Monday, August 31, 2015

2 Chocolate Related Recalls for August 31, 2015

Sadly, I have to share some more chocolate related recalls before September. Remember, we get these from the FDA in the USA so if you are from a different countries, check your own recalls so you can protect your families.

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Jo’s Candies Issues Voluntary Alert on Undeclared Milk in Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt

Consumer Contact: 310-257-0260

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — August 25, 2015 — Jo’s Candies of Torrance, California is voluntarily recalling Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt (SKU 55024), because it may contain milk, which was not declared on the label. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. Two reactions have been reported to date.

The Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt is packaged in an 8 oz. clear tub. The potentially affected product was distributed to Trader Joe’s stores nationwide. The voluntary recall was initiated by Jo’s Candies after Trader Joe’s was contacted by a customer.

Customers who have purchased the Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt may return it to Trader Joe’s for a full refund. Customers with questions may contact Jo’s Candies at (310) 257-0260 8:00 AM- 5:00PM PST, Monday-Friday.

All lots of Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt are being recalled, see the lot codes listed below. Refer to the picture and location of the lot code on the container. The lot code may be found on the clear side panel to the right or left of the label containing the product name:

UPC                 Product Description “BEST BY”

00550246 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt - 8 oz. clear tub

Best By Date:

16 Mar 2016, 17 Mar 2016, 18 Mar 2016, 19 Mar 2016, 20 Mar 2016, 21 Mar 2016, 22 Mar 2016, 30 Mar 2016, 03 Apr 2016, 04 Apr 2016, 05 Apr 2016, 08 Apr 2016, 09 Apr 2016, 10 Apr 2016, 11 Apr 2016, 12 Apr 2016, 15 Apr 2016, 16 Apr 2016, 17 Apr 2016, 18 Apr 2016, 19 Apr 2016, 22 Apr 2016, 23 Apr 2016, 26 Apr 2016, 29 Apr 2016, 30 Apr 2016, 01 May 2016, 02 May 2016, 03 May 2016, 09 May 2016, 11 May 2016, 13 May 2016, 14 May 2016
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Sam Mills USA LLC Recalls Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars Due To Undeclared Dairy

Consumer Contact: 561-572-0510

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — August 25, 2015 — Sam Mills USA LLC is voluntarily recalling approximately 11,083 cases of - 4.4 ounce boxes of Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars because of a risk of cross contamination with Dairy. The recall is being initiated because the Sam Mills Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bar packaging states that this is a Dairy free product and in fact it should be labeled that in "May contain Traces of Dairy".

All lots codes of Sam Mills Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars received in the US from December 18, 2014 to July 23, 2015 should be pulled from all retail store shelves immediately.

Lot Code Exp Date
10202014 10202015
11202014 11202015
12082014 12082015
12082014 12082015
02172015 02172016
02122015 02122016
02252015 02252016
02132015 02132016
02122015 02122016
04212015 04212016
04212015 04212016
06162015 06162016

It was determined that there is risk of cross contamination with a dairy product. This recall does not affect any other Sam Mills Gluten Free products.

Consumers who have purchased the product and are allergic to dairy should not eat this product. Consumers should return the product to the store where the product was purchased for a full refund. Consumers and Media can also call Sam Mills USA LLC 561-572-0510 for more information, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. If your call is received by our after hour's voice mail please leave your name, and phone number and we will return your call will (be) returned every three hours between 9 a.m. and 12 a.m. EST of the next business day [sic].

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Recipe: Zebra Cookies with Country Crock

Sometimes I am sent non-chocolate products to test out for all of you and my rule: If I can use it with chocolate, I'll try it. Thus when Country Crock® contacted me about some new recipes they wanted to share in exchange for coupons to get free Country Crock® products, I said "Great!" I used their coupons to get two 15 oz containers of spread -- original and calcium added. I've used the Original Country Crock® before as well as different varieties of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® but the calcium added one is new to me and my family. Normally I don't use spreads in baking instead of stick butter/butter-like products or even applesauce in place of them. Let's see how the Zebra Chocolate Chips Cookies I made turned out.

Let's check out the Ingredients:
Original Country Crock®
Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and Salt
Granulated Sugar and Dark Brown Sugar
Egg
Vanilla
12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
12 oz White Chocolate Chips (make sure you check your labels)

What did to be the differences between Country Crock® stick and butters/margarines in cookie making?


1. Country Crock® does not need to be brought to room temperature, you can use it straight from the refrigerator.

2. You still need to beat the Country Crock® and the sugars very well for several minutes to get the mixture light and fluffy.


3. You cut back on the calories depending on what type of butter, margarine, or fruit product you use but I can't say you'll cut a certain amount because I don't know what you normally you.

4. The cookies baked to a golden color more than the butter, margarine, and fruit products I've used for similar cookies.


5. In terms of taste, these are lightly buttery, lots of chocolate, sweetness, and delicious! The Country Crock® is moist enough that I didn't need extra liquid wit my whole wheat flour so that is a big plus for how I bake. It also made fluffy, soft cookies like I love.

Original Country Crock® Spread worked great for making these cookies. I'd have to try a few more recipes to determine how well it works for pies, cakes, or candies but I can say I was greatly pleased by how these turned out.

As the folks at Country Crock say about their recipes on their website: All of these recipes are either made with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® or Country Crock® – buttery spreads that are made with real, simple ingredients including delicious oils, purified water and a pinch of salt. I may not have followed the recipe 100% because of how I cook and bake for particular health reasons and allergy concerns, but I didn't change enough of the recipe to make this a new one. If you check their website you'll find a lot of other great recipes with or without chocolate... but who wants something without chocolate?

Have you used Country Crock® in your baking? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recipe: Easy Bake Minty S'mores

Time for another simple and rare recipe from The Chocolate Cult: Easy Bake Minty S'mores. August is National S'mores Month so before we leave this wonderfully tasty month behind I had an idea that I wanted to share with you all. It involves only three ingredients, a baking pan, and your oven. This is so easy that your children can help you with it and you can make quickly to satisfy your craving for chocolate, mint, graham crackers, and marshmallows. Each two sided cracker creation has 218 calories in it so these are not really a low-calorie treat but they sure are delicious. Ready for the recipe?

Easy Bake Minty S'mores
Created by TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients: (per treat)

2 square graham crackers

1 1.4oz York Peppermint Patty

9 miniature marshmallows

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Line baking dish with aluminum foil. Determine what size of dish you want based on how many treats you want to make. 1/2 of the square crackers need to be able to sit flat on the bottom of the pan on top of the foil for easier cleanup and removal. I picked a pan that allowed a lot of space so I could show you what I was doing but I could have put up to 12 crackers in this pan.

3. Lay 1/2 of the crackers flat on top of the foil, leave a bit of space between them in case the marshmallows bake out a bit. Align the crackers so that the breaklines are facing the same direction and note that for the top layer of crackers.

4. Place 9 mini marshmallows on top of each of these crackers. Make sure you set these with a flat side on the cracker and the other flat facing up so that nothing rolls around. You can use more or less depending on your taste.

5. Unwrap then place one 1.4oz York Peppermint Patty on top of your marshmallows. I placed these topside downward so that the top cracker would have a flatter edge.

6. Top each treat with another graham cracker square aligning it with the first layer. This will make eating the treats less of a crumbly experience.

7. Carefully move your baking pan into the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes. With my oven, I needed 5 minutes but ovens vary so just watch the treats. If you see the white minty filling along the edges of the peppermint patty it is time to remove them from the oven.




8. Remove pan from oven and remove treats to awaiting plates. You'll be tempted to eat these right away as you would the campfire treat but please wait at least 5 minutes because these will be very hot and the fats and peppermint can burn your mouth.


My family loved, loved, loved these. They were easily to make and the foil made clean up so quick.

Did you enjoy S'mores this month? How did you make them?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let the Music Lead You to Chocolate

As a book author, not a blogger, I attend conventions during the year to meet readers and sell books. At Inconjunction in Indianapolis over the Fourth of July weekend this year, I was given several samples from Pied Piper Chocolates. We published an interview with the man behind this fairly new, small independent brand on August 19, 2015, that you can read here. In this first photo we can see the tray of goodies that Mr. Quigney gave me to try out but before we get to the chocolate, here's the background for what happened that surprising Saturday, July 4, 2015. I received no other compensation for our article beyond the free samples.

I came back to the dealer's room at the convention where I'm part of Creator's Ally for those of us who are selling only our own books, artwork, and other nicknacks you might find at a science fiction convention. My husband, the Milk Chocolate and Tea Acolyte, was watching my table and said that a gentleman came looking for the "chocolate goddess" and wanted to know if I'd accept some chocolate he made. I would never claim the title of "goddess" as you well know, sisters and brothers, but I was intrigued so I went and found Mr. Quigney who was displaying his creations at friend's table deeper inside the dealer's room.

We chatted for a bit and then he offered me a selection of his creations that you saw in our first photo. Here is a closer view of what he was selling at the convention. By the way, he told me that he sold everything so if you are a small chocolate maker and there are conventions in your town, try it out, you might get good sells and meet new customers. We'll look at his red velvet rats and mice in October for our Halloween Treat Challenge 2015, but just look at that table. Look how big that one rat is, front and center. Isn't that cool? Back to the chocolate itself.

Mr. Quigney gave us a Red Velvet Mouse (we'll be looking at that on October 3, 2015, as part of our 7th Annual Halloween Treat Challenge), Sugar Cream Pie Bon Bons, Irish Shamrocks, and pieces of various bars he makes. The pieces of bars were in one cup and so I couldn't really sort them out very well and I do have a concern that flavors and scents were mixed a bit. I thought the best combination of flavors were from the Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Cherry bars but there were six different bar pieces in the cup. I will say that the flavors and textures were interesting and if Pied Piper Chocolate can get a better couverture chocolate, they will be able to make great products instead of just interesting chocolate bars.

I'm not an expert in Sugar Cream Pie, which may be the state pie of Indiana depending on who you talk with. But I was lucky that our Coconut Acolyte was also at this convention and she was willing to try these with me. These are a darker chocolate and the bon bons flavor is marked by a swirl pattern on the top. There is a strong darker chocolate and sugar scent to these which is not surprising given what is in a sugar cream pie. The chocolate shell makes no noise when I bite into one of these and inside is a semi-solid sugar cream center that oozes out just a bit. This seems like a darker milk chocolate to my taste buds but there is also a burst of the sugary cream so that might simply be dulling the intensity of the chocolate. As I chewed it there was an interesting caramel twist to the flavor. I really liked these a lot. Our Coconut Acolyte said it is very close to sugar cream pie with a little less sweetness... wow, just how sweet is a sugar cream pied?

The Irish Shamrocks are made with white chocolate, I double checked, and each leaf is flavored a different way -- vanilla (white), citrus (orange) and mint (green). I was able to break these up into their different colors and try them as well as one single piece to see how the flavors work together. First, I'm impressed that he got the colors to separate so smoothly; I struggle with that when I've tried with white chocolate. Together these three flavors/colors make an interesting fragrance that I could see as either Irish or simply springlike. The white has a strong vanilla and cream scent but is not as sweet as you might expect as it melts in your mouth. The orange has a strong citrus scent but this really cuts back on the sweet flavor of white chocolate so that I really got a creamy citrus flavor with an edge of tart to it. The green creates a cooling sensation in my mouth as soon as I place that piece into it then a little burning sensation before the creaminess of the white chocolate kicks in. I liked it because it didn't just taste like white chocolate and I think it would be very neat to serve up on St. Patrick's Day but I didn't want to wait to share it with you all.

Pied Piper Chocolate is on  Etsy so follow our links and check them out.  Are you one of the few folks out there who have tried Pied Piper Chocolate? Or maybe you've helped Mr. Quigney test out new flavors and ideas; a job his friends and co-workers suffer through happily. If so, leave a comment and let us know what you've tried. If you haven't tried them yet, leave a comment to let this new, independent chocolate and candy maker know what you thought about our words today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Meet the Pied Piper of Chocolates

David Quigney
Sisters and brothers in Chocolate, please join me in welcoming David Quigney from Pied Piper Chocolates, a new candy company in Indiana. We will be featuring some of his creations this coming Saturday Sacrament and his creations will be part of our Annual Halloween Treat Challenge but today we want to just introduce you to the man behind the chocolate. As always in our interviews, our questions are in plain font while the interviewee's answers are italicized.

Have you always enjoyed consuming or baking/working with chocolate?

I don't think there is anyone who doesn't like eating chocolate. Working with chocolate, however, didn't start until Easter 1998 after an overload of bunnies and a little curiosity.

How did you decide to start making your chocolate creations?

If necessity is the mother of invention then curiosity was the mother of chocolate. I love chocolate and mint as well as nestle crunch bars. I always wanted a mint nestle crunch bar. I reasoned that if I cannot buy one I would have to make one, so I did.

How did you learn how to make truffles, molded chocolates, and candies?

I was part of a local theater group and we wanted a bar -fight scene so I took to the internet to find out how to make breakable plates and glasses (sugar-glass). The plates were simple enough but the glasses took more skill than I had, and still lack. Shortly afterward my mother bought me a chocolate maker kit that was little more than a double boiler. After the great chocolate bunny overpopulation of "98" I used the double boiler to melt down the bunnies and make  "Bob". The first Bob was the mint crunch-like bars but I was not aware of all the types of candy molds at the time and my attempts at freehand bar making turned into more of a wafer. Bob took many forms before I found the molds to make squares. I have been self taught as far as the molding but the truffles I have found recipes in books and the net. Most of my flavors have been the result of "I wonder if this will taste good"

The name Pied Piper Chocolates, has a story behind it. Would you share that with us?

One of my hobbies is the Society for Creative Anachronism (medieval re-enactment). An event in 2012 based on the apocalypse needed something special for the feast. Walking through a craft store some friends and I seen a large candy rat mold. I made a dozen rats and had them on the counter. Seeing that army of rats put me in mind of the Pied Piper of Hamelin only mine were chocolate.

White Choco Rat
I saw your red velvet mice and rat at a convention we were both attending this summer. These are far more than simply molded chocolates. Why did you decide to go with a filling and the one that you did?

The rat was the first molded chocolate attempt. As a solid piece of chocolate it was between three and four pounds and 8'x3'x2'. Anyone who has tried to cleanly cut a brick of chocolate knows it's not pretty even with a chisel. It was my suggestion that we fill it with something to take down the bulk. I used red velvet because first I like it and secondly I wanted something that would be appropriate for the inside of the rat. After the the first test with the group it was good, but again curiosity hit and I thought how could I make this even better. That is when the layer of strawberry glaze came. Gruesome, yet tasty.  

You also make Bob Bars and there is a story behind their name, would you share that?

In my circle of friends anything or anyone unknown in given the moniker "Bob." The first Bob was was a hand-made endeavor of making bars that turned into wafer thin almost chocolate flakes. I took them into the grocery store and shared them with friends. They would ask me what is it and not accepting chocolate as an answer I just started calling it Bob. Since then Bob has grown from the mint flavor to seven others with a few more always on the way.

Pied Piper Choco Skull
What is your favorite creation so far?

The next one? Flavor wise I have to say the green/white/orange shamrocks (key-lime/white/orange flavored) have been my favorites. For craftsmanship I think the hand and skull I made for a friend have to hold that title.



Pied Piper Choco Hand
What is the most challenging thing about working with chocolate?

I can't say that I have found anything about it challenging. I have had a few failed undertakings of flavor combinations, molding issues, and some early tempering difficulties but when you enjoy what you are doing it's not a challenge.

Right now you do not have dedicated store or a website. Do you have plans to expand in that way in the future?

Yes. I am looking into domains and have a page currently under construction. No date yet for expected launch but will try to be at a few more conventions this year. 

If any of our readers would like to learn more about your products or where to find them, how could they get in touch with you best?

I have a Pied Piper Chocolates Facebook page with pictures of some of the items I have made.

Thank you, David, for speaking with us.

Thank you for the opportunity.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers. A new chocolate maker in Indiana for you all to discover. When they get a website up, we'll update this post for you all.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to School Snacks for Everyone?

I'm sure wherever you live you may be seeing "back to school" commercials or notice school notes in your local newspaper or even getting notices from the schools about your own kids. School lunches might be a choice you make for financial or health reasons so with this in mind, today I want to share a snack that combines bananas, dark chocolate, and almonds. These are the THINaddictives Banana Dark Chocolate Almond Thins from Nonni's that the company sent us to test and write about for you all.  I have found this same box at our local Kroger grocery store in the International Foods aisle because Nonni's is a Canadian company.

Inside this box should be six packets of three thins each but as you can see my box had seven in it. Bonus! Each packet has 100 calories so you can send these with your students (or yourself) as a treat without feeling guilty about it. The nutritional values are pretty much what I'd expect from the ingredient with the exception of fiber which I thought might be 2 grams instead of 1. The chocolate is semi-sweet made from chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. There are no weird chemicals here, just real ingredients. However, there are several potential allergens so if you are allergic to bananas, chocolate, tree nuts, wheat, eggs, milk, or soy then these are not for  you.

These have a good banana scent to them but surprising not much else in terms of fragrance. They are each very thin as I hope this photo shows and they vary in terms of the amount of chocolate pieces each slice has. But that's what would happen if you made chocolate chunk banana bread yourself so I think the varied amounts of almonds, bananas, and chocolate makes this seem more homemade. The pieces are crispy and they crunch with each bite. The primary flavor is wheat, sweet bananas, chocolate, and then the almonds. Really all of these flavor blend together very well.

The result was a treat I could enjoy at home or away with no guilt at all. Given quality ingredients and an eye toward portion control, I think this earn Sacrament status as a school (or work or home) snack.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Meet Anna, Volunteer at for the Brown County Chocolate Walk

For six years now, I and between one and seven companions have been attending the Brown County Humane Society's annual Chocolate Walk in Nashville, Indiana. I'm going again this year with at least a couple others, hopefully more. To start off a series of articles to try and get you to join me in this wonderful, chocolate filled event, Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, welcome to our first interview with one of the wonderful volunteers at the Brown County Humane Society.

Please help me welcome Anna Gartner one of the wonderful volunteers who helps with this event.

Ms. Gartner, how long have you been serving this organization and how did you get started?

Working at a local veterinary clinic, I have interacted with the humane society for many years, helping with the care of their animals as well as getting medications for them. I joined the chocolate walk committee six years ago. I also sat on the board of directors from 2010-2013 and was vice president 2012-2013.  
The Brown County Humane Society has a high out alive rate for the pets you help. Could you explain why you think your branch is so successful at placing pets into healthy homes?

There are several reasons why I think the humane society has been so successful, the first being a large group of hard working volunteers and a dedicated staff.  This groups works hard to socialize and train animals to help them be more adoptable and the staff is very good at matching families with the right pet.  Also the work SPOT (Serving Pets Outreach Team) has done with offering assistance for spaying and neutering, as well as providing food and bedding to those in need. This allows many pet owners to be able to keep their animal instead of having to surrender it to the humane society, which has helped decrease the intake numbers.

Let's talk chocolate for a bit. Are you yourself a lover of chocolate? If so, what type of chocolate do you like?

I absolutely love chocolate and don't think I would survive with out it!  I love all types of chocolate but I would say that white chocolate is my favorite. 

Nashville, Indiana, has a lot of candy shops and many of these participate in the walk. How many will be participating this year in the event?

There are 3 candy (fudge) shops participating this year as well as an Ice Cream store, Carmel corn shop, and several coffee and tea cafes. We also have several restaurants on the walk this year. We have a total of 34 shops participating.

What is the date and time of the 2015 Chocolate Walk?

This years walk is Saturday November 14th, from 10am-5pm.

Ticket Volunteers at Chocolate Walk
What will your role be during the Chocolate Walk this year?

We start planning this event about 7 months prior to the walk, starting with signing up shops and sponsors,  then getting the booklet to print and start marketing the event to radio/ tv stations and magazines etc...I  help in all areas but my main role is ticket sales.  I keep track of ticket sales and get tickets ready for pick up the day of the walk.  We sell a total of 1250 tickets and have sold out for the last 5 years, so purchase your tickets early!

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about the Chocolate Walk, the Brown County Humane Society, or your involvement with the event and organization that I have not covered?

The Brown County Humane Society Chocolate Walk was created to be a fun and worthwhile event for everyone involved. All the chocolatiers and shops that participate in this event do so on a volunteer basis, donating their time, energy, and products, all to benefit our community’s homeless animals.  We encourage all chocolate walkers to patronize participating shops as well as our sponsors the day of the walk as well as in the future, for without these generous folks, this event would not be possible.  

Thank you, Anna, for talking with us all today.

Readers, please do leave comments below to let the good folks in Brown County know what you think about the event and whether or not you're planning to walk it in November. I know that some of you have already gotten tickets because you've told me but take a moment to let every know please.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sugar Free Milk Chocolate Caramel Recall

Well, darnit! We've got another chocolate related recall to share with you all today. This Post is from the FDA and we are merely passing it along to all chocolate lovers for your safety. You may read the original here.

Kilwin's Quality Confections, Inc. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Cashew in Sugar Free Milk Chocolate Caramels

Consumer Contact: 231-758-3905

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 31, 2015 – Petoskey, MI – Kilwin's Quality Confections, Inc., of Petoskey, Michigan, is voluntarily recalling 5 ounce containers of SUGAR FREE Milk Chocolate Caramels because they were incorrectly labeled and may contain undeclared cashew. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to cashew run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these incorrectly labeled products.

The mislabeled 5 ounce containers of SUGAR FREE Milk Chocolate Caramels were distributed by Kilwin's Quality Confections, Inc., to some Kilwins retail stores located in the following states: Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, Missouri, and Maryland.

The affected product is sold in some Kilwins stores and typically found in the sugar free section. It is packaged in a black and white box with a small window and a yellow sticker across the top corner that states "SUGAR FREE". The recalled product is labeled as "SUGAR FREE Milk Chocolate Caramels" on the package but may contain "SUGAR FREE Milk Chocolate Cashew Turtles".

The recalled product has a batch code of "82461" located on the back side of the package above the bar code and were sold at some Kilwins retail locations between 3/19/2015 and 7/29/2015. Only one product size and lot are affected by this recall.

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

The recall was initiated after the incorrect packaging was discovered during routine product review.

Consumers who have purchased this product within the affected batch code are urged to return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Nicholas Lippard at Kilwin's Quality Confections, Inc. at 231-758-3905 Monday through Friday from 9am EST through 4:30pm EST.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Book Review: Love... Under Different Skies

August is National Romance Awareness Month so when I was offered the opportunity to receive Nick Spalding's Love... Under Different Skies and review it for the Amazon Vine program, I wanted to review it for all of your chocolate lovers as well. Why? Chocolate plays a big part in this humorous non-traditional romance.

This novel is told through two viewpoint characters. Jamie Newman is an ad writer who keeps a blog as a way to get his feelings out there and vent about the slights he feels he must endure just to help his family have a good life in a big English city that might be London but which is unnamed. Jamie's blog entries are the ones that elicit the most intense laughter because as his wife will at different points claim in her part of this story, he really does act like a child. He exaggerates in outrageous fashions in nearly every entry he makes.

Laura Newman was once a chocolatier but something happened to her business that has resulted in her only be part-time employed in a chocolate store in a shopping Centre. She hates her job but she loves chocolate and since the income is needed, she continues in this management role. Her view of the events in this novel are in the form of letters to her deceased mother that she keeps in a growing volume of paper diaries. Her entries can be funny but they tend to be less intense in terms of humor.

After Jamie loses his temper and his job, the couple move with their three year old daughter, Poppy, to Australia where a relatively new chocolate company is looking for knowledgeable management. This opens the small family up to all sorts of adventures but the chocolate business is always right there playing a key part in their lives. I just wish we got to see more of what exactly it was and is that Laura does with chocolate.

The humor and plot revolve around a few topics. First there is the real challenge of families when one of two breadwinners cannot no longer fulfil that role. This is connected to issue two, gender roles and how much our value of self and partner is impacted by traditional roles. Jamie feels emasculated by losing his full-time job and discovers that it is not easy to find work in Australia. While Laura is understanding with each passing month that has only her job to pay their way, she starts to get concerned that her husband isn't looking as hard as he might as well as jealous of the time he spends with their daughter. These are issues that many families are struggling with in western cultures today so many readers will be able to relate.

There is also repeated potty humor that really surprised me even though I know this is not uncommon in British humor. Luckily none of this connected to chocolate or the chocolate business because that would be beyond acceptable here on The Chocolate Cult. Frankly I think most of the scatological mishaps could be taken out and not affected the story.

Finally there is the comparison between British and Australian life that provides many humorous situations for both Laura and Jamie. I can't honestly judge how well author Nick Spalding did on capturing these cultural differences because I am not an expert on either Australian or British society. They felt plausible and highly amusing to me when they happened.

I don't want to give away the story but here is a bit of romance though it is non-traditional. No bodice ripper here, folks, no alpha male to be shown his emotions by the woman who wants to save him. But there is love and sexual threat that Laura and Jamie must deal with beginning in the second half of the book.

Let's face it. Sometimes romance is a bit too serious and you just have to laugh or you might cry. Nick Spalding has proved you with a lot of laughter and a fair amount of truth about marriage, parenthood, and gender roles all tempered by the chocolate biz. Check it out and if you buy it using our links, you'll be helping us bring you more information about everything chocolate.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hand-Dipped Milk Chocolate Truffle Box

We're going to start off August with a box of Hand-Dipped Milk Chocolate Truffles from The Nut Shoppe, Inc. in Goshen, Indiana. You can buy their creations at their store or through Chocolate.org, an online store that offers products from small chocolate shops around the USA and Canada. Chocolate.org and The Nut Shoppe sent us a huge 24 piece box of these truffles to try so obviously I had to get as many of our Acolytes as I could get together to give these serious testing. In total, six people tested these truffles. While we were sent this box of truffles to test and write about, we did not accept any other compensation for our work.

These are hand-dipped and you can tell by looking at them. While manufactured truffles can be perfectly round or dome shaped, these vary slightly with an extra twist of milk chocolate on the top. The base measures between 1.5 and 1.75 inches across and they rise to about 1 inch so these are nice 2-3 bites treats. The fragrance is creamy cocoa with a strong hint of vanilla. Biting into a bit of the extra chocolate on the base makes a very loud snap; this must be very pure chocolate for a milk chocolate to make such a noise. Biting into it reveals that the outer layer of milk chocolate is fairly thick while the inside is creamy, fluffy center that is soft and immediately melts in the mouth. The taste is intense yet creamy chocolate with less vanilla flavor in the coating than in the truffle center. Over all the flavors is very creamy, very chocolatey, with a strong vanilla kick; I liked it a lot.

I really like the balance of flavors and the combination of textures but what did all six of my testers think about these truffles? Not surprisingly their views varied widely. Our Milk Chocolate Acolyte said the ganache (outside) is strongly chocolate but also smooth and creamy; the inside has another flavor I can't pick out but it is different from the ganache. Three said good but not special but I think that's a bit harsh given all of the truffles we've tried over these seven years. The outside was not as well liked as the inside which is described as more creamy and richer. One thought the inside has a nought-like quality that he definitely would eat more of. The hand-shaped and dipped quality was obvious and appreciated, one wondered if they were placed right into the box because the bottoms were spread out a bit and they were a challenge to get out of each section. This hand-dipped quality is promoted on The Nut Shoppe's boxes and website.

If these truffles sounded good to you, go to Twitter and tell the company that you discovered them on The Chocolate Cult. If you want to buy some yourself, check out Chocolate.org for this collection.