Category: Food & Drink

Trader Joe’s Holiday Hors d’oeuvres Reviews: Better Late Than Never?

Uh, whoops! I meant to post this around Christmas day – the photos and everything were taken Christmas Eve – but things just kept getting in the way of sitting down and writing about delicious food. Sad when that happens, right? Luckily, I had the foresight to take notes on what everyone thought of each of the snacks reviewed in this post, so I won’t have to rely solely on my infamously shitty memory for this post!

Anyhow, here’s the backstory: it’s become a bit of a tradition in my family to decorate my mom’s Christmas tree on Christmas Eve (or a day or two before, depending on work schedules) while listening to Christmas music and snacking on a metric crapton of hors d’oeuvres rather than a proper sit-down Christmas dinner. We usually raid Trader Joe’s for said stock of appetizers, because we’re lazy and because the family love affair with TJ’s is real (we moved from Southern California to Ohio before the TJ’s expansion into the midwest, and the withdrawal from their spicy black bean dip and other favorite goodies was serious, let me tell you) – though sometimes Aldi or local delis/bakerys or even homemade make the cut, time allowing.

This year wasn’t particularly generous with the time, so it was a one-stop Trader Joe’s shop kind of deal. And because I like talking about food, I photographed all the goodies and wrote down everyone’s overall impressions, so if you’re considering hitting up TJ’s for similar events (or just want some yummy snacks at random) – here’s hoping that our reviews can help you to narrow down the massive overload of choices in their frozen appetizer section!

So here are all the goodies we sampled:

Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas and Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyozas
Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas and Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyozas
Crab & Lagostino Rangoon, Mushroom Turnovers and Traditional Latkes
Crab & Lagostino Rangoon, Mushroom Turnovers and Traditional Latkes
Chocolate Raspberry Tamales and A Dozen Sweet Bites (Chocolate and Coffee Opera Cake, Raspberry Macaron aux Framboises Cake, and Caramel and Chocolate Cake bites)
Chocolate Raspberry Tamales and A Dozen Sweet Bites (Chocolate and Coffee Opera Cake, Raspberry Macaron aux Framboises Cake, and Caramel and Chocolate Cake bites)

We ended up saving the tamales as by the time we’d made our way through all the other snacks, there was no way we would have been able to further stuff ourselves. I’ll probably do an individual write-up for the tamales since I ended up keeping them for myself! So if those intrigue you, please look forward to it!

But let’s jump right in to the review portion of this post… if you’re on the main page, please click the read more!

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5 Holiday Hot Cocoas, Reviewed: Maple, Peppermint, Gingerbread & Beyond!

So the other night, I was playing one of my online games with a friend and we were chatting about all kinds of random shit while we farmed an instance – you know, as you do. Somehow we started talking about holiday drinks, specifically hot chocolates, and I began telling her all about the (probably slightly abnormal amount of) hot cocoas that I’d bought from World Market. I believe my diatribe included the phrase “I just have a lot of feelings about hot cocoas” – which, you know what? Yes. Yes, I do. So now I’m going to write them down here and inflict them on all of you as well!

Seriously, though. I do have, as of this writing, about six different types of hot cocoas in my cupboard. I’m not even including the Salted Caramel stuff that isn’t actually mine but looks oh-so-tempting whenever I go to heat up some chocolate Cashew milk as a base for my nightly cocoa. I’m also not including all the various types of coffee mixes that I have that sometimes include mocha/chocolate (yeah, this is on top of my legit coffee stash) – sheesh, somewhere my dentist is cringing, right?

World Market Hot Cocoa Trio

Today I’m going to review five hot chocolates that I purchased during World Market’s holiday hot cocoa sale. Yes, they have sales just for hot chocolate. Yes, I am the precise audience that such promotions are meant to entice. What can I say – on cold days, there’s seriously little that I love more than a nice, warm mug of hot cocoa, topped with whipped cream and some sprinkles or spices.

So let’s get started, shall we?

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11 Super-Cute Coffee Mugs to Make Your Morning Java Look Totally Adorable!

When I woke up today, I knew immediately that it was going to be one of those mornings that required two (or three!) pots of coffee. As I was mixing in my creamer and adding a dollop of whipped cream, I had to stop to admire just how sweet my caffeine fix looked – the combination of my cute polka-dot-and-heart mug and the whipped cream is just so visually pleasing to me! I honestly believe that at least a part of the satisfaction borne from my morning coffee is due to how pretty I always make my drinks. Around holidays, I even go for thematically-appropriate sprinkles on the cream, like peppermint bits around Christmas or orange-and-white candy dots for Halloween. It’s a lot of fun and takes only a couple moments to give myself that little shot of fun in my mornings, but it just wouldn’t work without the adorable coffee mugs!

That leads me to this post – I decided to hit up some of my favorite sources for cute coffee mugs, pick out my favorites, and feature them here for you all to see. Maybe you’ll end up loving some of my curated cups here, or maybe you’ll think I have the WORST taste, we’ll see!

Feel free to comment with any other coffee cups that you think are too pretty to pass up, as this is obviously a case where I’m totally up for some window-shopping!

Paper & Clay Mugs

These handmade mugs are created by Paper & Clay Studio on Etsy, and something about their soft shape and dreamy pastel colors just makes me think of marshmallows! I think that these coffee mugs are the perfect mix of sweet and minimal – they definitely bring to mind some candy cuteness, but the clean design saves it from going overboard and veering into kitsch. I think they’re totally gorgeous!

Woodland Mugs

For people who are into a sort of cute/natural aesthetic, these Woodland Mugs from World Market are pretty adorable! Very spring-y, in my opinion. They’re stoneware with etchings on the outside made to look like tree trunks, and the insides have pops of bright color to make things interesting. And of course, the cherry on top is the cute little butterfly and bird figures perching on the handles. Cute, cute, cute!

See the rest of my picks by clicking the read more!

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Coffee-Mate Abuelita Mexican Chocolate Liquid Creamer Review

Like so many others, I have fond memories of making Abuelita hot cocoa as a child. I’ve always been big on hot drinks – blame my mother for getting me started with Cambric tea when I was still just a toddler. There’s something so enjoyable and comforting to me about a mug full of warm coffee, milk or chai tea, or hot cocoa – preferably in a super cute mug with whipped cream and some seasonally-colored sprinkles to complete the experience! And when it comes to hot chocolate, I’ve always liked the spiced varieties best. Chalk it up to growing up in southern California and getting used to the spices and chiles being in everything from brownies (my mom has been making jalapeno brownies for as long as I can remember) and other sweets to the more obvious savory sauces and meats. So it’s a no brainer that when it comes to hot chocolate, of course I’d favor the varieties with an extra kick, whether it’s from actual chilis or, as is the case with Abuelita, just some cinnamon for a tiny punch of heat.


Abuelita Hot Cocoa

So when I saw that Coffee-Mate had introduced an Abuelita flavored variety of their liquid coffee creamers, of course I snapped it up immediately! I tend to make my coffee very strong (I need the heavy dosage of caffeine for my neurons to start firing properly in the morning tbh), and while I definitely enjoy the roasty-toasted marshmallow notes in a lot of the very dark coffees that I buy, I like to add a tablespoon of some sort of creamer in to smooth things out and complement the whipped cream that I always use to top off my cuppa.

Dojima would probably not approve.

Dojima Coffee Comic by hiimdaisy

I’ve already used the entire bottle, so unfortunately I can’t give you any custom photos. I mean, I’m pretty sure that a pic of an empty creamer container in my recycling bin isn’t really that appealing, so forgive me for skipping that and just using the official image from the Coffee-Mate website. You still get the idea!

Coffee-Mate Abuelita Liquid Creamer

The consistency is the same as pretty much all Coffee-Mate liquid creamers – kind of a slightly creamier/thicker-than-usual milk. Considering that the base of their liquid creamers is, well, milk and cream, that’s not really surprising. However, unlike most of their varieties, the Abuelita liquid creamer is actually brown in color – the color of light chocolate milk. It gives your coffee a pleasing color when mixed together, in my opinion. If you only drink very light brews, it actually might darken your coffee!

One of the reasons that I tend to favor Coffee-Mate liquid creamers almost exclusively is that I find them to be missing the weird chemical aftertaste that I get from International, Bailey’s, and other liquid creamer brands. I usually use Coffee-Mate’s Natural Bliss line because that sort of simple creaminess tends to be my main purpose in using coffee creamer, and the NB series manages to deliver that without any synthetic ingredients, thus avoiding any weird flavor issues. However, I’ve been pleased enough with the special editions in their “normal” creamers – while they don’t taste as good overall in my opinion as the Natural Bliss varieties, they tend to dodge the crappy aftertaste. I’m happy to report that the Abuelita variety also manages to avoid the synthetic aftertaste pitfall. You actually feel like you’ve added chocolate milk to your coffee, not milk and melted plastic (International creamers, I’m looking at you) or nothing at all (Bailey’s creamer, to me, somehow managed to taste like absolutely nothing yet still give a funny aftertaste).

However, for me personally, all I could really pick out was the chocolate milk taste. I didn’t get ANY cinnamon or spice flavor, so in that aspect this creamer was a bit of a disappointment – I was hoping for the warmth and spice that I remembered from the actual Abuelita discs, but that just wasn’t present.

This creamer does, at least, work as a nice real-chocolate flavor to add to your coffee. I’ll probably purchase it again for this purpose as no stores near me actually stock the Natural Bliss Chocolate flavor, and this is a decent stand-in for days when I want a touch of cocoa in my latte.

Ideally, though, I’d love if Coffee-Mate reformulated this creamer and amped up the cinnamon so that I could really feel like this product was worthy of the Abuelita label. So, in a nutshell, this is my Coffee-Mate Abuelita Mexican Chocolate Liquid Creamer Review: it’s a nice, mild chocolate creamer, but don’t expect the warmth and spice of actual Abuelita hot cocoa.

*The Persona 4 comic used in this article is from the infamous hiimdaisy (now known as gigidigi) Persona comic. If you like it, I encourage you to go check out Cucumber Quest – it’s her new webcomic and it is gorgeous and adorable.

Gamer Fuel: Reviewing the Yummy & Yuck in the World of Geek Snacks

I’ve been in a strangely productive mood lately (read: not playing nearly as many video games as I usually do), which clearly means that something is deeply wrong with my brain. Unfortunately, this also means that I have zero game reviews to contribute here, which is why poor Mento’s been soldiering on alone in that department for the past few weeks.

But don’t mourn me just yet – I do still have something tangentially gamer-related that I can talk about!

Food.

Specifically, the snacks and energy drinks that are popping up as more and more advertising companies wake up and realize that the people who grew up playing the original Super Mario Brothers didn’t “grow out of” the video gaming world and are now their own demographic, full of disposable incomes and a love for things that reference – however gimmicky – their favorite hobby.

A quick visit to ThinkGeek.com can show you exactly what I’m talking about. Tear yourselves away from their latest venture into Star Wars home decor or Super Mario Brothers track jackets and steer your virtual cart into the Caffeine & Edibles aisle, and let’s settle ourselves in and take stock, okay? There’s a lot to look at, I know, but for today we’re only going to talk about the things I’ve actually tried.

I have a total weakness for gimmicky snacks and there have been quite a few times where, as I’m sure they hoped, I’ve been buying something completely unrelated at ThinkGeek and ended up popping a few weird snacks into my cart right before checkout. If you’re anything like me and are feeling the pull of curiosity’s temptation as you look at all those exotic edibles, I hope that my mini-reviews will actually help you decide whether or not to click ‘add to cart’ – or to run away screaming.


Astronaut Ice Cream

Quite frankly, if you’ve never experienced the sheer perfection of freeze-dried ice cream, you probably didn’t go to science museums much as a child and you have my deepest sympathy. If you have any sort of sweet tooth, you pretty much owe it to yourself to try this stuff at least once. Somehow the freeze-drying process manages to make the flavors even smoother and creamier than actual ice cream, and the texture is awesome. My all-time favorite would probably have to be the ice cream sandwich variety, just because that’s the one I remember always begging my parents to buy me whenever we went to a museum, but the Neopolitan flavor is a very close second. On the other hand, Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip are also excellent… it’s probably a good thing that this stuff is on the pricey side, because otherwise I’d probably gain about five million pounds from too much space deliciousness.

RATING: YUM


BaconPop – Bacon Flavored Popcorn

There is a serious glut of bacon-flavored, bacon-scented, bacon-shaped, bacon-themed, baconbaconbacon products in the geek-oriented market lately. Yeah, Bacon is delicious, but do I really need bacon-flavored lip balm or a bacon-scented candle? I’m leaning towards no, personally. However, when it comes to bacon in actual foodstuffs… I’ll try it.

I love popcorn – it’s pretty much my favorite salty snack – so I may have already been biased towards liking this product, but honestly… it’s pretty good. The bacon flavor leans more towards super crispy, almost-burnt bacon, but it actually goes pretty well with the salty/buttery taste of the popcorn. Not a bad thing to reach for if you’re craving a quick, salty fix. The only downside is the price – even with it currently on sale, $3.99 for ┬áthree bags is undeniably steep.

RATING: YUM


Fizzy Cupcake Drink Tablets

Okay, these sound questionable right off the bat, I know. They’re tablets that you put into water that fizz up like an Alka-Seltzer to give you… cupcake flavored water. Yes, it sounds gross, so why the hell did I buy these? Well, at the time I was dating a guy who basically flat-out REFUSED to drink water – so much so that he kept getting kidney stones. So I was buying all sorts of drink mixes in a quest to find something that would make water palatable enough for him that he’d actually drink it regularly. He had a massive sweet tooth, so I thought these might be a workable solution…

Nope. Even for the weirdo with a gigantic sweet tooth (and we’re talking, he loved things that were so sickly sweet that it made my stomach turn), this was just too much. They sat, unused, for months, and soon became a joke – we couldn’t even give them away to anyone. So unless you’re a fan of ruining perfectly good water… I’d avoid.

RATING: YUCK


Cupcake Mints

On the other hand, these are basically cupcake-flavored crack. They may be called mints, but rest assured there’s not actually any mint flavoring involved. It’s just pure sugary, vanilla frosting-flavored goodness. They don’t freshen your breath or do anything but taste delicious, and they won’t last long, I promise. Buy the three-pack, considering that the single pack is $2.49 as opposed to the triple pack’s $5.99 – plus, trust me, if you like sweets, you’ll want all three packs.

RATING: YUM


Caffeinated Fruity Lollipops

Okay, I’m sort of cheating with this one. I’ve tried the caffeinated lollipops before, but I got the various coffee-flavored ones – which they sadly don’t seem to stock anymore. But the basic premise is the same: huge lollipops with a shot of caffeine, with the idea that you’ll snack on these while staying up all night to game / code / study / do occult rituals / whatever else you need to stay up all night for.

Personally, I have sort of natural insomniac tendencies – if I’m really involved in something, it’s easy for me to forget about sleep. I also tend to have a pretty high tolerance level for caffeine, given that my mother started letting me drink tea when I was still a toddler. So while I personally can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the caffeine in these sweets, my ex seemed to think they worked pretty well – he’d grab one to have on the way to work if he was having a sluggish morning. The ones we had also tasted absolutely awesome, and I hope they stock those again – Irish Creme lollipops are badass. The only downside to these is that they’re absolutely GIGANTIC. I wasn’t always able to finish mine, just because that’s a whole lotta sweet in one sitting. And lollipops don’t exactly keep well, so… that’s something to consider.

If your high school had their sports teams go around selling those big lollipops during lunch period, that’s roughly the same size as these. So if you could handle those without any leftover, these won’t be a problem for you, and vice versa.

RATING: YUM (at least for the coffee-flavored variety)


Bacon Salt

Hey, more bacon! This product is relatively well-known on the internet already, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you reading this have actually tried it already. That said, if you haven’t, it’s actually not a bad thing to have in your spice rack. I’m a fan of using a couple shakes to flavor cheddar mac & cheese, or cooking a bunch of veggies with just a little butter and this salt. I actually just used the Hickory flavored Bacon Salt earlier today – I rubbed it on some pork loin and cooked the loin and some peas, green beans, and yellow corn together in a pot with a tiny bit of butter and it actually came out really nicely. It has the same sort of “crispy-almost-burnt” as most faux Bacon flavoring, but it’s surprisingly versatile. For someone like me, who likes to constantly rotate out various seasonings in my day-to-day cooking, I enjoy having it around.

It occurs to me that I should try putting this on some normal popcorn and seeing if it tastes as good as the above-mentioned Bacon Pop – goodness knows it’d be more cost effective D=

RATING: YUM

 

That’s it for this batch of geek-foodie reviews. Clearly, I need to try more of this type of thing if this is all I have to review, huh? After browsing the Caffeine & Edibles section, a few other things have already caught my eye =X I have poor impulse control, okay?