Saturday, February 28, 2015

Splenda Party Report from The Chocolate Cult

We've hosted a few parties here on The Chocolate Cult primarily with salespeople from chocolate companies coming in to "educate" and sell their goods. I've also used products at parties as ways to test them out such as the ZOKU quick pops this past Christmas.  This is the first time I've been asked to host a party focus solely on a brand, in this case Splenda. I connected with this company via the Crowdtap site that I'm a member of and which I've done some product testing of in the past. In this case I knew I could combine the three Splenda products I was sent with chocolate recipes because I've used Splenda many times in the past. Unfortunately the day of the party this happened -- snow, the most snow we'd had since November 2014. The snow continued to come down so the photo to the left is what it was that morning, it was higher by the time the party was scheduled for.

The kit came with the following items all in bright yellow:

1 Bag of SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend

1 Bag of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener

1 Bag of SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

1 Set of SPLENDA® Brand Coupons

10 SPLENDA® Brand Cutting Boards

10 SPLENDA® Brand Spatulas

10 SPLENDA® Brand Measuring Cups

10 SPLENDA® Brand Jump Ropes

10 SPLENDA® Brand Aprons

I made three recipes -- half the recipe with cane sugar, half with the appropriate form of Splenda. All other ingredients, the cooking environment, and the cooking methods were identical.

This is what I made and how they turned out.

Sugar vs. Splenda Milk Chocolate Caramel Sauce
Milk Chocolate Caramel Sauce -- Sugar version = 1823 total calories; Splenda version = 1437 total calories; Oddly the Splenda version allowed the chocolate chips to melt faster and more thoroughly while the sugar version had a problem of hardening up while it boiled.  Even more oddly the sugar version never held any shape even after cooling in the frig, it was really more a caramel sauce than caramel candy. The Splenda version held onto a shape better but was still very soft. I think part of the softness may have to do with the recipe I used but I was very surprised that the softer version was the cane sugar version. In terms of flavor, the sugar version was more milky and the Splenda version had a darker chocolate flavor even though both were made with milk chocolate chips.

Sugar vs. Splenda Cocoa Peppermint Cookies
Cocoa Peppermint Cookies -- Sugar version = 2462 total calories; Splenda version = 2327 total calories; The brown sugar version of these cookies were much flatter and more crisp than the Splenda version which was fluffier and had a lighter texture. However they tasted identical to most of the folks who tried them out so it really comes down to the texture you want.

Sugar vs. Splenda Duo Choco Chip Sugar Cookies


Duo Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies -- Sugar version = 2367 total calories; Splenda version = 1980 total calories; I noticed that the butter blended faster and more thoroughly in the Splenda version but the dough was thicker and made one fewer cookies; they looked very different once baked, the Sugar version was flatter and darker in color while the Splenda version didn't spread and remained pale; the Splenda version had a stronger flour flavor to it, it was as sweet and as chocolatey but also had more grain flavor.

Experimenting was very interesting as was hearing my guests give me feedback about the differences they perceived. But let's get back to the party and the snow. I laid out my table hoping for the best in terms of turnout.



Only one brave person managed to come. Everyone say "Hi" to Erica please. I'm the one in the Splenda apron which was one of the swag items for guests.

Chocolate Priestess + Guest

The next day is a normal friends over to our house day so I had more folks to try the treats out. Thank goodness I only made half batches of each type of treat or we'd still have them in the house. Not that any of these were horrible, nothing was over 107 calories a serving, but still I get tired of the same thing.


I still have swag left if anyone wants some and lives near me, give me a shout out and you can have some of them. Note: the Spatulas are all given away but the other items are available.


Friday, February 27, 2015

March of Chocolate Fun Food Holidays 2015

March = Frozen Foods Month, begun in 1983 by The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), many grocery stores in the USA have a focus on frozen food sales during this month

1st Thursday in March = World Book Day - I have been so busy that while I have books featuring chocolate no review will be posted this day... I'll try to get to something later on but for now you can check out other book reviews at this LINK

March 1 = National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day -- A company contacted me in February about sending us some freebie coupons to try their latest peanut butter and chocolate flavors so I hope to test and write about them soon but Moderation and our schedule of already arrived samples needs to take priority for fairness sake

March 6 = National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

March 7 = National Cereal Day -- I have a recipe to share with you all.

March 8 = National Peanut Cluster Day

March 14 = National Pi Day which is often treated as a pie day or a circle food day

2nd week of March = Chocolate Chip Cookie Week -- This might be a good week to share the Splenda recipe with you all.

March 18 = National Oatmeal Cookie Day

March 19 = National Chocolate Caramel Day -- I could share a Splenda recipe on this day, too.

3rd week of March = American Chocolate Week -- While Hershey's is considered a "classic" in terms of American Chocolate, there are a lot of American shops out there making amazing products.

March 24 = National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

March 25 = International Waffle Day; Pecan Day (not national)

March 26 = National Make Up Your Own Holiday Day -- What Holiday do you want to make up?

March 28 = National Black Forest Cake Day -- Not being a bit cherry fruit fan, I've never made this.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chocolate Related Recalls for February 22, 2015

Yup, sadly, there are three more chocolate related food recalls from the FDA to let you all know about. Two of these are from Whole Foods which I know is coming to my current city next year. If you do not live in the USA, please do stay in contact with your own food safety departments to protect yourself and your family.

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Whole Foods Market’s Glastonbury Store Recalls Divine Treasures 100,000 Smooches Vegan Chocolate Due to Undeclared Allergen

Consumer Contact: 617-492-5500

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — February 13, 2015 — CAMBRIDGE, MA — Whole Foods Market is recalling “Divine Treasures 100000 Smooches” sold at the Glastonbury, Connecticut location due to an undeclared peanut allergen. The product was sold in the Glastonbury store through February 11, 2015 and includes any Divine Treasures 1000000 Smooches with “Sell By” dates through May 6, 2015.

The vegan chocolate candy labeled as “Divine Treasures 100000 Smooches” contained peanuts, a known allergen, which is not declared due to incomplete wording on the label. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Signage is posted to notify customers of this recall, and all affected product has been removed from shelves.

One allergic reaction has been reported.

Consumers who have purchased this product from Whole Foods Market Glastonbury may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact their local store or call 617-492-5500 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST.

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Whole Foods Market’s Southwest Region Recalls Chocolate Cake For Two Due To Undeclared Egg

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 13, 2015 – Austin, Texas – Whole Foods Market is recalling chocolate cake for two produced and sold in retail stores in the Southwest Region, which includes TX, OK, LA, AR, due to undeclared egg. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to egg run the risk of serious or life-­‐‑threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The product was sold as whole cakes packaged in clear plastic containers, UPC code 24635700000 with best by dates of 2/3/15 to 2/18/15.

The chocolate cake for two contains egg as an ingredient, which was not declared on the label.

Signage is posted to notify customers of this recall, and all affected product has been removed from shelves.

The error was discovered during routine product review. No allergic reactions or illnesses have been reported to date.

Consumers who have purchased this product from any Whole Foods Market Southwest stores in TX, OK, LA, and AR may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact their local store between the hours of 9am and 5pm CST any day of the week.

Customers may find their nearest Whole Foods Market at www.wholefoodsmarket.com

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Chocolate by Design Assorted Character Icing Pops
Chocolate By Design Inc. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Egg in Milk Chocolate Assorted Character Icing Pops, Christmas Icing Pops and Triple Heart Icing Pops


Consumer Contact: 1-631-737-0082

Chocolate by Design Christmas Icing Pops
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — February 18, 2015 — Chocolate By Design Inc. of Ronkonkoma, NY, is recalling its Milk Chocolate “Assorted Character Icing Pops”, “Christmas Icing Pops” and “Triple Heart Icing Pops” because they contain undeclared eggs. The Icing Pops may also contain trace amounts of FD&C colors Yellow 5 or 6, Red 3 or 40, and/or Blue 1. People who have allergies to eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Chocolate by Design Triple Heart Icing Pops
The Milk Chocolate “Assorted Character Pops”, “Christmas Icing Pops” and “Triple Heart Icing Pops” were sold to several customers in New York, New Jersey and Virginia from September 2014 through February 1, 2015 for retail sales.

The milk chocolate Icing Pops are made to order and sold in unmarked bulk boxes containing 24 assorted Icing Pops per box. Each Icing Pop is individually wrapped for retail sale in 2 oz. clear cellophane with a curl ribbon closure. The Icing Pops are not coded.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered during the current FDA inspection that the Milk Chocolate Icing Pops were distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of egg and the certified food colors. Production of the “Assorted Character Icing Pops”, “Christmas Icing Pops” and “Triple Heart Icing Pops” has been suspended until the labeling has been corrected.

Consumers who have purchased any of the 2 oz. “Assorted Character Icing Pops”, “Christmas Icing Pops” and “Triple Heart Icing Pops” are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-631-737-0082, Mon - Friday 9 am - 4 pm EST.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Recipe: Rice Flour Chocolate Cake


Recently I was sent a 2 pound bag of rice flour through a company that connected with me via Tomoson: Jiva USDA Organic White Rice Flour 2 Pound Bag
. The company is Jiva Organics and they makes several other products but this one was the one I felt we could work with in terms of using it with chocolate.

I had to go do some research to see what chocolatey treats I could bake using the rice flour. There was an immediate problem -- so many recipes require several additional ingredients and to be blunt, I'm not getting paid for this, Sisters and Brothers, so unless it an ingredient I have on hand, I really can't afford to rush out and buy it. However I did find a chocolate recipe that I felt comfortable enough adjusting that I can share the results with you today. I wanted to try at least one cookie recipe as well but I was ill and I've been preparing for a party you'll see a post about next Saturday. When I use the rice flour again, I'll add to this post or at least mention the product by name when I share that recipe. I had to make enough changes to this recipe that really I've made a new recipe not just tested one. Who puts a recipe out without the directions for the size of baking pan or the temperature you are supposed to bake at?

In terms of the recipe itself, I could quickly tell this was really somewhere between brownie and flourless cake rather than a traditional cake. Following the recipe as it was resulted in such a dry product that it was inedible. So based on my basic experience with several types of baked goods, I made my adjustments.

Basic Chocolate Ganache Rice Flour Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water
1/2 cup raw organic cocoa powder
1.5 cups Jiva USDA Organic White Rice Flour 2 Pound Bag
1 cup Xylitol (birch tree sugar, granulated)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg white
1 T vanilla extract
2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease but do not flour 9 inch baking pan.

2. Whisk together cocoa and warm water.



3. Blend together rice flour, xylitol baking soda, and salt.

4. Pour cocoa mixture, oil, egg white, and vanilla into dry ingredients. Blend well then add in vinegar and blend again scraping the sides of your bowl several times. It will be a thick batter.



5. Pour into baking pan and smooth out the top to an even surface.



6. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. Once it has cooled enough, at least 20 minutes, turn out onto serving platter and allow to continue to cool. Or you can simply allow it to cool in the pan you used. The only difference is presentation of the final product.



If you want a glaze or frosting  you can add that as well.  This is what I did:

Sweetened Chocolate Ganache:
 2 oz drinking chocolate
1/2 cup confectioners or powdered sugar
1 T skim milk

1. Mix together milk and sugar until smooth.

2. Add in chocolate and heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir then reheat again and stir until the ganache is smooth.

3. Quickly pour onto center of cake then spread around. It will harden up quickly.

Recipe Results:

Rice flour makes a drier cake so frankly you need a moister topping perhap a fruit sauce or you need to add in more moisture to the recipe.

The "cake" is very dense most like a cross between a fudgy brownie and a flourless cake.

The rice flour does not change the flavor of other ingredients.

The rice flour has about 14% fewer calories per gram compared to the whole grain flour that I normally use. However because it is more dense a quarter cup of rice flour weighs more than whole grain flour so the calorie count is about the same.

The rice flour has less fat, about an equal amount of carbohydrates, but more than double the amount of fiber and iron, and more than three times the amount of protein.

Nutritionally it seems healthier for you but finding recipes is tricky. Most of the ones I found required so many additional and not-pantry staple ingredients that making them would be quite costly.  I'll certainly continue to test out what I have but I can't honestly say I'd buy more in the future unless I found simpler recipes.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

See's Candies Valentine's Day Recalls 2015!

And the day right after Valentine's Day there is a recall involving one of the most popular candy companies in America. I hope you haven't eaten all of you candy from heart-shaped boxes yet before you check this recall out.

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Consumer Contact: 1-800-789-7337

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — February 6, 2015 — San Francisco — See’s Company of San Francisco is recalling all 8 oz Classic Red Hearts with Assorted Chocolates with bar code 737666091201 and stamped date L.A.N. 048/15 because it contains undeclared tree nuts. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to tree nuts (e.g.: almonds, walnuts, pecans, coconut) run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Product was distributed nationwide through See’s Candies Retail Stores and Mail Order (Web/Phone/Catalog). The product is sold packaged at the stores in 8oz Red Heart boxes.

No illnesses have been reported to date. The product UPC is: 737666091201.

The recall was initiated after a retail store discovered a red heart with the incorrectly labeled base mixed in with properly labeled bases.

Consumers who have purchased Sees’ Candies Classic Red Hearts with Assorted Chocolates with bar code 737666091201 and lot L.A.N.048/15 and are sensitive to tree nuts are urged to return the hearts to the place of purchase for a full refund or exchange. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-789-7337 (Monday thru Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm PDT).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Pets? Love Chocolate? Celebrate Both on Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day and more and more people are seeing it not as simply a romantic couple's holiday but a day to remember anyone you love. For many of you that might be your pets. Yet while chocolate is popular for Valentine's gifts it isn't safe for most domesticated pets especially smaller ones. How can you combine your love of pets with a love of chocolate? We cover a charity walk every fall that does just that and now I want to introduce you to Rescue Chocolate, whose founder we talked to just this past Wednesday in an email interview.  Rescue Chocolate sent us three of their products to try out and with the help of two assistants, I did just that. All their bars are fairly traded, organic ingredients, vegan, and kosher  but depending on your allergies they may not be allergy free so just not the ingredients for each bar please.

First our Fruit Acolyte tried out their MISSION FERAL FIG bar and this is what she said: It was excellent! The dark chocolate was just sweet enough, had a nice snap. The bar itself smelled like chocolate. The fruit was sweet/tart, which was a nice surprise because my experience with dates has been more of a sickly sweet sugar-soaked variety. In the bar they were more like a nicely tart raisin. The almonds were also good. The only "problem" I'd give it is that the fruit & nuts weren't evenly distributed because they were in large pieces. So some pips were mostly nut or mostly fruit and others were just chocolate. But that's not really a problem when you're scarfing the whole bar. It was excellent overall and I would totally buy the hell out of that brand!

Next I and our Milk Chocolate and Tea Acolyte tried the FOSTER-IFFIC PEPPERMINT bar which has a lovely green wrapper to go with the mint flavor. This is a dark 66% chocolate with cocoa nibs and natural peppermint oil; the chocolate is made with cocoa beans, cocoa butter, pure cane sugar, and soy lecithin. When I unwrap this bar I see a thick nearly 1 inch thick, dark bar with 10 sections that has a strong dark cocoa and light peppermint scent.  The pieces break apart with some effort because they are so thick and the chocolate dark; I can see little nibs sticking out in various places but I don't think my camera was good enough to show that. Breaking it apart has released more of the peppermint scent but the dark chocolate fragrance reminds strong as well. There is a loud snap when I take a bite and my mouth is flooded with a wonderful dark chocolate, very lightly sweetened, and a light, cool peppermint that increases but never overpowers the chocolate with each bite. The cocoa nibs are crisp and add an extra crunch with each chew as well as an intense burst of new bitter chocolate. I love this bar, it is very well blended and interesting to eat.

Finally I tried the THE FIX bar with the same assistant, who is my husband by the way. This is a simple chocolate bar with 66% cacao content made with the basics -- cocoa beans, cocoa butter, pure cane sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla.  As you can see it is dark in color and fairly identical to the previous two bars but without any added pieces of fruit, nuts, or cocoa nibs. It is more difficult to snap off the ten sections yet makes a softer sound when I take a bite. The immediate flavor is smooth, slightly sweet chocolate that has no bitterness at all and it is surprisingly creamy as well.  If you let a piece melt in your mouth, it melts slowly and increases the sweet and creamy flavors with a build up of the chocolate that ends up tasty a bit more bitter than chewing it allows.  Of the two bars I tried, this one really had a strong cocoa buzz, making everything seem brighter in the world around me.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers, three bars from Rescue Chocolate for you to consider as we approach a week of remembering to care about pets on the day we might think about love for everyone special in our lives. Each bar was wonderful for all of our senses, the ingredients are simple and pure.  Add in the mission of Rescue Chocolate push it over the edge to make it Sacrament worthy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Lady Behind Rescue Chocolate

Saturday may be Valentine's Day but next week is National Justice for Animals Week. In honor of that and to honor our readers who love both their pets and chocolate, I want to introduce you to the lady behind Rescue Chocolate, Sarah Gross.  Please do leave comments and questions for her at the of our interview.

Sarah, would you please tell our readers how you got started in the chocolate business before there was Rescue Chocolate?

I just followed my passion. I started out as a lay chocolate-eater. My business interests were elsewhere. In fact, I worked as a professional ballet dancer for 3 years during college. When I moved to New York City in 2007, I was pleasantly pleased to discover all the exotic chocolate bars available in various shops around town. I bought all the ones that looked intriguing, tasted them, saved the wrappers in a notebook, and wrote up my notes. I toyed with publishing my reviews online, but actually I am the only one who ever read them! That was the beginning of my serious interest in chocolate. To supplement my knowledge, I started reading about how dark chocolate bars are produced and what makes them special.

You worked with raw chocolate products in the past but Rescue Chocolate is not raw chocolate.  Why did you chose the more conventional process for the chocolate you make?

I did work at a raw chocolate factory in Queens to gain some hands-on experience. While there, I developed a best-selling flavor which stayed on their product rolls for quite some time after I left. But I am a vegan non-raw eater myself. And I appreciate the traditional non-raw Belgian technique of making dark chocolate. So that is the route I chose for Rescue Chocolate. The chef I work with to produce my products is actually French-trained, and superb!

Your chocolate is vegan, Kosher, fairly traded, organic, and B Corp certified . Is this important to you personally or/and was it prompted by social or political concerns?

All of those attributes are deeply important to me. I have been a vegan since junior high, and I can't imagine eating any other kind of food now. A vegan lifestyle means that I don't condone animal cruelty in any form. Later I learned that vegan food is also so much better for my health and for the environment, which are extra bonuses for me. The kosher and organic certifications mean that more people can enjoy my products. The fact that my ingredients are fairly traded means that no human beings (principally, the cacao farmers) are exploited either. And the B Corp certification is an independently verified seal of approval letting consumers know that all my claims are truthful. The auditors specifically looked into my mission of donating all profits to various animal rescue organizations. It was quite an involved process to obtain that certification, and I'm proud that Rescue Chocolate passed with flying colors.

Tell us a bit about Mocha, your inspiration.

Five years ago I was living in an apartment where residents were not encouraged to keep pets. I had grown up around dogs, so it was a strange situation for me. One day a friend of mine, who fosters homeless animals so that they will no be killed, posted the mug shot of a pit bull online. I think it was love at first sight. I made arrangements to meet the dog in person, but before I knew it I was riding home with her in a taxicab. She was scared and emaciated, and her ears had been cropped by her previous owners whom I presume were dogfighters. But she was also forgiving, affectionate, super intelligent, adorable... and now mine! I named her Mocha Bella. Soon we moved to a new apartment within walking distance of a wonderful park. It was when I was walking her in that park one day that I got the inspiration to combine my two loves--my rescued dog and chocolate--into Rescue Chocolate.

How long has Rescue Chocolate been in business?

The company was founded in January 2010.



Part of your mission to help various pet organizations. How do you decide which ones to support?

The very first beneficiary was a coalition of rescue groups working in Haiti where there had just been a disastrous earthquake. After awhile, the groups reached out to me. I would choose the ones that were not so small that they wouldn't be able to effectively use my donation, and not so large that my donation would get lost in an ocean of money. Now I have an annual beneficiary that gets all of my non-earmarked profits. For 2014 the beneficiary was the No Kill Advocacy Center. For 2015 it will be the Petfinder Foundation. But I work with hundreds of groups on an ongoing basis whenever they want to sell Rescue Chocolate at their fundraising events. I also have a "write-in" program where a group's supporters can purchase from me online and earmark the profits from their purchase to their own favorite rescue group.

You currently have eight varieties of chocolate bars listed on your website. Which of these was your first flavor?

Peanut Butter Pit Bull and Pick Me Pepper were both introduced at the same time.

Which flavor was the trickiest to create?

The Fakin' Bacon bar was surprisingly hard to get right. I wanted to climb aboard the bandwagon of sticking bacon in everything, but of course I wanted to keep it all vegan. We first used an imitation bacon product that had some unhealthful-sounding chemicals in it. Now our soy-based "bacon" is completely natural.

Of these eight flavors which is your favorite and which is your best seller?

My favorite alternates among all of them. At the moment I'd say it is the Forever Mocha, which contains coffee and hazelnuts. The best seller by far is Peanut Butter Pit Bull, which is why I also decided to put that out in the form of a mini bar as well.

Do you have a brick and mortar shop that folks could visit or is everything sold online?

Everything is sold online. But it is possible for people to visit brick-and-mortar stores for Rescue Chocolate because I have several retailers around the country who carry my product line; a list of those can be found on my website.

Sarah at Strutt Your Mutt 2013
Finally, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about your company before our upcoming feature about your bars?

We've talked a lot about the chocolate, which is wonderful. But I'd also like everyone to know that the problem of homeless dogs and cats is huge, but also very fixable! It is vital that everyone be sure to spay and neuter their pets. Don't ever purchase a pet from a pet store or breeder; there are millions of perfectly spectacular animals waiting to be adopted from shelters. When you go that route, you save a life. If you cannot find room in your heart or your home for an animal long-term, then consider fostering a homeless dog or cat just for a little while--this frees up space in the shelters, allowing more of them to be saved. It's really very simple and easy to be compassionate.

Thank you, Sarah, for talking with us today.  Sisters and Brothers, have any of you ever tried Rescue Chocolate?  Do you think that their goals might mesh with your own? If so, go check them out, try them out, and please do leave comments or questions here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Give a Great Valentine's Gift

Valentine's Day can be stressful. Sometime people poo-poo it as a "created" holiday but then all holiday are created by human beings so that's hardly a unique problem to the romance of February 14th. Chocolate is one of the most sought off and purchased Valentine's Day gifts around the world. Too often in the USA we confuse chocolate and candy. We think a chocolate bar is overpriced when in reality we comparing it to a candy bar. We also have this odd expectation that you should just "know" what your beloved wants as a gift and then complain about how your lover doesn't know you when you get something you don't like. Given that you sweetheart may want candy or chocolate or both on Saturday, you might want to think a bit before you just run out and buy the first heart-shaped box you find. Here is The Chocolate Cult's Advice on Valentine's Day Gifts for both the giver and the receiver.

Note: You should read both lists because it is only loving to give as well as receive on Valentine's Day.

Gift Giver Questions:

1. Does your beloved want candy, chocolate, a bit of both, or neither?

Don't assume you know the answer. We are coming off of a very intense holiday month in December through January for many parts of the world. Your beloved may have leftover treats or be attempting to get healthier this year. Giving even the best chocolate or candy when it isn't wanted won't score you points. Ask first.

Equal Exchange Hearts
2. What type of chocolate does your beloved prefer?

There are three basic categories of chocolate -- white, milk, and dark. These have legal definitions so check those out for your country. However just because your beloved seems to like one type of chocolate don't assume they'll like all types. Many people who like milk chocolate do not like dark or white chocolate. Many folks who like lower cacao percentage dark chocolates (55-65%) strongly dislike higher cacao content. Just as you ask if your beloved would like candy, chocolate, both, or not, ask them about the types of chocolates they like.

Chocion Pralines
3. Does your beloved like pure chocolate or chocolates with added ingredients such as pralines, truffles, baked goods, or simply added flavors?

The list of possibilities are endless so this is where your observational skills over the course of your relationship can come in handy. When your partner eats chocolate or desserts what do they tend to order or make more often? There is no shame here in also asking but since the possibilities are so varied this can be the place to really show your initiative. Does your partner adventuresome when it comes to food? Now might be the time to pick one or two new flavors but make sure  you keep to their preferred category of chocolate. In other words, if you're partner likes spicy and fruity flavors and prefers darker chocolate, Valentine's Day is not the time to give a book of white spicy citrus truffles.

4. Does your beloved have allergies to any type of food?

This is a very important consideration. One you should know early on in your relationship. If you are at all unsure, ask your beloved. Always check the ingredients list and if there is no ingredient list on the potential gift either do not buy it or ask the manufacturer for an ingredient list. If you are at all unsure whether or not a chocolate or candy has the allergens your beloved needs to be cautious of, do not buy it. Giving a gift with allergens is telling your beloved that you do not care at all about their health and frankly if that's true, s/he should dump you.

Sjaak's Truffle Box
5. Does your beloved support any religious practices or social and economic policies that connect to candy or chocolate?

This could issues like fair trade, organic certification, or kosher status. It might even relate to where the product was made. For example your partner may try to support local business or only companies that follow specific practices. If you can't find out if a brand follows those practices or where it is made, ask, and if you can't find out, don't buy it.

6. How much should you give?

This is matter of assessing their current health goals and your finances. While you might see huge heart-shaped boxes of the average chocolate and candy brands, your partner might be equally pleased by just five pieces from a high quality company. If you can find a local candy or chocolate shop where you can buy individual pieces, go that route and get an even number. Why? Then your beloved can share if he/she likes. Stick with under a dozen pieces of chocolate or candy because we've just come off of a big eating season and we could all use a little break. Whether or not your beloved is on a health kick for the New Year a dozen shouldn't seem like too much.

Kane Candy Hearts
7. How should present the candy or chocolate?

We're not talking about the shape of the box though heart-shaped is traditional. We are talking more about the situation in which you give it. If you are doing a dinner date, a movie, or another evening out, save the candy or chocolate for when you get home when you can help your beloved enjoy them.  If you staying home, do something to set a romantic more, hopefully you're close enough to your beloved to know what that might be. Do not pressure your beloved to try the candy or chocolate right then and there. If you asked them what they liked, thought about quality versus quantity, and have paid attention to the types of flavors they enjoy, you don't need to worry about the gift. Pressuring them to try it not is really a sign of you being uncertain and that isn't romantic or sexy for anyone.

The exception to the pressuring rule is when you've made them a dessert. Obviously in that case you should both enjoy it but depending on how big of a meal you've had, perhaps you can share a serving.

Gift Receiver Questions:

1. How often do you tell your partner what you like in terms of food or drinks?

Don't assume that your partner is paying attention. You've all heard what "assume" really stands for, right? It makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Practice saying what you enjoy when you are enjoying it. Also practice asking your partner what they like about the various foods and drinks they have. If you think you are getting a Valentine's Day gift, you might be giving a gift, too. Plus learning about your partner and helping them learn more about is just good basic communication.

2. Do you know what the difference between candy and chocolate is?

How can you know if you want candy or chocolate unless you know the difference?

Milk and Dark Chocolate should always have chocolate as the primary ingredient -- called chocolate, chocolate liquor, chocolate mass, or even cocoa mass. Purer chocolates should also have cocoa butter in them. White Chocolate must have cocoa butter in it as well as dairy and sugar. Often chocolate will have a lecithin or flavor such as vanilla as well.

Candy is about sugar and that will appear before any chocolate or cocoa butter on the ingredient list. Candy also often has added oils and fats and a lot of chemical names on the ingredient list.

Chocolats du CaliBressan Heart
3. Do you really want candy or chocolate for Valentine's Day this year?

Candy, chocolate, flowers, stuff animals, all of these are standard Valentine's Day gifts yet they doesn't mean it is something you really want or even need. Assess yourself right now.

Would getting candy or chocolate undermine your current health goals? Could you make a gift of chocolate or candy work with your health goals if you got a smaller amount or shared with your lover? Do you really have room for another stuffed penguin for your collection? Do objects make you feel loved or does spending time together mean more? Perhaps a card would help you remember decades from now? Share your answers to these questions with your lover so you aren't falling into the commercial traps of Valentine's Day.

11. What should you do if the gift just isn't great or even good?

This is a complex situation. This may be an issue of safety or an issue of taste and preference. Your response should reflect which of these situations apply.

Your lover may have given you something with an allergen and in that case DO NOT EAT or DRINK IT and tell your lover immediately why you cannot consume it. If you have food allergies you are probably used to looking at ingredient labels; if your gift doesn't have that, you need to ask and if your lover doesn't know the answers you can't safely consume it.  Why does your lover not know your allergies? Did you not tell him? If your relationship has advanced to the level of gift giving on Valentine's Day you should have told. Do so now but be tactful. Don't ask for a different gift, that's just rude, but either throw it out, give it back to your lover, or give it to someone else.

If you have told your lover about your food allergens and s/he still gives you a gift with those allergens in them, think about how long you've been together. If you've been together for more than a handful of months and you've pointed out your food allergies more than once, might need to reconsider your relationship. A person who loves you cares about your body. Food allergies are not a joke, people can be seriously injured or even die from them. If someone doesn't care enough about you to make sure the don't give you something you are allergic to... well, I'd walk away from that relationship immediately.

If you simply aren't a fan of an ingredient or a category of chocolate you need to be tactful but honest about that fact. If your relationship is relatively new, try the product with your lover, attempt to be open to the experience, but if you don't like it, don't pretend that you do. Valentine's Day is not the day to lie to your lover. Not only is that treating her/him disrespectfully but it also disrespects you, too, because they will continue to give you gifts you don't like. If you've been together for some time you need to think about whether or not you've been lying about previous gifts you didn't like or if you've been honest. If you've been honest, try again, don't just throw away years of love over this one time mistake. Exaggerate your dislike for the gift, state it clearly, but thank them for the gift itself.

Consider what it is that you don't like exactly so you can give them specific information and ask them specific questions about likes and dislikes, too; show them you care and this isn't just about you. Perhaps they gave you a box of varied chocolates and you really don't like the white chocolate or the dark ones. But honest about that. Very few people want to give a gift that won't be loved and you save them time and money by being honest about what you like.

These are just eleven suggested questions for us all to think about before Saturday and Valentine's Day. I hope they help you have a better romance celebration regardless of if or when you might mark it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Recalls Related to Chocolate 1st Weekend of February 2015

We have a varied group of chocolate related recalls to share with you today. Please do look through them, follow the links, and contact your stores and the companies if you have these products. Remember the FDA can only do so much, you have to protect yourself and your family by following up.

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Aloha Voluntarily Recalls Line Of Premium Protein Products Due To A Possible Health Risk

Consumer Contact: 1-844-906-0499

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 30, 2015 — Project Healthy Living, Inc. of New York, New York (d/b/a Aloha, Inc.) is voluntarily recalling all packages of Premium Protein powder in chocolate and vanilla blends because it has the potential to be contaminated with Staphylococcus enterotoxin. The presence of Staphylococcus enterotoxins may be injurious to health and may result in staphylococcal food poisoning. Nausea, vomiting, retching, abdominal cramping, and prostration may occur. In more severe cases there may be headache, muscle cramping, and transient changes in blood pressure and pulse.

The Aloha Premium Protein products were distributed nationwide from November 2014 through January 2015 directly to consumers through online sales and in New York through a very limited number of retail stores. All sizes of Aloha's Vanilla and Chocolate Premium Protein blends are being voluntarily recalled. This product is packaged and sold in both 14-serving sized steel tins and single-serving sized pouches. The single serving pouches may be in kits that contain other products not affected by the voluntary recall.

To date, Aloha has received 17 complaints from customers who have reported transient gastrointestinal symptoms consistent with staphylococcal food poisoning. This voluntary recall is a result of an extensive testing program, which Aloha began immediately following individual customer complaints of gastrointestinal issues. Aloha is working closely with its manufacturer, co-packers, ingredient suppliers and distribution partners to determine the source and cause of the contamination.

Aloha has temporarily ceased production and distribution of the Premium Protein products until further analytical testing can confirm the specific source of the contamination. Aloha has already notified customers via direct e-mail correspondence and created a dedicated website regarding the voluntary recall. In addition, Aloha is offering 24/7 customer support through Monday, February 2nd and then will resume regular customer support hours (Monday - Friday 10am-9pm EST).

All customers who have purchased Aloha's Premium Protein products are instructed to discontinue use and complete the refund form found online at Aloharecall.com. Customers with product remaining are also asked to return the product and its original packaging for further examination.

Customers who have purchased Aloha's Premium Protein products will receive a refund and a store credit. In addition, Aloha will cover 100% of the cost of return shipping. For more information on the recall, please visit www.aloharecall.comdisclaimer icon. No other Aloha products are affected by this recall.

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Christ Kitchen Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Blameless Blondies Cookie Bar

Consumer Contact: 509-325-4343

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 3, 2015 – Spokane, Washington – Christ Kitchen of Spokane, Washington is recalling 199/15 oz. packages of Blameless Blondies Brownie because it may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk may run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Note: "White Chocolate Chips" are listed but without further information The Chocolate Cult can't determine if is really chocolate. We felt it was better to err on the side of caution than to not inform you all about this recall.

Blameless Blondie Brownie was distributed in Spokane Washington through our store location at 2410 N Monroe and several retail locations in the Spokane area between the dates of October 2014 through December 2014.

Blameless Blondies Brownie has the UPC 8 53143 00246 8 and has no best by dates. The expected shelf life is 18 months. The product is sold under brand name Christ Kitchen, net weight 15 oz., and packaged in a white cardboard decretive container.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that distributed product contains milk but product's label did not reveal the presence of milk.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA).

Consumers who have purchased Blameless Blondies are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund or replaced with a new product with the proper allergens listed on the tag.

Consumers who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk are advised not to consume this product. Consumers with questions may call Christ Kitchen at 509-325-4343 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST, Monday through Friday.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cocoa Butter Softness for Your Skin

While we most commonly look at food or drink products here on The Chocolate Cult we will examine anything related to chocolate especially if we are sent the product to test out.  Last year I joined a program called PinchMe and every now and again I've gotten a chocolate related product.  Today I want to look at a lotion made with cocoa butter and compare it to another lotion by the same company not made with cocoa butter to see if there is a difference. Personally I'd prefer that the cocoa butter stay in chocolate but cosmetics manufacturers are big buyers of cocoa butter and there may be reasons for that. Both of these Suave lotions came in the same size bottles through PinchMe so let's take a look at them.

Suave Smoothing with cocoa butter and shea claims it "softens rough, dry skin" for 24 hours. I find this very difficult to test because throughout the day I have to wash my hands repeatedly. Cocoa seed butter is the 17th ingredient on the list with six ingredients later being shea butter. The only oils in the Advanced Therapy bottle is from sunflower seeds and its bottle claims that it "relieves severely dry skin" which I have at this point in the year.  Let's look at a small amount of each side by side on the back of one of my hands in the photo to the left of this paragraph -- same layout as the photo above -- Smoothing on the left, Advanced Therapy on the right. As you can see the one with cocoa seed butter is yellow while the other lotion is bright white making it easy to tell them apart. By the way, neither changes the color of your skin after you apply it.

How did they feel on my skin? First off, I have very sensitive skin because I have a lot of allergies especially when it comes to "natural" ingredients found in a lot of body care products these days.  Neither of these made my skin react in a negative way. The Smoothing lotion with the cocoa seed butter was absorbed quicker and had no slick, slippery, or sticky affect on my skin, but it did leave a slightly cocoa butter scent. The Advance Therapy was a touch sticky while it was absorbed but that ended within ten minutes; its scent was more generic lotion.  With 2 oz of each to try I was able to apply this to my hands, my face, and my arms over the course of a couple of weeks. Sometimes I applied one to one side of my body and the other to the other side to gauge any difference. Frankly once both were absorbed by my skin, the only difference was the slight fragrance and my partners didn't even notice that.

At the end this is a challenging review for me because as a chocolate lovers who wants to promote the best for us all, I really dislike the idea of cocoa butter being used for cosmetics instead of food and drinks if it will be replaced by added oils and fats, often from plants we really need to be taking better care of such as palms. On the other hand between the two, the Smoothing lotion made with cocoa seed butter performed slightly better. So you tell me, Sisters and Brothers, have you tried either of these lotions? If so, what do you think about them and the issue of cocoa butter in cosmetics?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cutting Back on Sugar, Win Xylitol to Help


5 pound bag of xylitol
Our Winner was Chad!

You might recall that last weekend I reviewed xylitol from morningpep, a sweetener made from birch tree alcohol. Today I am pleased to announce that the company wants to give one of you the same product they sent me.

1. You need to be a follower of The Chocolate. You will be required to visit our site on FB and I'll check by hand to make sure you are listed if you are chosen to win.

2. You need to live in the USA.

3. You need to have used Amazon.com in the past or be willing to use it -- they will send you a coupon for the product and cover the costs of shipping it.

Any other requires listed in the giveaway will be checked to make sure you did the step, for example, if you click that you left a comment but I do not see a comment from you about this post on this blog, I'll delete that entry.

If you are selected by the Rafflecopter program, you will need to share information with me to give to the company. Please see our privacy policy if you have concerns.

Now to the GIVEAWAY which will end on Friday!



a Rafflecopter giveaway