Snacking on life, living off snacks.

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Review: Chocolate cake mix

In Uncategorized on 11/03/2010 at 1:36 am

While I was underwhelmed about the yellow cake mix and frosting, the chocolate cake mix was wildly successful. I made cupcakes for a Halloween party, in which we stuck Milano cookies on top as tombstones!

If there was one defining characteristic of the cupcake, it’s the moistness. Like an insta-humidifier, it made even the pumpkin muffins in the shared tupperware super-moist. It made the Milano cookies soft. The paper wrappers were almost soggy.

But complaining that a cupcake is too moist is like complaining the weather is too nice, or that sushi is too fresh. The chocolate taste was not overwhelming, nor too sweet. Just right.

I used melted butter instead of oil in the mix, and used TJ’s chocolate frosting mix. Fabulous.

You can’t really see the photo below, but if it were touchable I guarantee you your fingers would be moisturized, not to mention tasty.

Chocolate cake mix: 4.5/5 pelts

Yellow Cake Mix, Chocolate Frosting Mix

In Uncategorized on 10/02/2010 at 4:45 am

These were the shiny new things on the shiny new product shelf at TJ’s. Requiring a grand total of 3 sticks of butter, I set to work in making a cake and cupcakes.

I was initially fearful that the yellow cake mix would not taste sweet enough, and I was right. Unequivocally, my test subjects reported that the cake tasted squarely like cornbread. Sweet cornbread.

I put too much water in the frosting, but it tasted fine enough. Slathered on the cornbread, er, yellow cake, it made for an interesting contrast. I ate this cake for breakfast for three days. That’s not really relevant to anything, but seems like the sort of thing one would need to confess.

I wasn’t a huge fan of either, but they were moist,  ridiculously buttery, and easy to make. They are good alternatives to the more frou frou Madagascar Vanilla and truffle brownie mixes. I would stick to my artificial Duncan Hines and funfetti frosting, but that’s just my palate.

Yellow cake mix: 3/5 pelts

Chocolate frosting mix: 3/5 pelts.

Review: Macarons a la Parisienne

In Uncategorized on 07/23/2010 at 3:44 am

These are the most amazing things I’ve ever bought from Trader Joe’s.  So amazing that I didn’t have time to take a picture and post it. This is an urgent matter of national importance. The vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache macarons (not to be confused with the coconut American cookie) are transcendent. Delicate, complex, creamy, without being overly sweet. Very dainty little things that are probably meant to be consumed in a dainty manner with pinkies up. (You can guess that’s not the way I, a brute American, consume them.) Also, at $4.99 for 10, not super cheap, but cheaper than the $1-2 a pop you procure from the local cafe.

When they inexplicably disappeared from the freezer aisle (not that inexplicably I guess since things seem to come and go mysteriously at TJ’s), I entered into near panic. Thankfully, a (somewhat scared) employee told me they’d be back in the store between 8am-10am on Wednesday.

There are now 2 boxes residing safely in my fridge.

Get thee to a Trader Joe’s and buy some, now. Maintenant. Maintenant!

Macarons a la Parisienne: 5/5 pelts

Review: Organic Ketchup

In Uncategorized on 04/28/2010 at 1:34 am

I am a person of simple pleasures. So much happiness is found in really simple things: Flower petals cascading from the trees like a spring snow shower. A goofy labrador meandering from its owner. A young’un giving up his seat for the elderly on the subway. The addictive chorus of Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Sweet potato fries that make you want to kiss the earth from whence it came. And so forth.

All this is to say that one of the best products I’ve had from Trader Joe’s is not of the complicated, random or inventive variety. Not the chocolate dipped almonds, the quirkily packaged pita products, or newfangled soy interpretations (such as corn dogs and wannabe chicken nuggets). My favorite product is extremely simple: plain ol’ Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.

My apartment runs through this stuff like nobody’s business (which may or may not be attributed to one of my roommate’s steady devotion to said sweet potato fries). But I know what you’re thinking. It’s ketchup. Not truffle oil. Not garlic aioli. Not mango ginger chutney. It’s ketchup.

Do not let its pedestrian nature deceive you. I dare you to eat a fry dipped in TJ Ketchup versus one dipped in Heinz. TJ Ketchup has a bold, natural, almost A1-like taste, but the best part lies in the texture. Unlike other ketchups, which have a uniformly squeezable cohesive squirty texture not unlike that of puffy paint, fortified with high fructose corn syrup, TJ Ketchup comes out loose and almost grainy. I don’t know if I’m explaining it the best way, but you can visibly tell the difference between a generic or Heinz ketchup and TJ Ketchup. Plus TJ Ketchup doesn’t leave a lingering stickiness or smell.

The ketchup is fantastic. I will drown my soy nuggets in the stuff. I will eat it with my fried rice. I will slather my eggs with it. Alternated with my trusty Korean red pepper sauce (gochujang), this ketchup is a frequent accompaniment to my dinners.

I am not beneath licking it off a spoon, either. Love the stuff, pure and simple.

Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup: 5/5 pelts.

Review: Oatmeal Complete, original flavor

In Uncategorized on 04/14/2010 at 1:32 am

Were you one of those children who liked to eat paste? If you would like to relive those fond elementary school memories, then boy, does Trader Joe’s have the product for you.

From a health standpoint, Trader Joe’s Complete Oatmeal sounds like the perfect meal. The nutritional merits are manifold: 35% of daily value of calcium, B6 and B12 vitamins, folic acid and flax, and 2 grams of soy protein. Never mind that I don’t know what good the B vitamins do, this thing sounds like a super food! Of course, there is a catch…

Normally, I eat a cup of oatmeal at my desk in the mornings. I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal, but it’s fast and filling and efficient for breakfast fuel. For awhile, I bought Trader Joe’s instant oatmeal in apple and maple/brown sugar flavors. I wondered if I could cut back on my breakfast sugar intake (if anything, to make room for more desserts at night) and boost my nutritional and vitamin intake. Enter Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Complete in original flavor, with a sparse 2g of sugar. Hearty sustenance, without the sugar guilt.

But alas, even my well-trained palate could not take it. I can delude myself into eating soy nuggets. I eat bagels, bread, sandwiches, potatoes, etc. unadorned and unslathered (if I eat them at all). I can eat steamed broccoli for dinner and soy ice cream for dessert without envy. But getting through a cup of Oatmeal Complete was a task. It was grueling.

Edible glue. Elmer’s should slap a label on this thing. Even diluted with more water than called for, even when I added slivers of almond and raw brown sugar, it still tasted like glue.  I felt like maybe instead I should have just mixed in some glitter, slapped it on construction paper and called it a day.

To give it credit, it is quite filling. Also, it is a product of Canada. Oh, Canada, it’s okay. Low crime, bad oatmeal. Can’t have it all.

Oatmeal complete, original flavor: 1/5 pelts

Review: Cat Cookies

In Uncategorized on 02/10/2010 at 2:15 am

I do not like cats. They are usually mean, cold, selfish little things that do not hold a candle to the loyal, adorable, loving dog. However, in recent days, dozens upon dozens of cats have flooded my apartment and I could not be happier.

I am of course talking about Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies. They’re low-fat crunchy delicious cat-shaped cookies (helpfully, the package disclaims they’re “for people”), and this particular flavor–ginger– is enticingly snappy and tasty.  They also come in chocolate and cinnamon. They’re bite-sized, which means you can consume handfuls without feeling guilty. However…

Warning: they are extremely addicting. I bought a tub on Friday evening and by Monday, one of my roommates had to buy a new tub to replace them. We cannot keep our paws off this thing. Someone will open the tub, then we’ll close it, then we’ll open it again, close it, only to open it again.

In fact, after our second tub, I declared that we had to stop buying them, for reasons related to this compulsion.

Our apartment is once again No Cats Allowed.

Cat Cookies: 5/5 pelts

Review: Pita Puffs

In review on 01/30/2010 at 4:46 am

Let us begin with a brief history of the store-shelf pita and its carby spawn.

In the beginning, there was pita bread. A staple of Mediterranean cuisine, one would use this thin, flat bread to complement the thick, savory goodness of hummus. Pita bread could be found on the bread shelves of Trader Joe’s for a minimal price.

Then there was the pita chip. Elevating the pita to crispy, salty new levels, the pita chip arguably usurped the position of the pita bread as it was eminently dippable and delicious by itself– sans hummus. One could not say the same about Trader Joe’s pita bread. Alone, it was rather dry and historical-tasting.

Then came the pita round cracker. A classier addition to the Pita portfolio, these crackers could also withstand the weight of cheese,  jam,  and other heartier fare. A delicious cracker, it would not buckle under the weight of artichoke dip, whereas the less-versatile, less-sturdy pita chip might. The pita round cracker also looked better on silver platters next to the olives, whereas the pita chip was only fit for party bowls and disposable trays.  One would bring pita round crackers to a wine-tasting, pita chips to a Super Bowl party.

Then there was the reduced-fat pita chip. An attempt to expand the pita bread fan base, this product reached out to health nuts who were previously unwilling to relinquish celery and carrots as hummus-dippers due to the fat content in pita chips. Sadly, the reduced fat pita chip under-performed, as the lack of fat was compensated by an overdose of salt.

For awhile it seemed that Trader Joe’s had exhausted all the potential from the humble pita. Until…

The pita puff arrived. I first was attracted to the large Roman figure on the packaging. A sucker for antiquities and other museum relics, I was intrigued by such a cultured piece of cellophane. I also happened to stumble upon some samples in the corner of the store. The pita puff is essentially a mini-pita round with a puff of air blown into it. It was light, airy, and crunchy with just the right amount of sea salt. I was hooked. I became a PitaPuffGirl (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

It captures all the flavorful goodness of pita without the heaviness that sometimes accompanied the chip or cracker. It also was a capable dipper– especially if you eat half of it first, you can use the other half to scoop the hummus!

Pita Puffs: 5/5 pelts

Yum. My only problem is with the packaging. As much as I love TJ’s quirkiness, I do wish they would take more care to write better copy on the back. Aside from the fact that I don’t actually know if Romans ate pita (their Greek counterparts did, however. I hope Athena is not turning in her grave…err….cloud), the rambling text on the back of the bag confused me completely. As long as they don’t start labeling their sushi with “Trader Ming,” however, I’ll be good to go.

But let it be said: Trader Joe’s, if you ever need someone to write the back of your packaging, I’m your lady.

Meanwhile, pass the bag of pita puffs.

Review: Righteous Rounds

In Uncategorized on 01/11/2010 at 3:39 am

First off, apologies for the long hiatus. This blog is not going to die, I promise. There are too many random, bizarre snacks in the aisles of Trader Joe’s to be reviewed!

Starting with… Righteous Rounds. They are so named because of their beneficial ingredients. Or maybe some surfer dude named them, which would account for the waves on the package. I digress. The description and ingredient list on the back of the bag make it sound truly heinous. But is that unfair? Let’s see. To avert any sort of possible copyright violation of the delectable-sounding prose on said back of the bag, here’s just a summary:

- the cookies contain good-for-you ingredients such as fruit and vegetable concentrates including broccoli, carrot, cranberries, orange, and tomato. There’s also soy protein. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in echinaecea, gingko biloba, and wheatgrass in there either, just for good measure.

- they aren’t actually baked, they’re heated at most to 75 degrees. They’re dehydrated in order to preserve the lycopene and beta-carotene and other -enes that probably are good for us.

I was very intrigued when I saw this product, because I feel that making desserts good for you while maintaining deliciousness is a worthy cause on par with ending climate change and saving the whales.

I’m sad to report that all these issues remain intractable.

The cookies are rather hard and chalky. After I fed some to my friends, they described them as “tangy” and with “a weird aftertaste.” Luckily, none of the fruit and veggie concentrates are immediately detectable (nor will you get bits of broccoli stuck in your teeth, since all of this stuff is not visibly present), but the cookie definitely does not taste normal. If I ate this cookie without knowing the contents, I would say it was a subpar, strange specimen that tasted vaguely sour. The chocolate chips help a lot, but it’s not exactly a cookie you can’t stop scarfing down.

And maybe that is the point! For all its 12% daily value of dietary fiber and 50% Vitamin A (but props for only having 9g of sugar– that’s like three times less than some yogurts), perhaps the true public service and nutritional benefit is the fact that you really can stop eating these after one or two.

Keeping your hands out of the cookie jar. Thanks Trader Joe’s! Saving the world from too much cookie consumption– now that’s truly righteous.

Righteous Rounds: 2/5 pelts

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Review: Froyo

In Uncategorized on 11/17/2009 at 3:13 am

Trader Joe’s Plain Non Fat Frozen Yogurt

I don’t know about you, but I loveeeee froyo. While I’m not a huge fan of ultra-tart Pinkberry (I prefer Yogurtland or the sadly-now-defunct YoBerry. RIP.), I will order frozen yogurt if it is available.  I like slightly more sweet froyo, especially if you dump a pound of mochi on it. I once went to a Red Mango and just ordered the mochi. “Just the mochi?” said the cashier. “Yeah, just mochi.” “You don’t want yogurt?” he replied. “Nope, just mochi.” He gives me a strange look. “Look, I know it’s weird, but it’s so good and chewy,” I said. “Oh… kay.” Seriously, can’t a girl go into a frozen yogurt shop and just order a topping without getting a look like I just spoke in Martian?

The sad thing is most frozen yogurt joints are pretty far from me without a car. A couple years ago, I lived literally 3 minutes away from a frozen yogurt shop. I remember going there in the dead of winter and then running back home with it, freezing to death without a coat but warm inside knowing that my froyo was not going to melt. I realize the imagery is a bit sad.

So it was with utter joy when I saw this groovy-artistic carton screaming “pleasantly tart with active cultures”  in the frozen foods aisle at TJ’s. Froyo in a carton?!

If you like your frozen yogurt tart, and I mean tart– pucker your lips, kiss a lemon–then I would recommend TJ’s froyo. It’s not unbearably tart, but definitely not sweet.  At all. So I was surprised to read it actually has 13 grams of sugar for something so unsweet.The texture is more ice-creamy than froyo-y for obvious reasons, and usually I have to let it stand for a few minutes so the iciness will thaw out.

I’ve tried several toppings with it. Nutella (no), cookie crumbs (not bad), cranberry-apple butter (um, if you like tartness extra tarty),  frozen fruit (doable), and raspberry jam (the best, strangely enough, to balance the tart flavor).

I miss the consistency of froyo though. The smooth creaminess of it all. But this culturally- active tarty little number will have to do.

Trader Joe’s Plain Non Fat Frozen Yogurt: 3/5 pelts

Review: Organic evaporated cane juice sugar (aka rice cooker cake)

In Uncategorized on 10/28/2009 at 4:29 am

I’ve been wanting to make rice cooker cake for awhile. I first learned of it through an email forward with a Taiwan missionary’s recipe. But first, due diligence was necessary. I decided to google “rice cooker cake,” and read about 5 pages worth of webpage results. Gotta make sure it’ll work, since a rice cooker is indispensible!

Instead of the email recipe, I used a regular chocolate cake recipe from the Joy of Cooking. Actually, it’s a vegan recipe with oil instead of butter, but it tastes normal.

Still, I was worried about this cake because the original recipe called for a steam cooker, which is not exactly a rice cooker I’m thinking of. The former involves an outer rim of water, and the latter is just a matter of pressing the little lever down.

And press I did. In the course of 2 hours, I pressed the cook function more than a dozen times. I had a minor freak out when the button refused to be pressed down, but it just meant that I had to wait a few minutes before trying again. The sensor needed the pot to cool down.

The result? A pretty moist chocolate cake, but with a dry outer crust.

Would I recommend it? Yes, if only for the novelty. But only if you have a lot of patience.

The thing about the cake was that it also wasn’t very sweet at all. I’ve baked most of my goods with TJ’s expensive organic cane sugar not because I want to yuppify my brownies or cookies, but because that’s the only sugar they sell. I appreciate the large, pretty crystals, especially for decorative purposes, but I do think they are less sweet than your regular C&H. Baked goods turn out barely sweet. This is good in some senses, but for the harsh and strong American palate, on which sweet and salty are carried to extremes, my cake might have been too ambiguous to be called sweet.

I’m not going to rate the sugar, but let it be said that if you want your baked goods to sparkle without too much sweetness, it’s your cup o’ sugar.

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