Saturday, July 23, 2016

Starfleet Worthy Chocolates

Do you plan to see the latest Star Trek movie when it comes out in a few weeks? Or do you hate the reboot and cling to the original? Or do you just love it all depending on the actors, director, and writers? Regardless of your geek leanings, we have some items from the StarTrek universe made by Tempting Sweets whose creator, Missy, you should have read our interview with earlier this week. You missed it? Go back and find it here. This first photo isn't great but I need to get a photo taken as soon as Tempting Sweets dropped some of their goodies off at my book table (I had sells but not enough to cover convention expenses). Back to Tempting Sweets. As you can see we got four treat-types from two science fiction worlds -- Star Trek and Star Wars. In honor of the new movie and in prep for the new series that CBS has announced, let's look at the Star Trek offering.

Star Trek insignia are a dual treat of peanut butter and milk chocolate as you can see here in this photo. This photo was taken at the convention, thus the black background which is giving everything a bit of a reddish hue. Different designs on the insignia represented different ships, different positions, and different periods within the Star Trek universe. This, I believe, is the "original" one from the TV series, the one most of us know... but I don't think the ones that Kirk and Spock wore were edible. The scent of these depends on which side you bring to your nose -- a light cocoa for the top, a light sweet peanut from the bottom. Biting into it makes little sound and if I bite with the bottom side down, the initial and final flavors are peanut butter, creamy, sweet, very fudge like with a streak of chocolate. If I bite with it flipped, this strengthens the chocolate flavor a lot, making the peanut butter a mild one that builds up but never displaces the chocolate. the two layers do try to separate from each other but once you start chewing they get mixed up pretty well. This isn't an intense flavor at all so easily accessible to the basic chocolate and peanut butter lover of all ages.




In this last photo I changed the background color so you can see these emblems in a new way. See how much color and lighting affect a photo? The colors that I see with my eyes are closer to those on the white background. Other senses are not affected by such changes. Tempting Sweets does not have a storefront, they sell on the convention circuit but you can check them out to see where they might be appearing next if you follow our links in this review. If you've tried the goodies from Tempting Sweets, leave a comment and let me know where you found and which fandom you ate.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Justin's versus Unreal Junk Food

Today is National Junk Food Day yet oddly I'm going to look at two products that might claim they would not qualify as junk food. One of these, Justin's, prides itself on Organic products that run seem to focus a lot on peanut butter. Now peanut butter can be a very good snack that most folks think is fairly healthy for you particularly if you aren't getting the kind that has added fats or sugars. The other product, Unreal, is all about unjunking junk foods by being gluten free, no trans fats, no GMOs, vegan, no preservatives, and no chemicals according to their labels. So I bought both of these on sale and I decided to compare them. I hope you have an opinion about these products because I expect to see your thoughts in some comments!

Both of these are dark chocolate peanut butter cups and as you can see they look very similar. However they are very different nutritionally. The Justin's has 230 calories for two cups but the Unreal has 180 for both cups; that's a 50 calories difference! Where is that difference coming from? The total fat difference is small, only 1 gram of saturated fat; similarly the difference in protein is only 1 gram. The difference is in the carbs -- Justin's has 21 grams with 1 grams fiber and 17 grams sugars; Unreal has 4 g fiber and 12 grams sugars. 1 gram sugar = 9 calories so the vast majority of the calorie difference is in the amount of sugars.

Inside the peanut is different. The Justin's is softer and oozed out a little but while the Unreal was firmer.  The Unreal has a much stronger dark chocolate smell, as soon as I opened it my nose told me "dark chocolate". Neither has a particularly strong peanut butter scent; if I didn't know it was peanut butter it could have been almost any other type of non-fragrance nut butter.

Finally there are the taste and texture differences. The Justin's is very inside, the dark chocolate shell did make a snap when I take a bite. The peanut butter has a light sweet taste and the chocolate is surprisingly dark given the lack of scent. The Unreal is a bit firmer and the peanut butter has a more roasted flavor. The shell is as bitter tasting and oddly doesn't blend as well with the peanut butter in the center, leaving a slightly bitter aftertaste. That's fine for me because I prefer more bitter chocolate.

I'm torn between these two. I like them for different reasons, I could see myself eating either of the again. So I need to know: Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meet The Mistress of Tempting Sweets

Sisters and Brothers, please join me in welcoming, Missy Ciavarelli from Tempting Sweets. Missy, thank you for answering a few questions from us. In two weekends we're going to have our first feature of her fun creations but today I want us all to just learn more about her. How much will Missy have in common with other chocolate and candy makers I've met at conventions? Let's find out!

I met you at a fandom convention called MARCON. How long have you been attending fan run conventions, Missy?

This is my second full year at cons. Before that, I spent a couple of years doing mostly craft fairs and the like. But even at those, my sci-fi designs were my best sellers, so I knew it was time to go to the real geeks (and yes, I only use geek as a compliment).

You are a legal assistant but you also a chocolate seller so let's focus on chocolate. What other conventions do you generally attend to sell your chocolate creations?

There is a local series of shows called Oddmall which I just love. Billed as "not your grandma's craft fair," it's an eclectic mix of vendors, cosplaying, and general geekery. I've also been to Steel City Con in Pittsburgh a couple of times and hope to return later this year.

I've traveled as far as Indiana and New Jersey, but prefer to stay a little closer to home.  

How did you get into selling chocolate at fan run or other conventions?

I started making it for fun. It wasn't long before someone suggested I try to sell it, so I gave it a shot. My first craft show was pretty small, and I did a lot of those for a while before deciding to make the leap into cons. 

How did you come up with the name "Tempting Sweets" for your products?

I have a friend who used to call me "sweets." I thought that translated well into a chocolate business - there's certainly little that is more tempting! 

I recall a lot of molded chocolates at your table but what is the full range of sweets that you make to sell?

It's pretty much all molded. I've given some thought into expanding beyond that, but I never seem to have enough time. 

Not everything I saw from Tempting Sweets had a science fiction, fantasy, or fandom theme but much of it did. Do you vary which products you bring based on the convention?

I have hundreds of molds, for all occasions. For shows that are not specifically geek themed, I tend to go with whatever holiday is nearby. Naturally, I get busier around Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. But I've also worked on designs for birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, etc.  

What was the first molded chocolate that you made and what type of chocolate did you use -- white, milk, semi-, dark?

Funny that I can actually remember the first design. I still have it too. It was the shape of a bat, and had a part that could be stuck into cupcakes as a topper. I thought it was a really fun idea for Halloween. Then came the Christmas molds...and the Easter molds...and...

The first type of "chocolate" were those melted wafers you can get at most craft stores. I used a lot of colors then. They're reasonably cheap, and were a good way to start so I could practice my technique, but it's not quality chocolate. Now I use a brand called Merckens, which I get at a local cake and confectionary supply store. I use mostly dark chocolate - it's not only my favorite, but it seems to be other people's as well.

We talked a bit at the convention about how making chocolate to sell has affected your personal enjoyment of chocolate. Would you go into that for our readers a bit?

Because I'm around it so much now (I often have a 50# box of dark chocolate sitting in my kitchen), I find eat far less of it than I used to. I tend toward more salty snacks now. I haven't entirely lost my taste for chocolate, but it's not my go-to snack anymore either.

You don't just make chocolate you also paint your creations and sometimes mix flavors or have fillings. Where you get your supplies for these creations?

I get most of my supplies through a local small business that sells all manner of cake and confectionary supplies. The women who run it are extremely knowledgeable and knew me after just a couple of trips there. If they don't have something I need, I go online. My most popular filling though is a peanut butter mixture and that's just butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar and a little vanilla. 

What has been your favorite character to turn into chocolate? Why is that your favorite?

That's tough. Every time I get a new mold, it becomes my new favorite. One of my recent acquisitions was the AT-AT from Star Wars. But I love all my Star Wars molds - I grew up with those movies and I still want to be Princess Leia. So the Millennium Falcon, Yoda, Han Solo in Carbonite, and Death Star are all among my favorites. I'm also a huge Joss Whedon fan so the fact that I can make the Serenity out of chocolate is pretty cool too.

Finally, where will Tempting Sweets be for the rest of the 2016 convention season?

I am on a bit of a hiatus until Fall due to the higher temperatures of summer. Oddmall is expanding to Toledo in October, and returning to Canton in December. I will be at both. Probably a couple of other regional ones as well, but it's still early.

Thank you, Missy, again, for talking with us today. Sisters and Brothers, we're going to look at Tempting Sweets Star Trek and Star Wars themed creations in two separate features this year. You can find Tempting Sweets on Facebook, too! For now, please leave some comments for Missy and let her know you read or ask her other questions.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

2 Chocolate Recalls for July 17, 2016

We may have two recalls but compared to the past month of dozens of recalls at a time, this is good news.... maybe? Read these, check out the links, check your pantries and freezers, and PROTECT YOURSELF!

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Kroger Recalls Deluxe S'mores Ice Cream Due to Undeclared Allergens

The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) has recalled Kroger Deluxe S’mores Ice Cream (48 oz, tub) sold in its retail stores because the product may contain peanuts not listed on the label.  Kroger initiated the recall when a supplier, Grain Craft, indicated a raw ingredient may have become contaminated with low levels of peanut residue.

People who are allergic to peanuts could have a severe reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to peanuts, there is no safety issue with the product. No customer illnesses have been reported at this time.

All stores operating under the Kroger, Dillons, Baker’s, Gerbes, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, JayC, King Soopers, City Market, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s names, stores located in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming no other Kroger locations in Louisiana or Texas are included.

Kroger has removed this item from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.

Kroger is recalling the following item:

Product                                            UPC Codes         Size        Sell By Dates
Kroger Deluxe S’mores Ice Cream    0001111001399 48 oz      May 20, 2017
                                                                                                       May 23, 2017

Customers allergic to peanuts who have purchased the above product should not consume it and should return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

Customers who have questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS.

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(NOTE: This expands a previous IKEA recall so I'm only going to include photos of the new products.)

CHOKLAND MÖRK, CHOKLAND MÖRK 70%, (Photos on previous article on The Chocolate Cult)

CHOKLAD LINGON & BLABAR, 


CHOKLAD NÖT, 


GODIS CHOKLADKROKANT, 


GODIS CHOKLADRAN and 


CHOKLAD LJUS, 



are being recalled due to undeclared Milk, Hazelnuts and/or Almond. "All Best Before Dates," Sold from April 30, 2015 to July 1, 2016.

IKEA had samples of chocolate analyzed and found them to contain milk, hazelnut and/or almond. Persons allergic to milk, hazelnuts and/or almonds may have a severe to life-threatening reaction after consuming the dark chocolate.

Products have been distributed Nationwide at IKEA retail stores and sold individually. There has been no complaints or reported incidents in the United States to date. IKEA of Sweden has had one reported complaint in Japan. The chocolate products do carry an advisory statement, which identifies that the chocolate products may contain milk and tree nuts.

Consumers are encouraged to return the affected products to the nearest IKEA store for a full refund, proof of purchase is not required. If you have any questions or concerns please call Customer Service toll free (24/7) at 1-888-966-4532 or www.IKEA-usa.com.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.