Saturday, February 13, 2016

No Sex, No Chocolate for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Do you love it, hate, or have mixed feelings about it? As I get older I want less stuff and more experiences, more thought than cost for my Valentine's Day celebration. That might seem overly romantic and it might be romantic but also reflects the fact that in my 40s I have a lot of stuff already, I don't really need more stuff. Toss in that I'm poly and have I have to make plans with several lovers and making time for individual experiences with each of them is in itself a work of love. Get your minds out of the gutter! I'm not just taking about sexy experiences but about doing things together that you'll remember. Of course that can involve sex and chocolate, sometimes at the same time, but it doesn't have to.

No, for me it does HAVE TO include CHOCOLATE! Sex can be a bonus, sure, but to give me quality chocolate or chocolate I haven't yet tried, that takes extra effort and sends the message that my lovers care.

My hubby gave me these. I've had Divine before but not this 85% one. The other two are unknown to me until now.

My other lover gave me these.

But we did more than that to celebrate our love for each other this week.

My husband and I went to a play and then to a late night restaurant after it... sadly in our town the choices are limited so we went to Denny's and no I didn't get chocolate there. I have standards! The play was at the Bloomington Playwrights Project (Bloomington, Indiana) and was "Toast" a musical that was pretty good though the storyline needs a bit of work, the removal of one musical number, and frankly more time on initial character development so we could empathize more with them. To the right is the poster for the play we saw.

My lover and I went to a open air market to check it out in freezing cold... literally it was well below freezing! To the right is a copy of the market layout in terms of the "shops" that were there. I'll have a post this coming week about our adventure and what chocolate we found -- hint some of my other lover's gifts to me were purchased at this event.

I bought each of my partners cards, colored a picture for each one, planned time alone with each of them, and I made them each cookies and muffins. Last weekend I showed you the blueberry muffins... don't remember, go back and look! Today I want to share one of the cookie recipes with you because I made each batch of cookies with Reynolds Parchment Sheets. Reynolds sent me a 25 count box of their product through the Crowdtap program to test and write about. No other form of compensation was received for this article.

I made two batches of cookies -- a peanut butter and a chocolate peanut butter chip cookie. Obviously since this is The Chocolate Cult I'm sharing only one of these with you today.

Better for You Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
By: TammyJo Eckhart

3/4 C applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 T water + 1 tsp baking soda
6 T egg whites
2 C Splenda
3/4 C baking cocoa powder
2 C white whole wheat flour
10oz Reese's Baking Chips
No-Stick spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lay down the parchment sheet on a metal baking sheet.

2. Mix together all of the wet ingredients and baking soda.

3. Add in Splenda and cocoa powder until thoroughly mixed.

4. Add in flour 1/2 cup at a time until completely mixed.

5. Mix in the baking chips. The batter will be a little stiff but not firm.

6. Spray a cookie scoop (my new one is metal and works well) because the dough will be sticky. Drop the dough onto the parchment paper. You should be able to get 15 cookies to a sheet.

7. Spray the bottom of a metal glass and then use it to flatten out the cookies a bit. Since these do not have butter or oils in them, they won't spread much otherwise.

8. Bake for 8 minutes, do not over bake.

9. Just let the parchment sheets slide off the baking sheets onto a table to cool and make another batch!

10. Cool for a few minutes before eating if you like your cookies warm. Store in an airtight container after two hours.

The way I made these with the size of my cookie scoop, I made 39 cookies with 68 calories each! If these are two sweet for you, cut back on the Splenda but it won't change the calorie count or cookie count much per 1/4 cup of the sweetener.

If you'd like to try out these parchment sheets, click the link below and not only will you get a good price but also help out The Chocolate Cult. Once more, Reynolds sent me a 22 count box of their product through the Crowdtap program to test and write about. No other form of compensation was received for this article.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Desserts & Romance Back in 2004

Twelve years ago, director Kevin Connor's movie Just Desserts was released as a Hallmark romantic comedy. At 92 minutes long there is little time to waste on build up so the movie jumps right in with a shot of NYC then a chef preparing a chocolate dessert. These two scenes go back and forth traveling around NYC and watching the chef work until we see Marco Poloni, played by Costas Mandylor, working in his mother and uncle's bakery in the Bronx. The bakery isn't doing too well yet Marco and his uncle Fabrizio (Fab), played by David Proval, cannot bring themselves to just become another franchise even if it might save their business. But it is during one of these franchise meetings that Marco tastes a dessert made in this fancy restaurant by Chef Grace Carpenter, played by Lauren Holly. Marco sees an old culinary school rival on TV about a Cooking Channel competition (The Golden Whisk) that could save his family business however he needs a partner. He convinces Grace to join him by playing on her anger at being overlooked and disrespected simply because she is a woman in the high pressure cooking world.

Of course since this is a comedy and a romance we have a a bit of silly dialogue, inconvenient lover interests, over-reacting mothers, and flirting to manipulate. We also have the romcom tropes of high strung professional woman with a lower class yet emotionally volatile man who find what is missing in themselves in each other. Along the way, they must confront Marco rather colorful history in the same culinary school that Grace graduated from a few years later in the former of their former instructor and Marco's former friend and rival who betrayed him and has become a famous TV celebrity chef. Meanwhile Grace's wealthy boyfriend, Jim, played by Bruce Thomas, wanted to propose and is oblivious to the fact that Marco has also fallen in love with Grace as well so he enlists his aid in his proposal. The villains of the film, Jacques and Candy, played by Andrew Lauer and Dorie Barton, use all of their wiles and schemes to try and cheat their way to the victory but Grace sees through their lies and learns to express her own hostile outburst. To tell you more would ruin the show.

In terms of romcoms this is fairly standard for TV movies but what sets it apart for us is that chocolate is a solid part of the show from the start right through the very end. Both Mandylor and Holly act well given the material but Marco's mother, Lina, played by Brenda Vaccaro, is a bit over the top but again I have a feeling she is doing what she is told by the director. Classic this isn't but fun it is especially if you like chocolate.

If you'd like to see this movie you can rent the DVD through Netflix or buy it on If you buy it using our links, you'll even help The Chocolate Cult because we use their Associates Program to recommend products.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Garden of Life Shake Recall

There is only one recall for you today, Sisters and Brothers. But it is the sort of product many of you might use from time to time. Once again this is our old nemesis Salmonella in action. What is Salmonella? This is what happens when sanitation is not a priority in food services and food production because the bacteria is in the feces of humans and animals. If you think regulations are stupid, think about eating or drinking feces. Doesn't that sound yummy? NOT!

Salmonella can not show up in a food or drink item at production time because the bacteria has to grow but this product is raw and that means there will be time for such bacterial growth between any company shipping it out and you using it.

----------------FDA Announcement Below with commentary by Me----------------

Garden of Life LLC is voluntarily withdrawing a limited quantity of its Raw Meal Organic Shake and Meal (in) Chocolate, Original, Vanilla and Vanilla Chai  (varieties) because they have the potential to contain Salmonella Virchow. Even though Garden of Life routinely performs pathogen testing on every finished good lot to ensure safety and no product has ever tested positive for the presence of Salmonella, the company felt it was in the public's best interest to take this voluntary action. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis. FDA is investigating illnesses.

Every lot tested negative for the presence of Salmonella prior to release to the market. Raw Meal products are distributed throughout the United States and sold at better health food stores and natural grocers.

Consumers who believe they may have a Raw Meal product affected by this recall, should look for the following lot codes prominently stamped on the underside of the plastic container. The following is the list of lots affected: (Read it carefully please, Sisters and Brothers. I've added in line breaks to make it easier for you.)

PRODUCT NAME  Lot Number   Exp Date

RAW Organic Meal 10 CNT Tray 47214800 9/12017

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Full Size 47198800 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Full Size 47214600 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai Full Size 47215500 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai Full Size 47215501 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47216100 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47225500 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Full Size 47225900 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Full Size 47249200 9/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai 10 CNT Tray 47183201 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47198601 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai Half Size 47206000 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47225600 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Half Size 47225800 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Half Size 47226200 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Half Size 47226400 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Full Size 47236000 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla 10 CNT Tray 47248000 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Full Size 47248901 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47253900 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Half Size 47257401 9/30/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Full Size 47226000 10/1/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47216200 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Full Size 47225601 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Full Size 47226100 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Half Size 47226201 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai Full Size 47226300 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Full Size 47246500 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Vanilla Chai Full Size 47247600 10/31/17

RAW Organic Meal Chocolate Half Size 47247800 10/31/17

“In an overabundance of caution we are taking this extreme measure because we want to ensure that you never have to wonder about the purity of any Raw Meal product.” said Brian Ray, President of Garden of Life.

Any Raw Meal product from a lot code not listed above is entirely safe and not affected by this recall. All Garden of Life, LLC's products are manufactured in the United States at FDA and NSF audited facilities, in accordance with current Good Manufacturing Practices. No Garden of Life product has ever tested positive for salmonella.

If, however, a consumer has purchased a product from any of the lot codes listed above and wishes to return it, they should return the unused portion of the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. Questions may be directed to the company at 1-866-465-0051, Monday-Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM EST.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Valentine's Gift for Bakers

Maybe instead of buying chocolate you'd like to make something for your Valentine. Or perhaps your Valentine loves candy making or baking. Will BrilliantChef's Premium 12 Cup Silicone Muffin and Cupcake Complete Bundle be a good gift to give to your lover for Valentine's Day? To test it out I made blueberry muffins with white and milk chocolate drizzle. I'll be blunt: I used a mix for the muffins but I melted real white and milk chocolate for the drizzle. Sometimes I love mixes when I'm very busy and stressed. Don't judge my mix useage! BrilliantChef sent me this product through the Tomoson program in exchange for an honest review here and on; no other form of compensation was received for this article.

The Bundle includes the muffin pan that can be used in temps up to 450°F, 50 paper muffin cups with red and pink heart designs, a average sized silicone spatula, and a silicone pastry brush. I've never used paper cups with silicone pans before, frankly you really don't need them, but since these came with the bundle I used them to see if they are affected in any negative way by the silicone pan. The silicone brush will be a nice addition to baking or cooking but not really for this project. I did use the spatula and it worked great, it is just firm enough to get all of the mix out of the bowl but also flexible enough to get manouver around the bowl easily.

First thing I note when I take the baked muffins out of the oven is that the muffins sort of flop over the edges... I've noticed this with other silicone pans that I haven't noticed with metal pans so it isn't an issue with this brand but may be an issue with using silicone versus metal. Once these had cooled for about 20 minutes they popped out easily. Since I made blueberry muffins there was some blue on the silicone but it washed easily.

The paper cups preformed as expected for this type of product. They didn't leave any residue on the silicone pa and the muffins came out really well from the wrapping. I topped these with white chocolate and then attempted to draw a heart in 48% chocolate. I'm not great with decorating by hand but this is okay, isn't it? As you can see in the background, I used a bakery paper box to hold the muffins as I decorated them and then to store them. The average size from our local grocery store held all 12 muffins I made. Basically I kept this box, washed it out, and then reused it. Why not? It saved money and held them well.

You can follow a link on the insert in the box to sign up at BrilliantChef and get a free ecookbook as wel. The ecookbook has 26 pages and 20 recipes. It also offers an introduction to muffins and cupcakes in case you don't know the difference and want to learn. Here is a screenshot of the cover of the ecookbook.

If you liked this product, check it out on Amazon. If you hurry, you can order it today and it might get to you by next Sunday which is Valentine's Day.