Saturday, January 30, 2016

Add Some Darkness to Your Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

Tomorrow is National Peanut Butter Day and so to mark that I want to share a review of a product from Reese's -- their Reese's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. The company sent me a coupon for a free product of theirs in the single serving variety without expectation for a review but hey, freebie equals possible review so here you all go! Of all of the various types of Reese's products in the check line of my local grocery store, I picked the dark one because, as you may know, I love darker chocolate.

The dark chocolate here doesn't make these two cups healthy, I wouldn't even say healthier, just different. The chocolate ingredients include cocoa butter and semisweet chocolate (the image on the right comes from Hershey's own site so you can see the information yourself). These look darker than the regular peanut butter cups but primarily have a very peanut butter scent with just a hint of the chocolate. The chocolate coating covers the roasted peanut butter inside and the chocolate melts in my fingertips as soon as I pick it up. The semi-sweet chocolate is very strong and it is the principle lingering flavor but the peanut butter blends very well with it. This is more roasted peanut butter not as sweet as I recall the cups being in the past. Perhaps they've cut back on the sugar?

I really love this variation of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. If you like semi-sweet chocolate and roasted peanut butter, give this a try. If you have tried them, what did you think of them?

I know, I know. Why not a Valentine's specific review? I did some of those earlier to give you a better chance of checking them out. Also companies want to see COMMENTS from readers to know you are engaged. The more you comment, the more great (or not so great) chocolate I'll be able to tell you about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Best Chocolate Cake You Ever Had

Today is National Chocolate Cake Day, January 27th.

Some restaurants out there (I won't damage their reputations by naming them) were claiming it was yesterday but no, it is today. In honor of that I made this Immaculate Chocolate Cake with Pamela's Dark Chocolate Frosting. I bought both on sale and with coupons plus I got the full price of the cake back from Immaculate Baking Co. I made them with light butter and skim milk, saving over 60 calories per slice but we liked them a lot. This was important because next week my husband has surgery and he won't be able to eat any solid food for a full week. I wanted to treat him and he loved this.

I don't have a photo of the best chocolate cake I ever had. Sadly I've lost the recipe but I can tell you about it.

The Best Chocolate Cake I ever had was a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting. It was a two-layer round cake and had had a crunchy candy like layer between the two cake layers. You added more of the crunchy candy on top of the frosting. I think my mother found it on a box mix so if anyone out there has an idea, let me know if you have this recipe.

So now for you to do more than just read, Sister and Brother Chocolate Lovers. Leave a comment and tell me about the best chocolate cake you ever had.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Voila! How to Serve Up Some Hot Love

If you are looking for a wonderful activity with kids, your lover, or a group of adults, you should check out Voila! While we aren't close enough to report on their chocolate making parties, everything we've heard and read suggests it would be a blast. But what we can do is tell you about their House Blend Hot Chocolate Mix, one of a few chocolates you can order from them online or pick up in their New York City shop. Hot chocolate can be a fun couples activity so with Valentine's Day approaching, I thought it would a great time to share my experience of this product (and my hubby's) with you all. Viola Chocolat sent me this product to test and write honestly about so that all of you could learn about them; no other form of compensation was received.

The ingredients are simple in this "Vintage Hot Chocolate" -- cocoa beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, soya lecithin, vanilla beans, whole milk solids, and vanilla powder. Keep these in mind because this equals 72% cacao. As you can see the hot chocolate is basically tiny pieces of chocolate along with powered milk. When I opened this canister up, I noted a cinnamon scent yet no cinnamon or spices on the label. This made me very curious as to what the flavor of the hot drinks were going to be.

According to directions you mix 1/4 cup of the chocolate with 1/2 cup milk. That ration for two servings looks like this. We use only skim milk or powdered milk in my house. I grew up that way and my husband doesn't like the taste of higher fat milks.

You heat your milk up first then stir in the chocolate. Stir it vigorously, very vigorously, so you get all of the chocolate to melt. With similar hot chocolates I've noticed you have to keep stirring from time to time even after you put it in your mugs.

Then pour into glasses to serve! Guess what? That cinnamon fragrance was correct. This had a very unexpectedly strong cinnamon flavor. This can only mean that where these cacao beans were grown has soil that imparted this flavor. It will taste like cinnamon and have a bit more heat kick to it than you might expect but we loved it! We found that if you drank if fairly quickly, you didn't need to stir it again but still there was a bit of settling. I'm not sure how to fix that other than to keep stirring and stirring before pouring but since the form was the pieces of chocolate I think it wants to return to that state as it cools. It was a great way to share time together. Get some Voila House Blend Hot Chocolate to try it out for your Valentine's Day.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Nuts to These Recipes!

I had never heard of "healthy" Sahale Snacks until I was offered a chance to try them. Then after I got my samples I started seeing them everywhere in my local Kroger store and discount department stores. Normally I don't accept products that have tree nuts unless there are other varieties that are nut-free because  my husband gets jealous but in 2016 I've decided that I try my responsibilities here for all of you very serious and if I think a chocolate or chocolate related product is worth my time, I'm going to accept it. Calling being more "open" for this year. I hope you all will start leaving more comments so that I know (beyond the website tracking) that someone out there is reading what we write for you all. I received several samples and a $1 off coupon from Sahale Snacks via the Crowdtap program to eat, try in recipes, review, and spread my review on social media; no other form of compensation was received for my honest opinions about these snacks.

The bars were for "adventuring" which sadly I can't really get my husband to do much of any more. He was all into this smartphone game called Ingress for a while that you might have heard of but now I'm mostly playing it alone... anyway my adventures are going to be mostly homebound but I still came up with a few very simple recipes using the two pouches of Sahale Snacks that I was sent. The Honey Almonds Glazed Mix doesn't have chocolate but I added cocoa to oatmeal and came up with this idea. Ingredients marked with a * were received free from my local grocery loyalty card at some point in the year.

Sahale Enhanced Instant Oatmeal with Cocoa
By: TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:
1 pouch instant oatmeal*, natural maple and brown sugar flavor
2/3 C water
1 tsp baking cocoa
1 1.5 oz pouch of Honey Almonds Glazed Mix from Sahale Snacks

Directions:
1) Bring water just to a boil in the microwave.

2) Mix in the oatmeal and stir in cocoa.

3) Place back into microwave for 30 seconds.

4) Stir the oatmeal again then sprinkle the pouch of Sahale snacks on the top.

5) Stir in the snack pieces then eat!

Warning: The Honey Almonds Glazed Mix has tree nuts but also cranberries, and sesame seeds if you you happen to be allergic to any of those foods.

The other super simple recipe I tried out was using pudding and Sahale Snacks Pomegranate Vanilla Flavored Cashew Glazed Mix. Again nothing chocolatey about the actual snack product so I had to find something chocolatey to do with it and this was easy. The pudding was free from KozyShack as part of the Cookies for Kids charity I participated with in December 2015; I'll review it later by itself.

Layered Cashew Pudding Dessert
By TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:
1 cup of KozyShack Dark Pudding
2 Servings of Reddiwip Topping
1 1.5 oz Sahale Snacks Pomegranate Vanilla Flavored Cashews Glazed Mix

Directions:
1) Get out all of your ingredients.

2) Start with a pudding layer, then add some of the nuts, more of the pudding, more of the nuts, more of the pudding, and more nuts.

3) Top with the whipped cream and the last of the nut mix.

The nut mix has a strong sweet flavor but it doesn't overwhelm the pudding. The added crunch and texture make this an interesting dessert to enjoy. I'd have it again and I'd share it with guests though I'd use a much lower calorie pudding, perhaps one I made myself!

There you go, my two super simple recipes that you can say "Nuts!" to. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

#EdibleCreativity -- You Got It?

Yesterday when I was making dinner I was struck by this realization: Cooking can be very creative for me.

Creativity in cooking, or #EdibleCreativity if you like (I came up with that, start using it!) isn't about making beautiful food, or healthy food, or tasty food, or cheap food, or any other category of food, not even chocolate.

I know you just about fell off your chair when you read that last part right?

#EdibleCreativity is about being able to live in the moment when you are cooking, baking, or candy making.

#EdibleCreativity is about having a variety of ingredients on hand that you can pull together.

#EdibleCreativity is about being willing to take risks with ingredients.

#EdibleCreativity is about having the basic, and some moderate, skills in food preparation so you know how to prepare food.

#EdibleCreativity is is about having the knowledge of what types of ingredients work well together across a range of cultures.

#EdibleCreativity is about having a support family that will try out the things you make and give constructive and honest feedback.

#EdibleCreativity is a willingness to access the final process and the steps to repeat successes or make changes.

#EdibleCreativity is the belief that food is more than energy, it is pleasure, it is method, it is drive, that helps you live better.

Is cooking creative for you?

Leave a comment and tell me if you see cooking as a form of #EdibleCreativity then tweet about it using that hashtag. Let's bring a renewed passion to cooking this year.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Put Down that Dark Chocolate Cherry!

Recall today of two brands that are really the same product, just different packaging. The problem? They have almonds and they weren't label but also, I wouldn't think "tree nuts" when I see these two products so this is a potentially serious problem. For further information go to the FDA and see this article.

Cape Cod Provisions LLC of Pocasset, MA is recalling Cape Cod Cranberry Candy™ and Harvest Sweets™ Milk Chocolate/Dark Chocolate/Yogurt Covered Cranberry Blend (mix of all three varieties in the package) because they may contain undeclared yogurt covered almonds. These products can further be identified by their UPC codes; Cape Cod Cranberry Candy™ UPC 6 12681 10259 3 and Harvest Sweets™ UPC 6 12681 44259 0. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to almonds run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The trio of covered cranberries product was distributed nationwide through retail stores and mail order. The specific product comes in a 5oz. gable-top box with color graphics and can be identified by a lot # of 5230-1 on the inside bag.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that yogurt covered almonds were distributed in packaging that did not list almonds in the ingredients. Subsequent investigation indicates it was an isolated incidence caused by a temporary breakdown in the packaging processes.

Consumers who have purchased this product or received it as a gift are urged to contact the company at 1-888-811-2379 Mon-Fri, 9:00 - 5:00, EST for return instructions and full refund.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Double-Duty Gift from Dagoba Chocolate

As an Amazon Vine reviewer I sometimes get to test out cookbooks or chocolate products sent to me to write a review about on Amazon.com. When that happens, I like to share what I've discovered with all of you. I thought before Valentine's Day you might find this option from Dagoba very useful for your beloved. Ha! Did the title misled you?This glass jar looks a lot like cookie or candy jar with a thick and lid made of heavy transparent glass. Mine came with a brown ribbon wrapper but imagine how easy it would be switch out the ribbon for any season or with your beloved favorite color(s). It contains 15.8 oz of individually wrapped pieces of Dagoba chocolate in four varieties; 4 pieces conveniently equal one serving of 180 calories. Let's open this up and see what is inside this Dagoba Assortment Gift Jar. Not other compensation was received for this review.

Milk Chocolate comes in creamy light tan wrapper. The chocolate is 37% cacao which might be a bit dark for some of you. 14 of these came in this gift jar. In this photo you see the basic bar -- "Dagoba" inscribed on the top, angled etched lines around it. This bar has a surprisingly strong cocoa fragrance for a milk chocolate. The chocolate is deep brown and very shiny. Taking a bite makes a soft snapping soft. The first flavor is a bit of vanilla that blends quickly into a creamy chocolate that melts and coats my mouth as I chew. Letting a bite simply melt in my mouth doesn't affect the flavor that much though the coating my tongue gets lets that flavor linger longer.

Lavender Blueberry is in light bluish purple wrappers and has 59% cacao. This gift jar had 12 pieces of this variety. This has a definite lavender scent when I bring the piece to my nose; it also has a good cocoa fragrance. In the photo I hope you can see two lumps that I bet are the cacao nibs but I hope there are more than two; sadly, no. This bar makes a sharper snap than the milk chocolate did when I take a bite. I get a strong chocolate flavor with a light lavender that builds up with each bite.  Oddly when I finally encounter a cacao nib it adds little crunch but it does increase the chocolate flavor quite a bit. I wish this had more nibs in it!

The dark blue/purple wrappers high the New Moon variety of Dagoba at 74% cacao. 13 pieces of this type of Dagoba Organic Chocolate came in this particular gift jar. The scent is slightly darker but not as much as I would expect but then the milk chocolate smelled darker than I had been expecting, too. Oddly this also makes a very soft soft when I take a bite. At first the chocolate is very light, then it builds up with each chew and I detect an almost pear like flavor under the chocolate. While I wouldn't say this was bitter, some of you might think that it was. It did make my mouth a bit dry, which can happen with dark chocolate but not in any annoying way. I really liked this particularly when it helped curb a developing headache the day I tested it.

Finally the brownish orange wrapper holds another 74% cacao called Xocolatl which has chilies and cacao nibs as well. 12 pieces of this variety were in this gift jar. You probably can't see it in my photo, but like the Lavender piece, the back of this shows some cacao nibs, these even smaller. This smell much like the New Moon bar but it has a hint of heat to the fragrance... I hope it isn't too hot for me. It makes a nice snap when I take a bite and immediately I get a bit of crunchiness which is what the lavender one needed. The heat builds up slowly but sadly it also ends up burying the chocolate flavor  to a higher degree than I had hoped. I'd suggest less chilies and more nibs for this one as well.

In terms of flavors, I thought this Dagoba Assortment Gift Jar was a mixed bag personally but there is a lot of variety here so if this sounds like something your beloved would like, it for them. These and every one of these little bars are 0.32 oz and measure 1 5/8th inch square that is 1/8th inch thick. All of these chocolates are gluten free (who puts gluten in chocolate?) and USDA Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified on their wrappers. They source their cocoa beans from Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Tanzania. I've seen them in our local Kroger and organic food stores but these came from Amazon. If you follow our links to order, you'll not only be getting chocolate but helping The Chocolate Cult through the affiliate product on Amazon.com. Other than the sample product, no other compensation was received in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon.com; this review is a free bonus for Dagoba.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Purple SIlicone Baking Gear

I've gone from no silicone baking mats to a surplus! I now have four silicone baking mats; I don't need more unless they wear out which I hope will not be for several years. This latest set is from Bonjour Cuisine and boasts two mats plus a spatula all in a bright purple design. I can always use a new spatula. I tested the mats and the spatula so I'll reveal how they worked in this review. Two questions I imagine you want answered: If you love purple and you love to bake, would this be the perfect gift for you? If there is someone in your life who is getting their own place with a kitchen who loves to bake, would this be a good gift for them? Let's find out. I received a coupon to cover the cost of this trio of items from Bonjour Cuisine via the Tomoson program and through Amazon.com in exchange for testing and an honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

The first thing to note is that the Bonjour Cuisine mats are a bit smaller than other mats that I've been set to test. In terms of width, both it and the Zall Good mat are the same: 11 inches.


In terms of length, the Bonjour Cuisine mats are an inch shorter coming in at 15.75 while the Zall Good was 16.75 inches. Note that this mat is rectangular while the previous mat had angled edges which is good for peeling off the baking surface.


Similarly the silicone spatula was on the smaller end of the spatula range. Here I've laid it out alongside some of my other smaller spatulas plus one that I got from another brand last year. Note that the other brand's logo is on the spatula but there is nothing on the Bonjour Cuisine purple bladed one to identify it.


The mats and spatula did not come with instructions on how to use, clean, or store them. Since this is a "set" that suggests it could be a good gift but you'll want to make sure that the person you give it to (or yourself) knows how to care for silicone items. You do not care for them as you do your baking sheets. This is negative for Bonjour Cuisine and one that could be easily remedied with a single page of instructions or information on the box they came in. You can use them for any baking that asks for a greased pan but I also find they were well for non-greased recipes, too. Here you can see the chocolate chip cookies waiting to be put into the oven.

Note that even after baking, the cookies maintained their basic uniform shapes. Let them cool for a couple of minutes and you can remove them with your fingers if you want or use a plastic or silicone turner to remover them; never use metal on the silicone because you might cut it and then the mat is ruined. This Bonjour Cuisine Baking Mat Set is a good idea for a person getting their own place for the first time because they'll get two mats plus a small spatula and they all work well.