Living in cities hours from the nearest Trader Joe’s has left me really excited about living near a Trader Joe’s again. In St. Louis, we have so many types of grocery stores, specialty meat markets, and bakeries. There are farmers markets, too. I try to explore a different combination each week.
What I like about Trader Joe’s the best is that it offers reasonable prices for fancy-ish ingredients. Like every Trader Joe’s I’ve visited, the employees are friendly and the parking lot is a death trap. Here’s a rundown of some of the most memorable foods we’ve tasted, categorized on a spectrum between “Favorites” and “Meh.”
I don’t know how to do my own make-up so I scheduled a consultation at my local Sephora. These Custom Make-Overs are free if you commit to spending at least $50 on a purchase.
Let it be known that I don’t think make-up makes anyone beautiful or more beautiful or is in any way necessary to do so. I simply think cosmetics are fun and respect make-up application as an art form.
Food is typically my jam but I’m also a secret subscription box and beauty product nerd. I don’t purchase many products, but enjoy reading about them. The make-up I owned was acquired from Ipsy bags or impulse drug store purchases. Most didn’t work with my skin tone and varied in quality.
Here at Jeni Eats, I don’t pursue a lot of sponsored content. However, I’m open to opportunities if they seem like they’d be a good fit, offer travel opportunities, or pique my curiosity. This post falls in the latter.
Soon after moving to St. Louis, I joined the Missouri Women Bloggers group. I’ve connected with some friendly bloggers and received opportunities to apply for some local travel and networking opportunities. When I saw the coordinators mention trying this new 3D Pen, I threw my hat into the ring. 3D printing is a fascinating concept and I wanted to see what it was like to use a 3D pen.
It’s time for another product review and taste test. In the spirit of Halloween and second chances, I chose Duff Goldman’s Jeepers Creepers: Where’d You Get Those Peppers Premium Cookie Mix. Yes, it really does say that on the box.
The mix costs $3.99 plus tax at my local Target and calls for the additions of 1/2 cup of butter, two egg whites, and an optional teaspoon of vanilla extract. I wasn’t terribly impressed with his Purple Rain cake mix and Not Your Bagel Cream Cheese frosting (review here). This cookie mix looked fun and since it called for real butter, I felt optimistic.
The box contains the cake mix, candy eyes, and three colors of gel food coloring.
Here are the ingredients you are asked to provide:
To Charm City’s credit, the mix includes a lot of peepers. I tried an eyeball and found it tasted like powdered sugar. The texture wasn’t too hard, which I had been afraid of, but I didn’t enjoy them enough to eat more. Therefore, I only added two eyes per cookie, which left a lot of leftovers.
The instructions are simple: Combine the cake mix, egg whites, butter, and vanilla in a bowl. Divide the dough into three equal portions, and mix one food coloring packet (orange, purple or green) into each bowl. Portion tablespoon-sized balls onto a cookie sheet two inches a part, and bake at 350ºF for 14-17 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.
The final step instructs bakers to press the googly eyes into the cookies while they are still warm. This step is especially important because the eyes absolutely will not stick otherwise. I found that I had to tuck the edges of the eyes into a still-warm and slightly gooey cookie crevice to secure them.
Taste Test: The cookies looked adorable. They tasted very sweet and like “birthday cake” flavor. I realize cookies are supposed to taste sweet, but, like the Purple Rain cake mix, they struck me as overkill. However, we all have different sweetness thresholds. The texture of the cookie was pleasantly crisp and chewy.
People who like “birthday cake” or Funfetti flavor will probably enjoy these cookies. “Birthday cake” happen to be one of my least favorite flavors in the world. Jake thought the cookies tasted fine, but wouldn’t go out of the way for them. If you don’t mind spending $3.99 for a boxed mix that makes 20 cookies that taste like “birthday cake,” these cookies might be for you.
*When I edited my video, I realized my phone didn’t record my official taste-test of the cookies. The only clip I could find was a candid shot of me returning for a second bite of the cookie.
Well, know I know there is a limit to my love of ranch dressing.
Everyone knows I like ranch dressing. I’ve often proclaimed the virtue of homemade ranch, also known as “good ranch” vs. the yucky shelf stable stuff. Ranch isn’t the greatest condiment ever, but I do think it’s a very, very good thing.
I always knew I liked ranch, but North Iowa deepened this fondness. In North Iowa, every restaurant seemed to serve ranch with fried food. Dinner outings with friends involved requests for sides of ranch and our table was usually littered with little dishes of the dressing by the end of a meal.
My friend @amycrea recently tweeted me a photo of a bottle of Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing soda that she found at Jim’s Apple Farm, home of Minnesota’s largest candy store located in Jordan, MN.The soda sounded repulsive and fascinating and I just had to try it. Read Amy’s Heavy Table article about Jim’s Apple Farm here.
I easily located Lester’s Fixens sodas at a store in the Delmar Loop called Rocket Fizz. There are Rocket Fizz franchises in many states around the country. Lester and his sweeter counterpart, Melba, are the fictional figureheads of two soda lines created by the Rocket Fizz company. While Lester offers freaky sodas in bacon, buffalo wing, and sweet corn, Melba sticks to flavors that come in pie like strawberries & cream, lemon meringue, and apple pie.
Rocket Fizz offers a wide variety of retro candies and sodas in every flavor imaginable. Some of the unusual sodas that caught my eye include a Ghost Busters Ectoplasm energy drink, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, and Astropop-flavored line. Most bottles of soda cost $2.19 each. I added Lester’s Pumpkin Pie Soda to chase away the ranch flavor and reach that credit card minimum. I’m not sure how Lester and Melba divvied up the pie flavors but pumpkin is Lester’s territory.
First things first, let’s try the ranch soda.
The ranch soda has an off-white hue. At first sniff, the soda smelled inoffensively ranchy, but the second whiff knocked my head back with its metallic, buttermilk sour, onion-garlic powder scent.
My first and only sip tasted like the smell of powdered ranch dressing mix combined with simple syrup and a strong buttermilk note. I stifled a gag and reached for my glass of water. This soda tastes worse than Ron Burgundy’s tears; It tastes like his back sweat. Someone asked me what alcoholic beverage or liqueur I’d recommend mixing with ranch dressing soda and rubbing alcohol was the only substance that came to mind. You’re a sick man, Lester.
Moving on to Pumpkin Pie Soda. Just look at that color. It’s totally Hi-C.
I smelled pumpkin spice, but tasted more of a root beer-sarsaparilla flavor. It’s not something I’d go back for, but totally drinkable. Ranch dressing, yes. Ranch soda, no.
Not that you needed me to tell you that or anything.