lime. Oh man. Easy and delicious. And that's just our first foray with the spice - I can imagine more chicken, rice, fish and pork dishes I can make with the spice. I don't think the experience would translate as well to red meat, but I'm willing to be wrong if you know for sure otherwise. 

"It tastes like sunshine," says my lovely bride. Not sure I could say it better myself, and thankful for every aspect of that sentence and sentiment and source on a cold January day. And heck, even our kiddos liked it. Go on out and give it a try for $1.99. Sure to have no regrets. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic Seasoning Blend: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Muesli

I must have been about seven or eight years old at the time, but I remember seeing this random cereal commercial that captivated me for some reason. Most advertisements aimed at my age group employed colorful cartoon animals, goofy music, and dippy, childish tag lines, but this TV ad was different. There were European-looking people walking through old villages, misty vineyards and farm fields, and a gravelly-voiced narrator talking about wholesome foods and centuries old traditions.

As Sonia and I chomped away on this Trader Joe's Muesli for breakfast the other day, I tried to describe the commercial to her. I remembered it was "mueslix" with an "x" at the end but wasn't sure of the brand. Sonia didn't remember any such commercial from that era, so I set out to find it on the web so I could not only show it to her, but test the accuracy of my memory from 30+ years ago.

I found it in a matter of seconds. Here it is. Kellogg's Mueslix—which, apparently, they still make. Do any of you remember that commercial? It piqued my curiosity about "mueslix" or "muesli" and stuck with me for decades. It's almost exactly as I'd recalled it.

I'm fairly certain I've had Kellogg's Mueslix a few times in my life, as well as at least one other brand. This Trader Joe's version is pretty much on par with all the other mueslis, with perhaps a few changes and unique aspects. I like the use of "caramelized pear juice concentrate" as a sweetener. It's used subtly here. This cereal is not overly sweet at all. In fact, I wouldn't mind just a hint more of that pear juice as well as larger and more plentiful dried apple pieces. The raisins are represented adequately, however. I feel like dried apple pieces are a little bit more exciting than raisins, though, but I won't really complain.

I like pumpkin seeds okay, but wasn't thrilled to find them in this mix here. Sliced almonds were welcome but too scarce in my opinion. There's honestly just too much of the plain old oats. I mean, oats are great and all, but they need a little something to make them more exciting. We're not horses here, Trader Joe's. Also, I'm not sure coconut shavings belong in muesli. They seem a bit too exotic and out of place for something old-timey European folks could just grab out of a barrel and throw into their breakfast melange.

This muesli works as a plain cold cereal with milk or you can add it to yogurt and whatever to create some decent overnight oats. I'm sure it would be okay mixed with oat milk and heated in the manner of traditional oatmeal, too, although we declined to try it that way. If it's not quite sweet enough for you, it would mix well with a spoonful of honey or two.

It cost in the ballpark of four dollars if memory serves correctly. Can't find the receipt at the moment. The wifey liked it significantly more than I did. Three stars from me. Four from her.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips

It's 2021 and yet my pet thought, the Chocolate Gum Theory, is still not a thing. C'mon people.

It's been mentioned on here before from time to time, so if you're familiar, feel free to skip the next paragraph or so. It's all a primer for those who aren't. So if you're still with me, gird up, it's time for an education. 

It's a very simple theory. Chocolate is good, right? So is gum. But what happens if you put those two things together? It's...not good. Basically put, the Chocolate Gum Theory states that combinations of things, even good ones, can be less than the sum of their parts. Like...chocolate and cheddar. Salmon and jerky. Babies and pocket knives. Stuff like that. Somewhat related is the Bowie/Mercury Corollary that states two great things when combined can be even greater, while the Bowie/Jagger Corollary reminds us they can be much....much....much less. 

Okay, are we all back together? That's the best. And on to today's subject, Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips.

EBTB! So hot right now. Not familiar? You should be. It's an everything bagel sans bagel. It's awesome. And who can resist a perfectly crunchy, delicious kettle chip? I sure can't, so put them together, and we gonna be Under Pressure (good) or Dancing in the Street (not so much)?

Sadly, it's the latter.

I've (literally) spent some time chewing on this to try and determine what the crux of the matter is, because simply put, these chips should be good but just aren't. The issue seems two fold. First, there's this oddly overly oleic taste and feel to the chips. I mean, even by kettle chip standards. I think it'd stand out regardless of flavor. Looking over the ingredients, maybe it's the sesame oil that adds on that little extra that turns it into too much? While not absolutely repulsive, the experience isn't enjoyable either.

And secondly, perhaps, everything seasoning isn't really meant for literally everything. There has to be a proper vehicle for it to be experienced correctly. Part of the appeal of an everything bagel is that the seasoning has a chance to permeate and enhance a warm, chewy, doughy bagel. Here it's a crunchy chip, and without some sort of fuller embodiment to spread its wings, the taste seems overly condensed and artificial. Like, the garlic seems waaaaay too funky on ours, and everything else is a tad bit overkill. On a bagel it'd probably work, but not here. Which is too bad, I love crunchy kettle chips, but with everything going on here it's a hard pass from here on out.

Not gonna lie, I picked up two bags of 'em hoping they'd be great. It took our chip-munchin'-mad fam four days to consume the first, mostly by me out of duty to this here blog. None of us are excited about the second. Might even return, along with the truffle hot sauce I got a month or more ago and can't consume enough of to properly judge as it makes me feel literally ill. There's so many better chips out in the TJ's aisle, spend your $2.49 on something else that'd treat you right.

My lovely bride is much more into the TJ's social media than we are, and it seems our thoughts align with most others publicly stated. If you like 'em, awesome, you get on with your bad self, but maybe stock up as I can see these being pulled due to unpopularity. Or, as always, I could be completely wrong. Except Chocolate Gum Theory, that's true and proven once again here. Just bleh. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips: 2 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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