Saturday, July 7, 2018

Popcorn in a Pickle is BACK AGAIN!

GUUUUYS (I mean that generically, as in "huuuumans", not "this one is for the fellas only....):

It is summer time, and you know what that means...


POPCORN IN A PICKLE IS BACK!  Can you tell I am excited???
Yes!!!  It is time for the Trader Joe's snack that sounds utterly disgusting (to me at least) but tastes ammmmazing - popcorn with pickle flavoring!  It sounds gross, but for some reason, it just works!

In the original review of this product, we gave it 4 stars (Original Popcorn in a Pickle Review ).

In the first "It's Baaaack!" reminder review, we also gave it 4 stars ( Last Year's Excited "Popcorn in a Pickle It's BAACK" Review ) .

This year it is the same great popcorn, the same low price, but the number of stars is INCREASING to 4.25!  It is like on "Naked and Afraid" when the people's PSRs go up, and you as a viewer are not quite sure why, but they did, so you just go with the flow...  (What??  You don't watch "Naked and Afraid" on the Discovery channel??  Fear not, it jumped the shark many seasons ago, but that doesn't stop me from tuning in every once in a while and watching people eat ants and make fish baskets that never catch annnnything!) 

Anyway, the point is, Popcorn in a Pickle is back, and you should try it.  It is definitely a LOVE IT or HATE IT kind of product.  I am on the LOVE IT end of the spectrum, but I totally respect you if you get it, try it, and take it back because you can't stand it.  But DO GET IT.  I mean, what have you got to lose?  Trader Joe's will happily give you your money back if you find it yucky.

We lugged our TJ's popcorn, along with a slew of other picnic snacks, through the 105 heat index afternoon to Wolf Trap Theatre in Virginia, where once the sun went down we rocked out to the Bare Naked Ladies.  The only problem was, we ate the other stuff and forgot to open the popcorn...

If I had a million dollars....
So, we hauled it AGAIN with more picnic supplies, on the 4th of July to the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.  There we dined on delicious popcorn and watching the fireworks go off in Washington DC.  May I just say, thanks for paying your taxes everyone, the fireworks were beautiful this year! 

If you squint your eyes and look by one of the red squiggles, you will see the Washington
Monument, shrouded in darkness, heat, and fireworks smoke 
Price: still $1.99
Rating: 4.25

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Baked Cheese Crunchies

This bag of TJ's Baked Cheese Crunchies boasts that these snacks have “33% less fat than regular fried cheese flavored corn snacks**”.  It took us a while to hunt around on the packaging to follow the asterisks after that statement to find what they connected to.  I finally found the mouseprint (did you know that is what teeny tiny print is called, isn’t that a fun phrase??) that told us: 
     -one 28 gram serving of TJ’s Baked Cheese Crunchies will set you back 6 grams of fat
     -whereas a 28 gram serving of Regular Fried Cheese Flavored Corn Snacks will ding you 9 grams 
       of fat.

All of that being said, I would posit that if you are worried about eating FAT, perhaps cheese doodles should not be on your shopping list.  There are much tastier "cheat foods" in my opinion!  Also, anyone who thinks that David is going to eat a 28 gram serving of Cheetos, be they “real” Cheetos or this Trader Joe’s version, is mistaken.  No, David is a Cheetos aficionado and once ate so many on a road trip that he barfed.  I think Cheetos are the only food he has ever done that with. 

Snack time
So, I recused myself from reviewing this product, since obviously David is the cheese doodle expert in our family.  I myself only eat Cheetos Puffy “Natural” Cheetos – the white ones.  And don’t lecture me, I knooooow they are not “natural”, ok?  But those are the ones I eat!

Here is what David said about this snack food:

“I will eat crunchy or non-crunchy Cheetos, because the crunch is amusing.  But these are not quite as amusing as a Cheetos brand baked crunchy snack.  These will do.  They have a bit less cheese taste than traditional crunch Cheetos.  Otherwise, they are fine. 

Does this man look excited to eat this snack food?  I think not.
I will go back to my fried puffy Cheetos “Naturals” and not get these again.  When you need a snack, these will do.*  I will give them a 3.5.”

Price:  $1.99
Rating:  3.5

*Editor’s note:  When David said, “When you need a snack these will do,” I pointed out to him that if you really neeeeeded a snack, a fried turd would do.  He stressed that he would give a fried turd a lower score than these TJ’s Baked Cheese Crunchies. 

EDITOR'S IMPORTANT NOTE:  I find this very funny: I just realized, after writing this review, that we have previously reviewed this product.  It is bound to happen, there are probably around 500 reviews in my blog.  But I totally forgot that we rated these way back in September 2015.  I am impressed that they got almost the same score back then, and also impressed that TJ's has not increased the price at all.  I smiled when I read a reader's comment on the original review (that I had forgotten) dissing name brand Cheetos.  Link to original review here:  Baked Cheese Crunchies Original Review

Friday, June 15, 2018

Maria Jola Sangria - NEW PACKAGING!

Guys, summer time is here, and you know what that means...

SUMMMMMMER!!!  Vacation beach jump - Poipou Beach, Kauai, Hawaii 

I just made a trip to Trader Joe's to stock up on sangria (the sunshine was already provided by Mother Nature :) ).  I got a little nervous when I didn't see the brightly colored Maria Jola bottle of yore.... 
This is from LAST YEAR, when I was ever so excited to grab a bottle of sangria!! 
I thought I would find this same bottle on the shelf today, but no luck...
But then I found THIS cutie patootie:

New packaging!! 
The TJ's employee assured me it is the same sangria, just in a newly designed package.  I have to say, I think this is a big improvement over the old bottle!  The dots are FUN, fun, fun and the whole thing just looks, oh, I don't know, classier I guess.  It is still made of plastic so you can easily toss it around for picnics or travel without worrying. 

Our local TJ's did not have the white sangria version today, which was a-ok with me because we think that kind tastes like bathroom cleaner.  And if there is one thing I do NOT want to sip on a warm summer night, it is bathroom cleaner... 

Original review of both the red and white sangrias here:  Maria Jola Red and White Sangrias

I am planning on making a batch of this tonight and sitting out on the front porch for dinner and drinks.  Ahhhh, summer!

Price:  $5.99 (though I am not certain the bottle holds the same amount as the old one)
Rating:  we haven't drunk it yet to be SURE, but if the TJ's person was correct that it is the same product, I will stick with our previous rating of 4.25


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Matcha Joe-Joe's*

Joe-Joe’s* (for the uninitiated) are Trader Joe’s version of Oreos.  Or, if you grew up in my partner David’s household, Trader Joe’s version of Hydrox.  Either way, if you know Oreos or Hydrox, you have a mental image of the cookie I am referring to – cookie wafers hugging a layer of cream (or, in some instances, kreme).  To be honest here, we are not Joe-Joe’s eaters.  They are super popular with TJ’s shoppers, but for some reason they are one item that we never grab off the shelves.

Regardless of our shopping tendencies, Trader Joe’s must sell a ton of Joe-Joe’s, because they make special Joe-Joe flavors all the time.  Pumpkin Joe-Joe's.  Peppermint Joe-Joe's.  Mango Joe-Joe’s.  Joe-Joe’s aficionados fawn over the flavors.  Unfortunately for us, we jumped on board at Matcha Joe-Joe’s.

The box is a pretty color!
I put these cookies in our cart during a massive shopping trip last summer.  At that time TJ’s was going crazy with weird, exotic flavors.  We were getting ready to escape to Florida for a couple of months, where our nearest Trader Joe’s is a 90 minute drive away.  I wanted to stock up and this box of Joe-Joe’s was something that looked a bit “exotic” that I thought we should try.  David, as you can see in the photo, did not really agree…

He hasn't even tried them and already he is cranky.
Anyway, the Joe-Joe’s came with us to Florida.  And never got opened.  So, they came back home to DC with us.  And never got opened…  They lay in wait in the darkened cupboard, sealed and patient.  Every time I saw the box and thought about opening it, something else caught my eye and that got eaten instead.  But we finally decided to bite the bullet and see what Matcha Joe-Joe’s are all about.  I wasn’t going to review them – it sort of didn’t seem fair since they expired November 10, 2017 and we opened them April 13, 2018.  OK, so they were 5 months expired by the time we (honestly, not “we”, HE) were brave enough to taste them.  Also, I thought I wouldn’t post a review because I didn’t think Trader Joe’s sold them anymore.  But when David reported that they were BACK ON THE SHELVES at the store, I figured I better put this word of caution out onto the interwebs 😊 .

The first thing David did when he busted this box of cookies open was to rip apart a Joe-Joe so that all he had was the wafer bits.  “Woah, woah, hold on,” I told him.  “If we are reviewing Matcha Joe-Joe’s, you have to buckle down and eat some of the matcha!”. 

A dissected Joe Joe.
For my part, I just SMELLED these cookies.  I was not interested in actually tasting them.  And smelling was pleeeenty for me – they smelled gross!  The matcha is a pretty color, it looks like WASABI.  Hey, now that I think about it, let me recommend that to TJ’s – WASABI JOE-JOE’S!  Those would definitely fall into the “Go Big Or Go Home” category!  Anyway, I did not taste these cookies so of course I recused myself from reviewing them.

Here is what David thought when he tried the Matcha Joe-Joe’s:  “These are terrible.  The filling is awful.  I don’t like the flavor.  The cookie itself is not as nice as one might hope when one is scraping the matcha goop out of the middle to try to get a nice sugar or shortbread cookie-ness.  Perhaps that is because it has been contaminated by the matcha goop.  I am going to give these cookies a .5, only because they are COOKIES.  But the rest – NO THANKS.”

Our intrepid taster.
Editor’s note:  I asked our reviewer if he felt these cookies might have been tastier if he had tried them before they expired, and he flatly replied, “No.  Not at all.”

David wanted to take these cookies back to the store, but I felt guilty about doing that since they had been in our cupboard so long and were expired.  So, we just ended up throwing them away.

Price tag from 2017 - price may be different this year 
Another editor’s note:  I know some people are going to disagree vehemently with this review.  They are going to be PRO JOE-JOE no matter what sort of goop is between the cookies.  They are going to be matcha fiends who find our uneducated matcha palates are crude and uncultured.  To you – I say – BUY THE MATCHA JOE-JOE’S!!  Trust me, we won’t be fighting you for them 😊

Price:  $2.99 (in 2017, not sure of 2018 price)
Rating:  .5

*Why is “Joe-Joe’s” possessive?  Like, what exactly does this cream filled cookie POSSESS?  This is a strange grammatical wonder.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Normally, I would not write a review of a blooming plant like this hyacinth until it actually BLOOMED.  I mean, the FLOWERING is the whole point of it, right?

I got mine!  You better hurry, these beauties won't be at Trader Joe's very long...
But the thing is, Trader Joe’s is only going to have these for a limited time, and you need to get one.  So, I decided to go ahead and run this review now, while my hyacinth is still pre-bloom, to give you time to rush out to your local TJ’s and pick one up!

The tag shows us how pretty this bulb will be when the flowers bloom
Here’s the deal – they are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP.  Seriously, you get the bulb and the sweet little glass vase for only $2.99.  That is cheaper than a coffee at Starbucks (or Caribou Coffee if you are boycotting Starbucks right now…).  And when this baby blooms it is going to be loooovely and the smell will be DIVINE!  (Bonus, when you are done with this year’s bloom, you can plant the bulb in your yard!  And you can re-purpose the vase or put another bulb in it and start all over!)

See?  Sweet little glass vase.  You need one.  So does your neighbor.  Hurry up!  Go now.
Please, put down what you are doing right now and just run out to Trader Joe’s.  Get yourself one, and hey, be kind and buy a couple for your neighbors!  Just put them on their front porch so when they get home from work they are delighted, surprised, and confused, as in, “Oh my!  A beautiful hyacinth almost ready to bloom!  How delightful!  And what a surprise!  This wasn’t here when I left for work this morning…  But, color me confused.  I mean, WHO PUT IT HERE??”.  Go for it! 
Price:  a crazy cheap $2.99 
Rating:  5

P.S. - if you DO get one for your neighbor, please comment here and tell me!  I would love to see a bunch of people get surprised by hyacinth!  :) 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Let me begin by saying, DAVID DOES NOT LET PIE GO TO WASTE.  David loves him some pie.  I mean, he loves all desserts, including pie.  This being his reality, his eyes lit up when he saw this Strawberry Rhubarb pie in Trader Joe’s this week.

Of course, he got it.  Heck, he has been working hard lately and deserves a special treat!  Only, when we served it later the same evening, it didn’t turn out to be a treat at all…

The label promised the dessert would be "mouth watering"
Here is David’s review of the pie:  “Surprisingly, I don’t like this pie.  And the CRUST is the heart of why, really.  The crust is underdone or something – it is not pleasant.  And then once you get through the crust all you have is tart rhubarb and not very strong strawberry taste.  I would like to take it back and return it, it’s that bad.  I would rather have a cherry pie instead of this, and I am not a big fan of cherry pies.  I like strawberry rhubarb pies, they remind me of when I lived in England and my friend Toby’s mom would make it.  But this pie by Trader Joe’s is not good.  I give it a 2, but those points are just because it is a PIE.”

Isn't it pretty?  Looks like something your Great Aunt would bring to the 4th of July picnic or something.
Here is what I thought of it:  “This was a beautiful pie.  It had sweet stars on the top, which gives it extra points in my book because they make the pie pretty.  😊  The colors of the strawberries and rhubarb peeking through the stars is also appealing to the eye.  I am not a “pie person”.  I would not usually choose pie from a dessert menu, but since David wanted this one, I jumped on board.  Surprisingly, I liked it.  the sweetness of the strawberries and the tartness of the rhubarb were a nice combination.  Sadly, the CRUST was underdone and sort of dough-y.  That was a turn-off.  I give it a 3.25.”

The trees are all in bloom in Washington DC!  HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE!
Note:  David did not end up taking the pie back.  He wanted to, but I cut another little slice out to eat for breakfast, and it seems tacky to take a product back and say, “This tastes crappy” when there is, like, 1/3 of it already eaten.  Trader Joe’s are great about accepting returns of things you do not like, and if we get a real clunker we don’t hesitate to take it back, but we don’t want to abuse their kind return policy.

Price:  $6.99
Rating:  2.5

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Milk Chocolate Truffles

Milk Chocolate Truffles with Soft Creme Center

The wrappings on these truffles are very, very pretty.  They are extremely detailed little pieces of artwork.   The truffles are made in Germany and the nutritional information says that a serving size is 2 pieces.  For ME, 1 piece of these is a serving.

This photo really doesn't do the wrapper justice.  They are very pretty.
David is our resident sweet expert, and here is what he thought of these truffles:  “There are 3 different colors of wrapper, but the truffles inside are all the same.  The chocolate is excellent, really great.  The overall truffle is good.  I think the inside is a little bit heavy for me.  I wouldn’t mind something a little more mousse-like.  The crΓ¨me is very rich and buttery.  Maybe most people would pop a whole one of these in their mouth – and the balance is very good.  (Editor’s note:  David would never eat a treat like this all in one bite 😊 ).   I give these a 4.25.”

Even before we opened the BAG David's mouth was watering.
As for my take on this special treat, I am surprised at how cheap these are.  There are 10 truffles in a bag and they sell for only $2.29.  I think they would be GREAT to buy a bag of, open, and put a few into Easter baskets.  They are very tasty.  They beat “normal” Easter candy hands down.  (In other words – I would prefer one of these truffles over a fake-y hollow chocolate bunny any day.) 

The milk chocolate quality in these truffles is very nice.  The size of each truffle is a little too big for me, but I think most people would be perfectly fine with the size.  The flavors are a very nice blend – the crΓ¨me-y, truffle-y inside and the milk chocolate outside.  These would be good to give as gifts.  I give them a 4.25.

Here is the creme center
So, there you go!  We both really liked this new treat from Trader Joe’s.  It may well be seasonal, so you should get some soon.  I think we will grab another bag.  Or two…  Ok, probably two… 

P.S. – We liked these better than TJ’s Milk Chocolate Truffle BAR.  You can see a previous review of that product here:  Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar Review

Price:  $2.29
Rating:  4.25

Bonus photo:  HAPPY EASTER (to those who celebrate) from my sisters and I. 
I think this photo is circa Easter morning, 1968 or 1969.  Attractive, no??

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beer Bread Mix AND Charlottesville, VA Trader Joe's

We went on a road trip recently, and if you know me, you know what that means:  EXPLORING NEW TRADER JOE’S LOCATIONS!  This time we went to the TJ’s on Bond Street in Charlottesville, Virginia. I believe it was the 31st Trader Joe’s location (in 14 states) that I have set foot in since I began this project.  😊

Wheee - Trader Joe's in Charlottesville, Virginia
(and me in a new scarf I bought earlier on the road trip)
The Charlottesville store is a little hard to get to because of its placement in a chichi outdoor mall.  Once you make all the necessary twists and turns to arrive, it fits right in with the upscale environment.  There is free parking, always a plus.  We were there on a Friday afternoon and it was a bit crowded.  The signage (each store has their own sign artists) was alright, not my favorite.  One thing that was really good (that I haven’t seen in other stores) was that right in the foyer they had a sign telling you what they were sampling today.  That meant you could start dreaming about what you would get a nibble of as you meandered the aisles doing your shopping!

Sign right when you enter the store telling you what is being sampled, cool!

Some of the store artwork.  As always, very appropriate subject matter for the location.
Every time I visit a new store I ask if they have a local item that is not sold nationwide at other TJ’s locations.  Some stores have no idea what I am talking about (and explain that all TJ’s stores carry identical items, which you know is not true if you have followed this blog as I have discovered cool regional items).  This store did not have any local things, though they did mention that they carry the big tin of Virginia Peanuts over the holidays (those are now in all TJ’s stores as seasonal items, and as a Virginian I think that is pretty cool).  We did find one local wine (from Horton Winery).  Speaking of wine, a great thing about this location is that they had some wine CHILLED.  Our usual TJ’s does not do that.  But if you live in Charlottesville, you can pop in for a bottle of white wine and pop that puppy open as soon as you get home!  Sweet.

Need some already chilled wine?  They've got you covered!
I believe this is the first Trader Joe’s I have ever gone into where I left empty handed.  Yup, we didn’t buy a single item.  Granted, we were on a road trip and had a car full of Trader Joe’s snacks and had already munched on some before we got to Charlottesville, but still, strolling through a grocery store and not coming out with something is rare for us. 

But just because we didn’t purchase anything in Charlottesville doesn’t mean there won’t be a product review today.  I will review something we bought at our local store – BEER BREAD MIX.  Have you tried it?  If not, you are seriously missing out!!

David looks a bit funny when considering the purchase of Beer Bread Mix
Here is what I think of it:  The worst thing about this bread is that it tastes so good when it is fresh and warm is that you might eat so much of it (because it is soooo tasty) that you won’t be able to eat the rest of your dinner.  And really, is that such a bad problem to have??

It is super easy to make – you just need the bread mix and one bottle of beer, plus some butter to put on top.  We used a Pills beer and the bread was delicious!  You can also add cheese, which we did not do since we were serving it with a homemade cheesy potato soup. 

Just add beer and butter!  Easy peasy
It tastes like a soda bread and I think it would be great with chili.  It is not sandwich making bread, but it is great alongside a meal.  It doesn’t taste too much like beer, but there is a hint of the flavor.  I don’t know how well the bread will hold up – it seems like something you will want to snarf down the day you make it. 

A warm piece of Beer Bread?  Yes please....
In all honesty, our box of this mix sat in the cupboard a looong time before I baked it.  Ours expired February 16th and I made it 11 days later, but it still turned out great!  I am not sure if it is still on the shelves at TJ’s, I think it is/was a winter seasonal product.  If you see a box, grab it.  And if you do not see a box now, do not fear.  It should come ‘round again next fall!  I will give this product a 5!

David:  “It is like Irish soda bread and also a bit like cornbread.  It is delicious and hearty.  It is good to put butter on it even though there is already a lot of butter on it when you bake it.  I think it is a good idea not to add cheese to it because it is so tasty without it.  it is quick and easy to make.  It might be interesting to see what it would be like baked in tiny pans or like muffins.  I will give this a 5.”

Price:  $2.79
Rating:  5

And here is a bonus photo for anyone still reading.  On the same day of this road trip we also stopped at Cox Farms.  A photo of one of their signs, it says RESIST WHITE SUPREMACY, recently went viral.  We saw that sign along with several others.  This one was my favorite :).

But SRSLY....

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Spud Crunchies Potato Snacks*

This is a first for this review blog – not only do we have a guest reviewer today, we have a guest ANIMAL reviewer!  Yes, this is our first review by an animal, specifically, a DEER.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s set the scene first.
David with our bag of Spud Crunchies
Trader Joe’s Spud Crunchies Potato Snacks* have a cute little package.  On the front are “spud crunchies” with faces drawn on them – one has a mustache and one looks like a wiener dog 😊 .   The bag says, “A chip crunch in a fun fry shape,” and lets us know they are gluten free.

Those are some cute little crunchies, no?
Here is what David thought of this snack:  “My first impression is, it is like a frozen French fry that is warmed up.  It is kind of dry.  It has a hint of potato chip-ness about, but more of a hint of potato stick-ness about it.  Now, I’m a fan of both chips and sticks, but the disadvantage here is that it is so thick, the dryness overtakes it and it is not counterbalanced enough SALT.  With regular potato sticks you are getting a fair does of salt to give it some tang…  So, I would say, I give this a 3.25.  It’s not a big winner.”

Ahhh, who can pass up a snack that doubles as a pretend cigarette???
And now for my opinion:  I agree with David.  I thought that these tasted like frozen french fries that were brought to room temperature but not cooked.  And before you say, “Susan, how in the heck would you know what that would taste like??” let me tell you that when I was a little girl, I had a friend who would only eat french fries if they were straight out of the freezer.  Anyway, when I eat these Spud Crunchies, I have memories of sitting with that person chomping on frozen french fries in the kitchen of a little house in Omaha. 

I agree with David, also, in the fact that the thickness of these crunchies dries them out.  And, to me, it also makes the inside of the crunchy tastes like styrofoam.  I don’t know if that is a TASTE or a TEXTURE thing really, but I would prefer the potato sticks of my youth that came in a little can and were super greasy.  Do they even make those things anymore???  These TJ’s Spud Crunchies are making me hungry for some of those unhealthy crappy potato sticks.  (Note to self: go to a store other than TJ’s and see if they still make those things!)  David and I agree that this Trader Joe’s version probably has less salt and less fat than the potato sticks of our youth, resulting in less taste, and c’mon, how fun is THAT?

Reasonably priced at $1.99
All that being said, they don’t taste horrible or anything.  The texture is just weird.  And I guess if you are gonna eat something chip like, you might as well eat a chip!!!  I am gonna give these a 3.

And now for our final reviewer – THIS DEER!!!! 

We drove to Kentucky recently, and on our way home we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park to check out the “world’s longest cave”.  When we pulled into the parking lot, we spied this beauty over by some unoccupied rental cabins.  We drove over near her and lo and behold if she didn’t walk right up to the car and stare at us.  I rolled down my window to say hello, but she was so close I was afraid she was going to put her runny nose right into our front seat so I had to put the window back up!!!  She was adorable, and obviously knew that people = food.


David checked out our backseat food pile to see what she might like.  It was between “Naturals” Cheetos and these Spud Crunchies.  Guess which one won?? 

David was a bit timid at first, but Doe A Deer wasn't!
SHE LOVED SPUD CRUNCHIES!  She ate them right out of David’s hand!  She was ever so gentle (if a bit slobbery…) and really enjoyed the snack.  (And please don’t go on about how we should not feed the animals.  There were no signs up to warn us of that until we got inside, and then we looked at each other and went, “Oops!” and David excused himself to wash the goo off his hand…)**

Ahh, product placement!  See, she loves 'em!
Anyway, the deer (who we named Doe, A Deer) loved this product.  She had zero complaints about not enough salt or styrofoam-y texture.  She gave them a solid 5 star rating!

"Thanks for the snack, mister!"
Price:  $1.99
Rating (average of 2 humans and 1 deer):  3.75

*If you saw the article going around that said all of Trader Joe’s products could be sung to the tune “Eleanor Rigby”, then THIS product is an example of how, sadly, that claim is untrue. (Link to Buzz Feed article about TJ's products being sung to the tune of Eleanor Rigsby ) I sooo wanted it to be true!  I mean, how hilarious if every product on TJ’s shelves could be sung to a Beatle’s song, specifically to “Eleanor Rigby”!  Alas, it was too good to be true.  Try this one – SPUD CRUNCHIES POTATO SNACKS.  It sort of works if you leave off “snacks”, but let’s be honest, I hate to say this, but that whole Eleanor Rigby thing was, as some would say, fake news….

**I am in no way advocating for you to feed wild animals anything, let alone Spud Crunchies. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cinnamon Sugar Muffin and Baking Mix

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I am writing and posting this review on February 14th, but the product being reviewed has nothing to do with the holiday.  Even so, may your day be full of love, hugs, and chocolate (if you are into those kinds of things).

Now for the review.  I found this box of Cinnamon Sugar Muffin and Baking Mix on a Trader Joe’s “end cap” (that’s the big display at the end of an aisle for those of you who have never worked retail 😊 ).  The picture on the package looked like a tasty muffin, so I grabbed a box and made them on a recent Sunday morning.  (I say “morning”, but on days that my partner and I both have off of work, “morning” can be any time we are still in our robes and sitting down to coffee and breakfast.  On lazy days it is usually past noon.  😊 ). 

THIS is an end cap.  Lovely!

Good signage, too

The box has two versions – muffins or coffee cake.  I made them as muffins.  Here is what we thought of them:

David:  “I am gonna give these a 5.  The taste is great!  I would recommend slicing them in half and then re-dipping them in the melted butter and cinnamon sugar (editor’s note: that muffin eating style may not be the healthiest of choices but it is a delicious and creative option).  The taste is good.  The texture is good.  The amount of butter, cinnamon, and sugar is delightful!  Plus, they are very easy to make – you just get up in the morning and your girlfriend has already made them for you!!”

Muffins, espresso, grapefruit, fresh squeezed OJ, and the Sunday morning Washington Post. 
David in his "happy place". 
My take:  Even though I was the one who actually made them, I agree with David that they were easy to prepare.  All you need is water, one egg, and butter.  They are easy to mix, too.  You know how some muffin mixes are all lumpy when you mix them up?  This one was not like that.  One baking note though:  the box says to melt 6 tablespoons of butter (which is used to dip the baked muffin tops in before rolling them in the cinnamon sugar).  I had 5 tablespoons of butter handy, so used that, and it was more than enough.  I would say start with 4 or 5 tablespoons then melt a bit more if you need it.

These muffins and PRETTY and TASTY, a good combination
I will buy these again.  They would be good to make if you are having people over for breakfast or brunch.  I like that they are not toooooo sweet as some box muffin mixes are. That might be because these, being from Trader Joe’s, have more natural, “hippy” ingredients.  The box says these, “…make a light and fluffy muffin with the flavor of a donut,” which we agree with.  The texture of the muffins is terrific – they have a fluffy quality and are not as dense as some muffins are.  TJs also says these are, “A perfect combination to a cup of joe or alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream”.  We paired ours with cups of joe (and I drank mine our of my new espresso cup!).

My new espresso cup was the perfect compliment to these muffins
The box says it makes 12 muffins, I got 10 (which I guess only proves that I put more batter in the muffin cups than they expected me to).  I am going to agree with my Valentine and give these muffins a 5 star rating, too.  I am not sure if they are a seasonal item or if TJs will continue to carry them, but I recommend picking up a box soon.  They are tasty!

Bonus cheesy kissing photo for Valentine's (which was actually TAKEN on Christmas,
making the whole thing a bit confusing really...)
Price:  $2.99

Rating:  5 stars

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fruit Fancies

If you are new to Trader Joe’s, you may not know about HOLIDAY PRODUCTS.  Oh, November and December are magical months at Trader Joe’s!!  Products appear on the shelves that you have never seen before (or at least haven’t seen since last holiday season)!!  The die hards (like me) rush to Trader Joe’s as soon as word gets out that the holiday items are trickling in.  And each trip to the grocery store turns into an exciting journey – what will I find this time?  What will be new?  What special treat will make its way into my cart???

It was in that holiday haze that the FRUIT FANCIES made their way into our lives. 

Aren't they pretty?  And don't they look FANCY?  I mean, the word FANCY is right there in the NAME!
Do you think the sign maker at the Fairfax Virginia store had tasted these and KNEW they were not fancy, thus made them this pretty non-fancy sign?  That's my theory.  It was a SIGN...  A sign I should have paid attention to...
What can I say, I was smitten???  They looked good to me for some reason…  Sure, they seemed sort of like “Grandma and Grandpa” treats.  Or like little rolled up turds covered in sesame seeds and coconut.  But the BOX – oh man – the BOX they came in was lovely!  It had dovetailed corners!  The box is what sold me.  That, and the fact that we were heading to Omaha to celebrate the holidays, and we would be staying with my dad and his wife, who are not only Grandparents, they are Great-Grandparents!  So even if this treat was “Grandparent food”, we would be sharing it with actual grandparents, so all would be good!

I asked my dad to make a funny face.  He did.  I love it.  
Only, we never got around to eating them in Omaha…  So, they came back, unopened, then made their way to Florida!  “We will bring them next door and share them with the neighbors,” I reasoned.  Only, you see where this is going, we didn’t do that either.

Christmas Day 2017 - too busy to be bothered by Fruit Fancies...
So, before you know it, it was the last day of January and the Fruit Fancies were still unopened.  But after we ate dinner while watching “Amazing Race” (go team Brainiacs!) , David ripped into these special treat, and, well, they ended up being not so special after all…   Oh, and before you say, “Susan, of course they tasted like %&*#, they were a HOLIDAY ITEM and you let them sit until almost February!  They were too old!” – N-O.  They didn’t expire until 11/18. 

OK, here is what we thought of them:

David:  “Well, these are different.  They are like Fig Newtons that have even less moisture in them, and perhaps a little extra fiber.  They are dry.  The mouth feel is not a joy ride for me.  These things suck the moisture right out of your mouth!  I give them a 1.  The reason I am not giving them a 0 is that they do not taste bad, they just do not taste good.  The box is alright, but it is a little skinny to use for anything else.  I have to respect the dovetail jointing.”

David didn't fancy these, did fancy them at all.  
Susan:  I am just gonna say it – I was duped by the wooden, dovetailed box.  They punked me!  I think the term for this type of duped is “The Hickory Farm Effect”.  You know how Hickory Farms always had (is it has – does PF still exist in the MALL SETTING where they had special displays of meat and cheese for the holidays?) really attractive PACKAGING?  Like, “Put it in a basket, then the dyed orange cheese with pimentos and nuts will sell!!”.  Yeah – Trader Joe’s Hickory Farmed me with this one! 

The treats looked very pretty in the packaging.  Each one was topped with a whole nut on top – some with almonds and some with walnuts.  The things that “encrusted” each piece – sesame seeds or coconut – looked lovingly applied.  Each piece looked like a fancy, Mediterranean delight.  To my EYES, they looked like they would taste a bit exotic, sweet, a bit juicy, perhaps fig-like, and yummy.

But EYES are not what actually TASTE things… 

These are a product from Turkey.  But they are not “from Turkey” in a sexy, romantic, exotic kind of way.  They are not good.  I ate 2 – one of each variety.  I thought David ate ONE, but later learned he could only stomach ¼ of 1 and threw out the rest (that man never throws out a sweet!!). 

The NUT on top of each piece was nice, but there was only one nut per piece.  I guess a person could just pop the nut off the top of each one and eat only that, but it would be easier and cheaper just to head over to the TJ’s nut aisle and get yourself a whole bag of nuts.  I will give this product a 1.5 (the majority of the score is for the cool box and the nuts on top).
Sorry Trader Joe's, we don't really want these anymore....
Let this be a lesson to me (and to you): not ALL Trader Joe’s holiday products are lovely.  Even the pretty ones are sometimes duds.  Luckily, Trader Joe’s happily accepts any returns, so we took this back.  Our cashier saw the return and said, “Oh yeah, I didn’t like those things either…” 😊

You can’t get this product at Trader Joe’s right now since it was seasonal, but if it does come back next year, I suggest you pass.  Grab some of the other delightful items, and leave them for some other sucker to get Hickory Farmed.

Price:  $5.99 

Rating:  1.25