Saturday, December 20, 2014

Will Think Thin Bars Help You?

As some of you may be aware of, Your Chocolate Priestess has been working (sort of) to lose some weight.  I hate exercising so I went with the increase normal activity and decrease calories method.  The downside of this is that I had to keep track of everything I ate, counting calories in effect.  In this effort I tried a lot of foods that I could easily keep track of to help me out.  Two of these were thinkThin bars sent via the Amazon Vine program I'm a member of.  I wrote a quickie review back in June and then in August on the sponsor website but today I'm going to go a bit more in-depth on these products.

We'll start with the "Dark Chocolate" high protein bar they make. As you can see from the photo it has a dark center that is mostly solid and a few, tiny pieces of something very dark every now and again. When I look at the ingredients list I am immediately disappointed -- all I see in terms of cacao products is powdered cocoa listed twice for some reasons.  This bar adds in other oils but has no cocoa butter and you know I really dislike that, Sisters and Brothers.  The bar has a sweet, oddly sweet scent to it even after I break it open but no chocolaty scent whatsoever.  The scent and the ingredients list makes me very wary of trying this but I do for you all.  It is dry, the dark pieces are apparently not in this first bite at all because I taste nothing different and encounter no other texture than this rather graininess.  There is a slightly sweet flavor but frankly no other flavor especially not one single iota of cocoa or chocolateness.  This is so bad that I just can't take another bite for you all.

The second bar was the "Chocolate Fudge" variety but with basically the same nutritional values and as you can see the bar liked almost identical (slightly lighter in color) to the "Dark Chocolate" one above.  Interestingly this bar has less of the sweet scent I complained about above and a stronger cocoa fragrance.  The texture is a bit less dry but the flavor is very bland, not chocolatey at all.  There is a slight fruity sweet aftertaste but basically this is like eating nothing; I can eat nothing if I want to eat nothing if you know what I mean.

Both of these thinkThin bars were really disappointing.  I had high hopes since the nutritional values are so good but as is often the case with this "diet" or "health" bars they add so many unnecessary and often overly chemical ingredients that it isn't enjoyable.  If you aren't enjoying it, why eat something made of chocolate?  If it isn't good chocolate flavor why use or Sacred Substance at all?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Great Cookie Swap 2014 Recipe

For the fourth year, The Chocolate Cult is participating in the Great Cookie Swap that benefits Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Food bloggers around the world swap cookies and try new recipes in the process of helping children fight these afflictions. I found the recipe I based my cookie in an old Land O'Lakes spiral bound cookbook.  I found bananas on sale and even had a coupon for them so these seemed like an awesome test to make.  I bought holiday themed tins and packed the cookies with baking style tissue paper in various designs.

Chocolate Banana Cookies
By TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients for Cookies:
4 medium bananas, very ripe
1.5 C white granulated sugar
3 sticks butter (1.5 C) softened
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 C raw cocoa powder
2 1/3 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C mini chocolate Chips

Directions for Cookies:
1. Pre-heat oven 350°F and grease the top of large cookie sheets.

2. Cut or tear up bananas into small pieces and place into large mixing bowl.

3. Add in sugar, salt, and vanilla. Cut butter into small slices and add to mixture. Blend on medium until smooth until bananas are in a smooth semi-liquid state.

4. Add in cocoa powder and blend on low for one minute.  Scrap sides of bowl and turn speed to medium until it is all a smooth mixture.

5. Add in flour 1/3 cup at a time and blend on medium-high until stiff dough.

6. Blend in mini chocolate chips.

7. Using a small spoon or scoop place dough on greased cookie sheet.  Flatten out the balls of dough with the floured bottom of a glass cup -- this will make a flour color on the top but it won't affect the flavor and otherwise the cookies will not spread much on their own.

8. Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on how crisp you like your cookie.

9. Remove from oven and place cookies to cool on paper covered table or counter top.

10. Eat and enjoy!

These do have a strong banana flavor so if you do not like bananas these are not for you.  The cocoa flavor is also very strong with little pops of the chips. You can increase the amount of chips but I wouldn't go over another 1/2 cup unless you want to risk the melting chips changing the texture too much.  At 12 minutes they have a brownie like texture without oil or eggs however. Each cookie has approximately 85 calories each, the vast majority of those calories from the butter.

I hope that the three people I sent cookies to from Sweet Potato Bites, NY Foodgasm, and The Dinner-Mom.

The return cookies/bar I received were Easy Oatmeal Lace Cookies from The Dinner-Mom, Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Cookies from Majorly Delicious, and Easy Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies from JavaCupcake.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2 Cold Treat Recalls

Always sad to have to report FDA recalls to you all, Sisters and Brothers, but part of our job of covering chocolate is to make sure you are safe.  Today we have two cold treat recalls to share with you. Remember if you live outside of the USA check with your local government food safety agencies to see if a similar or the same product has been recalled where you live. Also always click on the links and follow the directions in the recall.

Safeway Recalls Safeway Select French Salted Caramel (Fleur De Sel) Premium Ice Cream Sold November 4 through December 5 Due to an Undeclared Peanut Allergen

Consumer Contact:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — December 5, 2014 — PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway is voluntarily recalling Safeway Select French Salted Caramel (Fleur De Sel) Premium Ice Cream sold in all Safeway-owned stores from November 4, 2014 through December 5, 2014 due to the inclusion of an undeclared peanut allergen.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product. The recalled product is in a 1.5 quart package and displays the following UPC Code and Best Before Date.

Product Name UPC Code Best Before Date
Safeway Select French Salted Carmel (Fleur De Sel) Premium Ice Cream 21130 08970 Nov 03 2015
The UPC Code is located on the side panel. The Best Before Date is located on the bottom of the package.

No illnesses or injuries have been reported. The recipe’s caramel cups ingredient was replaced with peanut butter cups due to a supply error.

The recalled Safeway Select French Salted Caramel (Fleur De Sel) Premium Ice Cream was sold in all Safeway, Carrs, Genuardi’s, Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Vons stores throughout the United States.

Customers are asked to discard the product or return it to their local store for a full refund. Customers who have questions about the recall can contact Safeway at 1-877-SAFEWAY.
House of Flavors Issues Voluntary Recall Due to Possible Undeclared Dairy Allergen in Ciao Bella Dark Cocoa Sorbetto

Ludington, Michigan-based Company Issues Allergy Alert

Consumer Contact: Tom Watkins, 231-845-7369 x 2229

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 1, 2014 – Ludington, Michigan – House of Flavors, Inc., based in Ludington, Michigan, is recalling Ciao Bella Dark Cocoa Sorbetto manufactured by House of Flavors because it’s ingredients may include an undeclared dairy allergen. Consumers who may have an allergy or severe sensitivity to dairy run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to dairy, there is no safety issue with this product. The recall was initiated after receiving one complaint that included an allergic reaction from a consumer allergic to dairy. The company is conducting an internal audit to determine possible cause.

Only Ciao Bella Dark Cocoa Sorbetto 14oz. plastic containers stamped with UPC code 9951201206 and date code 14102 and marked “Best by Date: October 12, 2015” are affected by the recall.

No other Ciao Bella products or any other Ciao Bella Dark Cocoa Sorbetto are affected by the recall.

House of Flavors it is taking precautionary steps, including removing all potentially impacted products from retail store shelves and the entire distribution system.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. Anyone requiring more information should contact House of Flavors consumer affairs at 1-800-930-7740, extension 2229, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. until 5 pm. (EST).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Biscotti for the Holidays

We've looked at biscotti already this holiday season but today we have another brand's biscotti to reveal to you all -- Nonni's, a new brand for our growing list of products we test and write about to help you, Sisters and Brothers, make better chocolate buying decisions.  These Nonni's Biscotti Bites may be found on your grocer's shelves in some areas so it isn't too late to add them to your holiday party or feast menus. If you've tried these before, let us know what you thought about them in a comment.  Please remember that we love seeing comments and we do reply to each and every one of them that we get. To help test these, I made a basic hot cocoa available to my tasters since biscotti cookies are often dunked in a warm liquid before enjoying. Some tasters did that, some did not. Below is our collective opinions about the the two samples The Chocolate Cult was sent.

The Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Bites come in a 4.75oz, orangish design bag. These are milk chocolate biscotti with the back and the straight bottom, sometimes the front, covered or drizzled in more milk chocolate. This has chocolate liquor and cocoa butter though for some odd reason also palm oil; primarily the ingredient list is easy to understand which only a handful of chemicals.  It does have wheat, milk, soy and eggs if those are allergy or food lifestyle choices you need to think about. As you can see in our photo they are about a 2-3 bite treat. But you want to know how they taste, smell, feel, etc, don't you? The strongest scent is a tangy caramel really followed by a soy creaminess; no cocoa in terms of fragrance. Our tasters liked this one the best of the two varieties.  They felt it had a great balance between salt, tangy caramel, and a definite cocoa flavor.  Dunked it soaked up the liquid well without getting too soft but it wasn't so hard that it was brittle and still fun to eat in 2-3 bites. We noticed that the way the coating of chocolate was added to the chocolate cookie varied greatly -- some was drizzled on the top, some of one side was completely covered, while others had the flat side dipped higher or lower. This made us feel like these are handcrafted.

The Almond Dark Chocolate Bites come in a 5oz, reddish design bag; these have tree nuts. These are vanilla biscotti with the straight edge dipped in bittersweet chocolate; as you can in our photo how far they were dipped varies a bit from piece to piece. Besides tree nuts, allergens include wheat, milk, soy, and eggs. These are made with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter, happily no palm oil and fewer chemical names on the ingredients list. The primary scents from these are almond and wheat with a subtle sweetness; oddly the bittersweet chocolate gives off only a light fragrance. So let's turn to the other sense of our tasters. These were the same texture over all, not too hard on their own but also good for dunking. The almonds were a solid flavor along with vanilla but the dark chocolate was equally strong when you bit into it.  There was less chocolate on these and all of them had the straight bottom dipped, no drizzles, no entire side coated. Personally I liked these the best because I felt they soaked up the hot cocoa better.

Have you seen these or other Nonni's products in your local stores?  If so please let us know where below so other readers can find them. We thought these were yummy and highly recommend that you check them out if you haven't seen them or tried them already. There is one more variety of the Biscotti Bites that doesn't have chocolate but these two go find and buy, Sisters and Brothers.