Monday, October 23, 2017

Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream Trio

A terrific holiday product is BACK, and this is your alert to get some NOW before they are gone!

All of those boxes of magic, just waiting to go home with someone!
The ultra moisturizing hand cream trio quietly made its way back to Trader Joe’s shelves.  This stuff is the bomb!!!  As I said in my original review of it, it is exactly like tubes of hand cream at L’Occitane, an ultra chi-chi expensive store.  I mean, it is just like that stuff, only more reasonably priced! 

Here is the original review:  Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream Trio review 

Goes on so smooth.  Has a very delicate scent, not overpowering at all.
And not greasy!  What more could you want??
As you can see in that review, I rated this stuff a 4.75.  But because I am an equal opportunity reviewer, I averaged my score with my nephew Jordan’s, and that brought the overall score down to a 4.5.  However, THIS YEAR Jordan is not here as I am writing, so I get to pick the rating all by myself!  Hence, it is getting the 4.75 it deserves!!!

This is what the box looked like in 2015 - I THINK it is the same now.
If not, it is very similar.
Go get yourself a box.  And get another box to give as a gift.  It would be a perfect present for a teacher.  Or a friend.  Or you can open the box and give individual tubes to 3 different people!  Just make sure you keep at least 1 for yourself, cuz you are gonna love it.

Price in 2015
Price in 2017 - not a penny more!





   





Plus, HELLO, it is the same exact price it was 2 years ago!  No inflation!!!  Seriously, go get some soon.  They won’t stock it for very long, and when it is gone, it is gone.  Your hands will thank you for it.

Price:  still the low low price of $7.99 (for 3 tubes!)
Rating:  4.75


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Chocolate Filled Crepes

I love crepes.  I like chocolate crepes.  So, I was very excited when I saw these in the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s!!

Apparently THIS is my excited face.
We used to live in Paris, and I loooved getting crepes from the little stands on the street corners.  I especially loved the simple butter and sugar crepes…  Ahhhh, just writing about them brings back memories and makes my mouth water!  If digital cameras had been around when we lived there, I am quite certain I would have photos of us sitting at some café eating crepes, but sadly, that was back in the time of 35 mm film…  I do, however, have a couple of old Paris vacation photos.  😊

David, long hair and leather jacket, sipping coffee at a Parisian Cafe circa 1998
(You cannot tell me this look is not sexy...)

Us, touring the Paris sewers in 1989.  It looks like I am wearing a shirt I borrowed from someone who wore
 8 sizes bigger than me, no?  What was I thinking... 
All that being said, I guess you could say that I have sort of high standards where crepes are concerned.  However, I do not know how to MAKE CREPES myself, so I do not have a lot of room to judge or criticize other people’s crepes!  However, review is what I am here to do, so let’s set about reviewing these TRADER JOE’S CHOCOLATE CREPES, shall we?

Here's the box!  
First, they are frozen and so easy to prepare.  You just put them on a plate, bung them in the microwave, and voila – it is crepe time! 

My first reaction the first time we had these was, “Well, they are better than not having any crepe, that’s for sure.  But it is definitely not as good as having a “real crepe” on the streets of Paris.  The crepe part is a little bit rubbery, but it is nice that it holds all of the chocolate filling in.  you can pick it up like a sandwich, you don’t even have to use a fork if you do not want to.  In my opinion, the chocolate filling tastes a bit like melted ganache.  The size of each crepe is rather small, but that is not a negative in my book.  We have had them for snacks, dessert, and breakfasts (I prefer breakfast with a nice cup of coffee or cappuccino). 

Look!  A bit of chocolate is peeking out!  So pretty.  I served them with blueberries
 from TJ's,  a fig from our garden, and cappuccinos.  
I think these would be good if you added fresh whipped cream, or strawberries, or banana slices on top.  That would add some pizazz, but even without those additions I think these are a winner.  I give them a 4.25.

David’s opinion:  “I think these are very good.  I like the rubbery crepe quality of them, because the taste of the crepe is really quite flavorful.  I love that they managed to figure out how to make it a nice little sealed rectangular pocket so that stuff doesn’t gush out at the bottom.  I think the taste of the chocolate is quite nice – it is dark chocolate-y and there is not too much of it.  if the crepe itself didn’t taste so good I might say there wasn’t enough chocolate, but as it is I think it is a great balance.  I am going to give this a 4.25.”
These things are CHEAP!
Price:  $2.69 (which comes out to a whopping .38 cents per crepe, cheaper than a candy bar!!)
Rating:  4.25


Bonus Paris photo - lunch outdoors for my birthday - 2007

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mary Day - TREAT YOUR MOTHER TODAY

This is not a "normal post".  This is a special one for Mary Day, a holiday we celebrate every October 20th.  It is the anniversary of my mom's death.  On Mary Day, we celebrate her by doing things she loved and remembering her.  

My mom and I all decked out.  I think I was almost 2. 
Check out our "vintage" furniture and tv, super hip at the time I am sure.
 Yes, today is Mary Day.  The day every year where I sappily remind you to LOVE YOUR MOTHER (or maybe jealously remind you that you still have a mother and I do not…).  The point is:  if you are lucky enough to still have a mom that is living and breathing, today is a good day to appreciate her.  Oh sure, she expects it every Mother’s Day, but won’t she be surprised if you reach out TODAY?  Write her a poem.  Send her a card.  Call her.  And please, tell her you love her.

It’s been 15 years to the day since I have been able to tell my mom (in person) that I love her.  Sure, I go visit her grave and cry while recounting all the things happening in our family, in my life, in the world.  But trust me, the one-way conversation at the grave is not the same as sitting across the table from her over dinner.  Or hearing her voice on my voice mail.  Or picking up the mail and seeing a letter addressed to me in her handwriting. 
My mom with my sisters and I in November 1999 
Maybe it is because yet another pair of her shoes that I inherited disintegrated on my feet this week, but I have been mulling over how things melt away over time.  Things I thought I could never, ever forget became more and more faint – the sounds, the smells of my mom.  That fact used to make me so sad.  I didn’t WANT any of the memories to fade – I needed them.  Perhaps because I myself am getting older and thus closer to my “grand finale”, but the fading is not as painful as it used to be.  It’s more of a passage of time now. 

Thinking of my mom makes me smile, and for that I am grateful.  She was strong.  She was adventurous.  She was caring.  And she was ever so generous.  I am thankful for the time I had with her, and for the memories.  I will spend today thinking of her, doing things she enjoyed (shopping, drinking wine, I won’t go so far as cleaning, which she also adored…). 

Mom and Dad
Please think of your mom today, too.   And if you are lucky enough to still have her on the planet – GO VISIT HER OR CALL HER.  Pick her up some flowers from Trader Joe's.  Or some lotion from the personal care section.  Get her a card, they are only a buck...  Maybe a bottle of wine.  But whatever you do, if you are fortunate enough to be able to see her in person, hug her extra hard today for me.  Thanks. 

P.S. – this might sound like a rant, but if you are a MOM, please BE IN THE PHOTOS!  Make sure you are not always BEHIND the camera, be IN FRONT OF IT!  Trust me, when you are gone and photos are all that is left, your children will be so grateful they have images of you to smile at. 

This is how I love to remember her - not sick and going through treatment for cancer,
but LAUGHING and enjoying life




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wasabi Mayo - a CLASSIC RETURNS

And no sooner had I ranted and raved about Wasabi Mayo disappearing from the shelves of Trader Joe's did it RETURN!  If only all discontinued products had the same fate!  (Well, all of the good discontinued products that is.  I am perfectly fine if they stop selling the crappy products forever :) ).

Wasabi Mayo - I was sad it was gone, and I am psyched it is back!!!
But seriously, Wasabi Mayo is a king among condiments.  Wasabi Mayo is creamy.  It is sharp.  It is spicy.  It is freakin' awesome.  And I am glad it is back.  Here is a link to my original review of it:  Wasabi Mayo Review

Same great price - well worth the 3 bucks I swear
I have purchased a new jar, of coooourse, but I have not opened it yet to give it a taste.  I still have a teeny weenie little bit left in my old jar, the one I have been hoarding and using with extreme caution ever since I learned they pulled this mayo off the shelves.  Word on the street was that the NEW version might be from a different manufacturer.  I put the two jars side by side so we could take a quick peek:

Old jar on the left, new jar on the right
I guess I won't know for sure if this new version tastes the same until I crack it open and eat some!  And now that I know I can get MORE, I do not have to fret about finishing my old jar.

Life is good.

Me, having a quiet moment with my Wasabi Mayo while in the wine department
(P.S. - I am a pretty easy girl to please really!)

(P.P.S. - David was out of town at CLOWN CAMP last week, so instead of grocery shopping with him I went alone.  That means that these photos of me with mayo were taken by ME.  Alone.  In Trader Joe's.  Cuz we do not normally look foolish enough when we snap a zillion photos in TJs, so this time I had to set my camera up on a timer while kissing one of my favorite products...)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pumpkin Body Butter - THIS YEAR'S WARNING

It's that time of year!!!

Pumpkin season at Trader Joe's is here!
Yes, it is time for my annual warning:
Pumpkin Body Butter has hit the shelves
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Body Butter is gross!!!

Take my advice - steer clear!
If you are into pumpkin, go crazy, buy all the other pumpkin merch at TJ's.  But for heaven's sake, unless you want to walk around smelling like a Thanksgiving table decoration, do not buy TRADER JOE'S PUMPKIN BODY BUTTER.  :)

Here is the link to my original review of it:  Pumpkin Body Butter Review October 2015

And here is the link to last year's warning:  Pumpkin Body Butter 2016

Monday, October 9, 2017

Panilonco Carmenere

                                                                              I.  Did.  It.

            This silly little blog, this fun, crazy “hobby”, has hit half a million views!!!!!

I was traveling last week for work.  As I left town, I was a couple hundred hits shy of the exciting 500,000 mark.  I knew it would happen while I was on the road, and I wanted to write about it as it occurred, but see above, I was WORKING, and at a super hard assignment as well.  So, even though I wanted to sit down, write, and celebrate, I had to focus, people!  Priorities, ya know?

But I am home now – so let’s par-tay!!

HALF A MILLION HITS!
I know that some bloggers have a bazillion times more views than I do, but I bet you none of them are as happy about it as I am with this half a million! 

OK, now that the celebrating is out of the way, we should probably review something, eh?  How about a wine, I haven’t reviewed a wine in a while. 

Panilonco Carmenere (2016 Reserve)  

This is a red wine from Chile.  We bought it because it is a Carmenere, and David likes to put on what he thinks is a Chilean accent and say that name loudly (much like he likes to stroll around the kitchen spouting, “montepulciano d'abruzzo” – you don’t know how many glasses of montepulciano d'abruzzo we have drunk in restaurants just so he can say the name…).  Anyway, here is what he thought of this Panilonco Carmenere:

I should add a sound file here so you can hear the name of this wine
roll off of David's tongue...
“This wine is bold and full flavored like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but kind of rough around the edges.  It doesn’t taste like turpentine, but it is not a wine that fancy French aristocrats drink while sitting around a café table.  This is a wine that is drunk by Chilean cowboys, and that’s alright!  I give it a 4.25.”

We have actually had this wine before, but I don’t think we reviewed it.  So, first things first – the LABEL is not pretty.  As we all know, first impressions count, and this wine is not one that immediately attracts the eye on the shelf.  Lucky for us, the name attracted David, so into our cart it went.

As for me, I think this is a nice red!  I really, really like it.  it is not pretentious.  It is not fruity.  It is a little bit peppery, maybe with a hint of black cherry.  Simply put, this is just a RED WINE.  We drank it with TJ’s Southwestern Chopped Salad (recently reviewed here), TJ’s pasta, TJ’s Just Sauce Turkey Bolognese (a staple in our freezer and the very first TJ’s product I ever reviewed back on January 1, 2015 here), and the TJ’s olives that I adore (reviewed here).  This wine was a really good fit with the meal.  I want to get more bottles of this one, especially now that we are switching over to red wines for the winter season. 

A nice, sturdy, reliable red.  
This win, at $5.99, is also very well priced.  And, like David said, it is not pretentious.  We went through a bunch of quasi-official wine snob reviewer sounding descriptions for what we tasted: sawdust, black pepper, cigar…  Obviously, we are not wine experts, so we checked the back label to see what the winery thought we should be tasting:  “Deep colored, concentrated and attractive nose, with notes of blackberries and mint.  The spicy flavors combines (TYPO – oops, note to label maker, that should be “combine”) with the silky tannins and the toasted vanilla from the barrel.  Delicious on its own, this wine is the perfect partner for Italian cuisine and spicy courses.”

I think this is really a good red table wine.  If you come over for dinner this winter at the Big Yellow House this may well be on offer.  I agree with David on the score – 4.25.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping me hit this milestone!  See ya at the 1,000,000 mark!  Until then, keep drinking wine (and shopping at Trader Joe’s)!

Bonus jumping photo - the one where David jumped so high he is almost out of frame :)
Price:  $5.99
Rating:  4.25

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Southwestern Chopped Salad

I was a new Trader Joe's product for us.  We do not normally buy “salad kits”, because, not to brag here, but salads are one of my specialties.  I can whip up a lovely salad (if I do say so myself)!  So, if we buy premade salad at TJ’s, it is usually an already made salad in a plastic container that I eat for lunch (like my favorite, Mega Crunchy Salad with a Bite, reviewed here: Mega Crunch Salad with a Bite review ), and not a kit in a bag like this one is.  But hey, I am all about trying new stuff, so I threw this in our cart.

A complete salad kit - ok, we will try it
Here are the ingredients listed on the FRONT of the bag, not in the teeny tiny mouse print on the back:  green cabbage, romaine, cotija cheese, roasted pepitas, tortilla strips, green onion, cilantro, and a spicy southwest avocado dressing.  There are more ingredients on the back, but these are the “big guns” listed on the front to get your attention.  The bag tells us, “Trader Joe’s Southwestern Chopped Salad is an homage to the bright, spicy, flavorful dishes of its namesake region.  Green cabbage, carrots, and radish have been chopped into small pieces and mixed with pepitas, tortilla stripped, green onions and cilantro.  Toss with the included cotija cheese and spicy avocado dressing for a fresh, complete salad.”

$3.29 for a bag
David put this salad together while I worked on other parts of dinner.  He reported there was the loose cabbage part in the bag, then a package that contained 3 smaller packets:  the dressing, the cheese cubes, and tortilla strips.  Here is what we thought of it:

And here is David’s take: “I think it is excellent!  I was a little concerned when I first dumped out the majority of the package - it looked like a lot of cabbage. But flavor-wise, with the added pepitas and the cheese and the dressing, it really is a very nicely balanced mix.  Also, little tiny bits of tortilla – all in very nice balance.  I gotta say – it is very nice.  It doesn’t have any of the nice tomato things that you might think of as more lush in a salad, but, that’s not what it’s trying to do.  So, I’m gonna give this a 4.5.”

Please wait until we sit down to dinner, David...
And here is what I thought:  I am surprised that one of the adjectives used on the bag is “spicy”.  To me this salad is not spicy at all.  I am also surprised that the bag said it contained green onion, because I cannot even taste them.  For my first few bites, I was like, “I don’t know what cotija cheese is, but it sure is tasteless…”.  Then I got a better chunk of it and it had some taste…  Normally in salad we go for feta (Trader Joe's has an excellent feta that is a staple at our house, reviewed here:  Greek Feta in Brine  ) or blue cheese, both of which are extremely flavorful.  This cotija is a much more mild cheese than I am used to in my salads.  We also do not normally put tortilla strips in our salads.  I know that is a hip thing to do, so color us unhip.  The texture of that is, to me, a bit strange, but the taste of the tortillas is good.

For me, the whole salad is a little bit bland.  Everything is chopped super tiny.  It is not quite a COLESLAW, but in my book it is also not a SALAD.  It is all chopped a little bit too tiny for me.  I like to eat my salad with a FORK, and this is a SPOON SALAD.  My favorite part is the pepitas – they are really nice. 

David, the in-store TJ's salad model
Overall – I do not taste spicy, I do not taste avocado, I do not taste green onion, and I really do not taste the cilantro.  I like it – I am not saying it is BAD – but it would not be my “go to salad”.  I give this a 3.75.

Price:  $3.29

Rating (average of 2 raters):  4

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tiramisu Torte

First off, let me say this:  I MADE A HUGE PARTY FAUX PAS.  I was invited to a Cinco de Mayo dinner (yes, I am THAT FAR BEHIND in reviews, I am writing on September 20th about something I ate on May 5th, don’t judge…).  Anyway, I was invited to a Cinco de Mayo dinner and asked to bring dessert.  Not only did I not bake or make anything, I didn’t even bring anything appropriate for the theme!!!  Yes, I was “that guest” that showed up at a dinner with a boxed dessert from TJ’s, an Italian Tiramisu to be precise.

But, but, butttt, to make matters even worse, it turns out that the party hosts (who I am related to and should know better) are not fans of tiramisu.

Fail fail fail on all fronts, Susan (I say to myself in the third person).  You win the SUCKY GUEST award.

Hey, at least I didn't just bring it over still in the BOX!  As you can see here when you peek
into our fridge, I put it on a very pretty plate (and you can also see that we have a 3/4 empty
bottle of margarita mix and some left over pizza in the fridge...  Charming.)
Ok, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s take a look at Trader Joe’s Tiramisu Torte, shall we??  (NOTE – until today when I finally wrote up this review, I thought we had been eating and reviewing Tiramisu, not Tiramisu Torte…  See note at the end of this article.)

It looks pretty on the box, no?
I shared this product with my in-laws, Greg, Joan, and Chris.  I served tiny slices since we had just indulged in lots of tacos for dinner.  Here is what people thought:

Chris:  Chris is a college student who had just returned home for the summer. He is not a fan of coffee (an important element of tiramisu….).  Here is what he thought, “It… Ummm…  It is not BAD….  I am not the biggest fan of coffee and coffee flavors, so naturally I am not THAT keen on it…  But the coffee flavor is not so overwhelming that I can’t continue eating it.  It’s good.  I give it a 1.75.”  (Editor’s note:  for someone who hates coffee, he sure did eat the whole piece of tiramisu.)

Me:  I didn’t choke on this tiramisu, and I have choked on others in the past.  You know that whole thing where you accidentally suck a big breath in just as your fork-load of tiramisu reaches your mouth, and you choke on the powder??  (Crickets…)  Umm, you don’t know that feeling?  Is it just ME then??  Well, this particular tiramisu did not have that weird affect, so that’s a plus.  I like the texture of this dessert – the bottom layer was not what I would call a “normal” tiramisu layer.  I also liked that the dessert had some little chunks in it – little chocolate bits, which tasted good.  The middle layer seemed almost ice cream-ish, almost like an ice cream cake.  It was obviously very easy to prepare.  I like it.  it would be nice to pair with an espresso if you are a coffee lover.  I do think it is sort of expensive when you compare it to other stuff at Trader Joe's.  I give this a 3.75.

As you can see, David thought it was going to be a good dessert.
Sadly, he didn't even get to eat any of it, since he was busy that night and couldn't come to the dinner.
Greg (father of the family also not a coffee fan, which I obviously forgot before I brought this dessert to the gathering):  “It is sweet.  The texture is good.  But it is coffee.  I give it a 2.”  (Editor’s note:  he DID finish his whole piece.)

Joan (mother of the family, liker of coffee):  “There was nothing exactly bad about this, but if you could only eat one dessert, I would choose many other desserts over this…  The best part were the fresh raspberries (editor:  I added those, they do not come in the box 😊 ).  The bottom is like chocolate cake, not the traditional tiramisu layer.  It did not appear to have been SOAKED in coffee.  It was somewhat dry-ish.  The coffee flavor reminded me more of Kahlua than coffee – so more like a coffee syrup.  In general I am not a big fan of tiramisu.  This was not tiramisu-ish, so I thought it would be better for me…  But I would prefer a cheesecake to this.  This looked more like cheesecake than tiramisu actually, though it had a nipple…  (Greg pointed out that the nipple was an indicator that it was mass produced.  The TJ's price tag says it is handmade, so...  Not sure.)  The cocoa powder was the highlight for me.  I would give this tiramisu a 1.”

The raspberries (also from Trader Joe's, of course) made the plates look pretty and were Joan's favorite part.
Ok then…  This tiramisu is made in ITALY.  Maybe this is more like a real ITALIAN version of the dessert?  It is hard to know what to give the product overall, since most of the taste testers were not fans of the ingredients, let alone the final product.  But I think the fact that I, someone who likes tiramisu, and Joan, someone who may not be the biggest tiramisu fan but a lover of coffee, both were not bowled away by this dessert says something.  I am not going to score this with a mathematical average of all reviewers because that seems harsh, but I am going to take all viewpoints into consideration before slapping on a final number.

Also, now that I look at the photos I took, I see this is not called TIRAMISU, it is called TIRAMISU TORTE…  So obviously, that explains why it didn’t seem like “regular” tiramisu and we were looking at it thru the wrong lens!!!

Does that fact negate our reviews??  Perhaps…  But I still think our opinions were pretty clear – this isn’t a “must eat” dessert, no matter what you call it.  whether you are counting calories or counting pennies, I would use your diet and your money in another manner…

Price tag


Price:  $6.99

Rating: 2.75

Friday, September 15, 2017

Discontinuing Products Sucks

I fully understand that Trader Joe's cannot carry EVERYTHING all the time.

Trust me, I get that!!  The stores would have to be huge ("These stores are yuuuuge, the yuuuugest stores you have ever seen...").  

But I just need to take a teeny tiny moment to WHINE, to complain, to bitch about something:  WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SEEM LIKE THEY DISCONTINUE THE GOOD STUFF???

Most recently I was sad to discover that the amazing condiment WASABI MAYONNAISE is no longer on the shelves.  Wasabi Mayo is gone!!  And that sucks.  Cuz it was really a special product, one that I have never gotten anywhere else.  It was the bomb smeared on white bread with some cheese and lunch meat - made the zingiest little sandwich on the planet.  

This.  THIS is how I feel when I go to Trader Joe's to get Wasabi Mayo and find it is DISCONTINUED.  As my mom used to say, "I wanna wring somebody's neck!".  (Now that I think about it, that was a pretty mean thing of my mom to say...)
Here is the original review of Wasabi Mayo (may-o it rest in peace...):  Wasabi Mayo Review

But nooooo, Trader Joe's had to go and ruin it.  Sigh.

Other notable discontinued products that I loved are Sambal Matah Sauce and Bollywood Popcorn (reviewed here:  Bollywood Popcorn ).  They keep the CRAPPY stuff (did someone say "Inner Peas" - Inner Peas review  and "Black Bean Rotini" - Black Bean Rotini review ) and they get rid of the super unique, interesting things.  It is just frustrating sometimes.

Did you like Bollywood Popcorn?  TOO BAD FOR YOU!
Cuz they stopped selling it.  Boo hiss.

But THESE crappy things, oh these are still on the shelves...









Oh, and course you can still get the barf inducing Black Bean Rotini...















And yes, before you lecture me, we COULD get a jar of regular mayo and mix in wasabi, like the TJ's guy told us to do.  But realllllly, when Trader Joe's could just SELL US A REAL JAR OF WASABI MAYO, should we have to DIY it???

Thanks for letting me vent.  Please comment below and tell me what products Trader Joe's discontinued that YOU loved!!  Maybe it we all get our gripes out here we will feel a wee bit better.  

P.S. - we also really liked TJ's Sambal Matah sauce.  Heck, they didn't even carry that delicious jar long enough for me to review it!  


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mango and Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

I believe I have a new favorite dessert.  Oh man these Mango and Sticky Rice Spring Rolls are GOOOOOD!  (Note:  for the rest of this review I will call these things Sticky Rice and MANGO, not Mango and STICKY RICE.  Cuz even though the box lists the mango first, in my mind this food is always sticky rice first...)

This is the box.  Go to Trader Joe's.  Find it in the freezer section.  Get one.  NO - get two!!
Sticky rice and mango is my go-to dessert when we eat in Thai restaurants.  Trust me, I always check the menu to see if they have it before we even order our meals.  To me, it is the perfect dessert.

So, when I saw this box of Sticky Rice and Mango Spring Rolls in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s, let’s just say I got a wee bit excited.  And my excitement was correct – these rock.

Get.  Out!!!  Mango and Sticky Rice SPRING ROLLS???  
I cooked them by frying them in 2 Tablespoons of oil, which is one of the 2 cooking techniques listed on the box.  I thought if we were having spring rolls, I wanted them to be nice and crispy, so it was worth stinking up the house a little bit with oil frying.  I kept them in the oil (stove on medium) for about 5 minutes and kind of obsessively turned them over each minute (cuz, see above, I was excited).

When they were browned and had rested on my plate for one minute, I dug in.  And let me tell you – these are perfect.  They are an amazing combination of spring roll savory-ness and sticky rice and mango deliciousness.  They are not really sweet, only slightly sweet.  The crispiness of the spring roll is in perfect contrast to the stickiness of the rice.  There is not a ton of mango in them, but there is enough to make your mouth super happy.

Here is what they looked like after being cooked.  My mouth is watering just looking at the photo...
They are just so good!!!  For me, these would make an amazing breakfast (don’t judge, you granola and yogurt eaters).   Be sure to eat them warm – they will make your belly sing.

I will definitely buy these again.  I fear they will be short lived at Trader Joe’s, they seem like quite a niche item.  But they are right in my niche, baby!!!  I give these a solid 5 star rating.

Here is what my sweetheart thought after he had a couple of bites, “Very nice.  I love the crispy exterior of the spring roll and the way it plays off of the chewy sticky rice inside.  The mango gives it just the right amount of flavor.  I am not sure quite where to place this – whether it is a dessert or a main food item…  Maybe it is a side dish?  Perhaps an appetizer?  Anyway, I am gonna give these a 4.75.”

Well, since this is my blog and my score should count a bit more than David’s, I am giving this product a final rating of a 5!!  Cuz that’s how I roll.

New product!  Please keep this TJ's...  Don't flake out on me and call these "seasonal" please.
Price: $2.99 (shhh, please don’t tell Trader Joe’s, but I for one would pay more for these suckers!)

Rating:  5

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cocoa Filled Pinwheel Cookies

The picture of the cookie on the front of this box is so pretty – it is a big white and brown pinwheel made to look like a hot air balloon.  My eyes were attracted to it, but I must confess that I got nervous when I read the description: “Light and crisp cocoa and vanilla cookies (that part sounds great to me) filled with a cocoa cream”.  Ahhhh, the “cocoa cream” made me nervous.

·         Would it be gloppy??

·         Might it be runny?

·         Worse still, would it taste like NUTELLA (which I know I am “supposed” to like but think tastes disgusting)???

I was thinking all of these things when I showed the box to David, and he said we should get ‘em.  So, we popped them in our hand basket.

The box - isn't it pretty?
As we shopped, I asked a TJ’s employee named Paul if the rumor I had heard online about one of my favorite products being discontinued was true.  He researched it for me – more news on that in a later post.  But we got to talking to him, so I asked if he had tried these new cookies.   He said he had not, but suggested we open the box right then and there to test them out!! 

Did you know Trader Joe’s is known for that?  If there is ever a product that you are not sure if you want or not, just ASK.  They seriously will open it for you and let you TASTE IT in the store.  That way you know if you want to spend your hard-earned dollars on it or not!  And they don’t even make you feel like a mooch or a cheapskate for doing it, they open it happily so you can taste.

NEW cookies at Trader Joe's - gotta try 'em!
So anyway, Paul busted that box of Pinwheel cookies open for us and we each grabbed one.  Then we started sharing them with everyone around – employees and fellow shoppers alike.  I mean, if the box is OPEN we should all TRY THEM, right?

Here is my opinion:  as you might have guessed from my comments above, I was nervous about the FILLING of these cookies.  The outside sounded delightful, but the filling had so many ways it could go horribly wrong in my opinion.  I thought it might taste fakey, or be gooey and yucky.  But when I tasted it - I liked it!  it is a really good filling and is not messy at all.  It tastes yummy!!!  The filling is buttery without being runny.  I think this cookie would pair well with a cup of tea or coffee.  

Also, these are very, very pretty cookies.  If you were putting together a plate of cookies to bring to some event and you didn’t have time to bake (or if you were going to drop a little white lie and pretend like you baked, which I would not do, cuz you are gonna get caught…) …  Anyway, what I mean is, these pinwheels would look lovely laid out on a pretty plate!  I give them a 4.25.

Is that not an amazingly beautiful sight??
My black and white plates are perfect for displaying one of these suckers!
And here is what David thinks of these cookies:  “Very good.  Nice.  Very fragrant cookie.  Crunchy, but not too crunchy.  Buttery.  And on the inside the filling is like chocolate frosting, but a very nice chocolate frosting.  The cookie is on the dry side so I can imagine eating it with a cup of tea, but the filling is pleasantly buttery.  I give these cookies a 4.25.”

This is BEFORE he even tried them!  He was already excited.
One of the shoppers who took a cookie was a woman who came up to me to complain that she had, “Walked 2 miles to get brussels sprouts and you are out of them!”.  First, I clarified quickly that I did not work for Trader Joe’s, so she needn’t file her complaint with me.  Then I offered her a cookie, which she took and ate while sipping her little cup of TJ’s sample coffee.  She LOVED these pinwheel cookies!  I think they made her walk to the store worth it!  She went on about how delicious they are, and at one point leaned in and whispered to me, “These are better than sex!!”. 

Well there ya have it!!!  Better than sex!  (Note:  those were her words, not mine.  I do not think I would go that far for this particular cookie.  But to each his/her own.)

I asked if I could take her photo to put in this blog, but she declined.  She said she felt like a mess, having walked and had no make-up on and was wearing her glasses.  I understood, but asked for her name to be included here.  She hemmed and hawed, making it apparent to us that whatever name she was eventually going to blurt out would not be her actual name.  Then she explained, “I went to pharmacy school.  But IF I could sing, and IF I could dance, I would be on Broadway!!!  And if I was on Broadway, my stage name would be Peaches La BoomBoom” (the proclamation of her stage name came with an elegant Bob Fosse pose, of course!).   I didn’t ask for her official 0 – 5 point rating, but I think it is safe to say that Peaches would give these cookies a solid 5. 

Obviously, this is not the shopper who tasted cookies with us.  But doesn't this stock photo
of a burlesque dancer look like her name should be Peaches La BoomBoom???
All of the other shoppers and employees we shared them with liked them, too.  Granted, not as much as Peaches La BoomBoom, but still, they were a hit!

Final note – they are really reasonably priced, too.  The box is $1.79 and I think there are 9 cookies, making them only about .20 cents each. 

Price:  $1.79

Rating (average of scores from me, David, and our new friend Peaches La BoomBoom):  4.5

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Baked Figs with Bacon, Cheese, and Roasted Nuts - MAKE THIS!

This is NOT a recipe blog.  I think that is quite apparent in that, of the 445 entries I have written here, there are only a couple of recipes that appear…  But guys, I have one that I have to share!  You are going to thank me for it (if you make the dish that is).
  
The baked FIGS in the foreground is what you need to make!
But first, a little bit of background.

I like to call David and I “Urban Farmers”.  We live in an urban area, but have a coveted corner lot, meaning YARD SPACE!!  We choose to fill that yard space with STUFF TO EAT – that is, growing fruit and veggies.  We grow these items at our Virginia home:

·         Pears

Pear "in the wild" on our tree!
      ·         Peaches (on a tree named Peachy, naturally!)
Sometimes it is temping to eat peaches right off the tree, but it is best to wait until they are full grown and ripe...
·         Blueberries (this is not true anymore, because we let the bushes get taken over by weeds and strangled, but we WILL grow blueberries again, I swear…)
Don't tell the neighbors, but one year I picked the 1st blueberries of the season on my
birthday before I even had a shower and got dressed!
·         Strawberries (in an old pallet I turned into a strawberry patch!)
This was taken the first year I put in the "strawberry pallet garden" - it is more lush now
·         Figs (on a tree given to us by a stranger who came to our yard sale one year and complimented our peach tree, then went home and came back with the gift of a small fig tree he grew!  We have named it Pudding and it is thriving in our yard!)
PUDDING!  She is loaded with figs this year.  They turn brown when they are ripe.
·         Tomatoes
This is the tomato we had for dinner the night we made the fig recipe, deeelicious
·         Eggplant (pretty striped ones this year, from a plant gifted to us by a kind neighbor)
Produce from the garden, including an eggplant, from last year.  I don't have a
picture of the pretty striped one yet!
·         Hot Peppers
·         Green peppers
·         Lettuce
·         Basil (which did not make it this year…  We were not in town to tend the garden, and the automatic watering system we set up took care of a great crop of WEEDS where it should have been nurturing basil…)
Our annual PESTO MAKING DAY a few years ago - loads and loads of basil!  
·         Parsley (which, sadly, suffered the same fate as the aforementioned basil)

And at our “get-away” beach house in Florida, we grow:
·         Myer Lemons*
·         Persian Limes*
·         Tangerines*
·         Honeybells*
·         Grapefruit*
Farmer Dave with TRIXIE, the magical fruit cocktail tree
·         Papaya (The tree, named Shania, was grown from a SEED!  Our neighbor Carol sprouted several and gave us one.  It has grown really well, but sadly, hers all died…  Awkward…)
Farmer Dave with Shania
Papayas on the tree



















·         Bananas (these are actually on a tree that is between our house and our neighbor’s.  We didn’t plant it, but I am not sure they did either…  It maybe just magically sprung up.  And the house is  rental, and just got rehabbed and flipped, so let’s face it, whoever ends up renting it is not gonna know if those bananas are theirs or ours, so I think it is fair that we try and eat a few, don’t you?)

Don't bananas on the tree look BIZARRE??
*All the tropical fruits listed above with an *ASTERISK* grow on ONE TREE – a magical tree we have named Trixie the Fruit Cocktail Tree!  She is a “hybrid”, growers grafted branches of different fruit trees onto one trunk.  The end results is, voila, TRIXIE!!!

The reason I have given you all of this background on our “farms” comes down to this:  FOOD TASTES BETTER WHEN YOU GROW IT YOURSELF!!!  No lie.  That’s not “fake news”, it is true, man!!!  An heirloom tomato picked, washed, sliced, and gobbled up is the best part of summer really.

So now that we are back in Virginia and settling back into “real life”, we are reaping what we sowed.  And boy is it yummy!!!  So, for dinner the other night, we cooked:  couscous (we did not grow this…) topped with mushrooms and garlic (we also did not grow those), eggplant (from the garden, sliced and cooked in the George Foreman grill), an amazing tomato (from the garden of course) sliced and served with salt, baby broccoli (broccolini) (from Trader Joe’s – reviewed here: Baby Broccoli Review and cooked with olive oil, juice from a Meyer Lemon from our tree, and TJ's Umami Sauce (not yet reviewed) ) and an AMAZING FIG RECIPE David found online!  And that finally brings me to the point of this piece:  YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE!

Our dinner plate - the figs were the STARS!
David found the recipe on a website called whiteonricecouple.com

Baked Figs with Bacon, Blue Cheese, Roasted Nuts
Serves 4   Total time 30 minutes

Ingredients:
·         About 8 fresh figs, cut lengthwise in half (ours were from our fig tree, of course!)
·         4 slices cooked bacon, cut into small pieces (3 slices was enough for us, and we used the world’s most amazing bacon, from TJ’s of course, reviewed here: Black Forest Ham Review  )
·         3 – 4 ounces blue cheese or goat cheese, softened and crumbled (we used our favorite feta we have found outside of Greece, TJ’s feta in brine, reviewed here:  Feta in Brine Review )
·         2 Tablespoons finely chopped roasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc) (we used some amazing praline pecan bit we scored at “Peach World” in Georgia recently)
·         2 Tablespoons honey

Directions:
·         Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
·         Place cut figs on the lined sheet pan.  If any of the figs do not sit level, make a small flat cut across the bottom of the fit so that it sits flat when you add the toppings. 
·         Top the figs with the crumbled cheese and bacon.  Press the nuts into the cheese to help keep them from falling off.  (Note from Chef David – also try pressing the BACON into the cheese to keep it from falling off.)
·         Bake the figs for 10 -15 minutes or until they are soft, or to your desired texture, and the cheese is melted.  After removing from the oven, drizzle with honey.
·         Enjoy the figs warm or at room temperature.  Serve as an appetizer or spread them on toasted bread.  Serve with your favorite glass of wine (we served them with a lovely Trader Joe’s white wine, Monique (not yet reviewed).

You guys – MAKE THIS.  It is fast and simple, but amazing!!  So delicious!!!  It tastes (and looks) like something you would pay $40 for at some fancy schmancy restaurant, only you make it in your own kitchen and then watch crap reality tv while eating it!!  Perfect!

Enjoy these last few days of summer.  The seasons are changing far too quickly for my liking, but I will keep eating garden tomatoes and pretending it is still summer for as long as I can. 

TO SUMMER!!!