Saturday, June 24, 2017

Are Chocolate and Protein the Base of Your Diet?

Today is our last PROBAR® feature article here on The Chocolate Cult. There are many types of bars we've looked at in the first half of 2017 -- fiber, cereal, meal replacement, snack, and energy are just a few. BASE is a line of energy bars from PROBAR®. Each of the four varieties we were sent has 20 grams of protein. Some of the bar also have caffeine from "yerba mate" – this is a holly type of plant which has been used in beverages in southern South America for centuries. As with other PROBAR® products, these are also Non GMO Project verified and certified gluten-free. While each of these BASE bars have a lot of protein and a good amount of fiber, they also have a lot of sugar from various sources that make up the bulk of the first 10 ingredients on the label.  I'll be more specific about how the bars differ in terms of caffeine and other ingredient and nutritional information later in this review. I am using the information printed on the labels in this review, not the information on the PROBAR® website; sometimes they differed. The three flavors we'll look at today are Chocolate Bliss, Cookie Dough, and Peanut Butter Chocolate – Chocolate SuperGreens bar has been discontinued. If you have tried any of these four varieties, please leave us a comment and tell us about your experience with it. PROBAR® sent these BASE products to The Chocolate Cult for free in exchange for us testing them out and writing as objectively as possible about them; no other form of compensation was received. 

PROBAR® BASE Chocolate Bliss
PROBAR® BASE Chocolate Bliss has 55 mg of caffeine, 4 grams fiber, 16 grams sugar, and 6 grams saturated fat as well as the 20 grams of protein each of the BASE bars has. The first cacao related ingredient shows up as the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 20th ingredient on the label out of 25 ingredients and include unsweetened chocolate, cocoa processed with alkali, cocoa, and cocoa butter. That's a lot of ingredients but then this bar does not claim to be organic or simple. Once out of the wrapper it looks like a lot of other energy bars though a bit large at 2.46 ounces (70 grams). It has a cocoa and soy scent to it and yes, it does have soy if you are allergic to that. I used a sharp knife to cut it open for our photo and it was firm and made crunchy sounds while I cut it. Inside you can see it has two main layers – the bottom is crunchy looking and darker while the top is about the looks to be much like the coating of the bar. The inside has a stronger soy scent. Biting into is loud and it remains crunchy. The bottom layer is very crunchy but the top reveals itself to be basically a thick layer of the coating. It does have a cocoa flavor to it but also a very strong soy flavor but they blend together well. The bar is very dry and it dries my mouth out a bit. It does make me feel a bit buzzed and that is probably from the caffeine because I am not used to consuming caffeine beyond a couple of milligrams a day. Nope, not a tea or coffee drinker; that's why we have special Acolytes for those products!
PROBAR® BASE Cookie Dough

PROBAR® BASE Cookie Dough bar looks like cookie down in the top layer -- light colored with tiny chocolate chips visible in it. The bottom layer isn't solid as in the two previous bars but it has both dark and light colored pieces. Cutting the bar in half revealed that it should be as crunchy as the two previous bars, too. Before cutting it in half the scent was very sweet and soybean heavy, not much chocolate; there was even less chocolate fragrance once it was cut in half and I took a whiff from the inside. Nutritionally this has 10 more calories but I'm not see other big changes in the values on the label. Of course this has soybeans again but this also has almonds for those of you with tree nut allergies. Cacao related ingredients are way down on the list at 11th, 13th, 19th, and 21st and include unsweetened chocolate, cocoa processed with alkali, cocoa, and cocoa butter. Even though the texture is crunchy and a bit dry it does not dry out my mouth as much as the previous bars probably because this has less cacao related ingredients. The flavor isn't as soybean intense as I thought it might be, it does have a dough-like taste but the chocolate and cocoa is barely noticeable. However the name doesn't push the chocolate aspect so I'm not too disappointed.
PROBAR® BASE Peanut Butter Chocolate

Finally we get to the PROBAR® BASE Peanut Butter Chocolate which has both peanuts and soybeans if those are allergies for you. The cacao related ingredients are cocoa (11th), cocoa processed with alkali (17th), and unsweetened chocolate (18th). This has a very strong peanut fragrance, simply peanuts, not a sweetness very common in most mainstream peanut butters and products using it. The coating on top of this bar looks smoother to my eyes and it does not really smell like cocoa or chocolate. Cutting it open makes little sound yet inside I see the two layers -- top looks like peanut butter the bottom is the dark and light pieces of what was crunchy in the other bars. I take a bite and there is a light crunch but this bar is softer compared to the previous one. I can taste the agave syrup in this bar and that ingredient was in previous bars but I couldn't pick it out; it adds an odd flavor that I'm not a big fan of. This bar does not dry out my mouth at all, the top layer is creamy and there really isn't a chocolate or cocoa flavor. I do know that the amount of cocoa in any product can affect how much it may dry out your mouth. 

When I first started the testing for this article I noticed the 55 mg of caffeine in the Chocolate Bliss so I expected that from the other varieties but that was not the case. Why? Why put caffeine in the one bar but not the others? I'm not understanding given these are all the same line of products. But it isn't the caffeine that makes the Chocolate Bliss bar my favorite variety of these PROBAR® BASE bars, it is the fact that the chocolate is a stronger flavor. I might get that bar or the Cookie Dough one in the future.

We close out this PROBAR® BASE feature and that also ends are PROBAR® features for now. Perhaps we'll have other products from them in the future if they add more chocolate to their line up of products.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chocolate Related Recalls for June 18, 2017

Some recalls involving chocolate, cocoa, or cocoa butter for you all today, Sunday, June 18, 2017. Remember to follow the links for the full information and to follow the FDA and brand instructions if you have a product that you cannot safely use.

-------------------- Recalls --------------------

Collagen Protein Fudge Brownie Bars
Collagen Protein Bars and Bites Recalls

Bulletproof 360, Inc. (“Bulletproof”) of Bellevue, Washington is recalling five Collagen Protein Bar and Bite products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The affected products were distributed between April 7, 2017 and June 12, 2017 in retail stores nationally and on to customers nationally and internationally in the following countries: Australia, Bahrain, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Finland, France, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Virgin Islands (USA). Products are identified with the following information:

Collagen Protein Fudge Brownie Bites
HVF, Inc. supplied the cashew butter used as an ingredient in the above Bulletproof Collagen Bars and Bites. The affected equipment was not used to process the cashew butter contained in BulletproofCollagen Bars and Bites; however, testing at HVF’s facility found Listeria contamination in another part of the facility.

No other Bulletproof products, including Bulletproof Collagen Powder, are affected or are involved in this recall. No illnesses have been reported to date.

Bulletproof will quickly be shipping replacement Collagen Protein Bars and Bites freshly made with a new cashew butter supplier.

Bulletproof is informing all of its retailers and distributors of this recall, and is making every effort to contact customers who recently purchased Collagen Protein Bars or Bites from the lots listed above to inform them of the recall, and to facilitate the return or destruction of any unused product.

Customers should not eat any Collagen Protein Bars or Bites that are subject to the recall, and should return them to Bulletproof. Customers will receive a full replacement or store credit.

If you have any questions or concerns related to Bulletproof’s Collagen Protein Bars or Bites, please contact a Bulletproof Customer Service Representative by calling 1-425-434-9704 Monday through Friday, from 9AM-5PM PDT.

Thrive gomacro bar

Almond supplier may have exposed ingredient to Listeria monocytogenes.

GoMacro, of Viola, Wis., is recalling a limited number of MacroBars and Thrive Bars because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled MacroBars and Thrive Bars were distributed across the country and internationally via retail stores, mail orders and direct delivery.

On June 14, 2017, GoMacro was notified by its supplier of almonds, an ingredient in specific MACROBARS and THRIVE BARS, that the ingredient has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The supplier notified GoMacro of this recall due to an expansion of a previous recall. No contamination has been reported to have occurred in any of these products, nor have any illnesses been reported to date. In the interest of abundant caution, GoMacro is recalling the following products and lots:

gomacro bar
The lot number and best by dates are found on the side panel of the product near the UPC.
The almond supplier has recalled all products made in their facility during the time of potential contamination. The only potentially affected ingredient supplied to GoMacro was one lot of almonds. Retailers and distributors who received the recalled lots have been contacted and asked to pull these lots from their inventory and shelves. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

everlasting joy bar from gomacro
“Even though there is no indication of contamination in our product, GoMacro puts the consumer at the forefront of every decision we make. We offer this voluntary recall in the interest of protecting the health of the consumer,” GoMacro CEO Jola Sonkin said.

If you have any questions our Director of Operations, Tony Saarem, is available by phone, Monday-Friday 9AM-5PM (CST) at (608)-627-2310 or email at

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Booze, Chocolate, and Toffee

7 Flavors of Mel's Toffee
A while ago, our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte told our Facebook page about a discover of hers -- Mel's Toffee. We cover a few of their flavor on this date and today we return to look at four other varieties of toffee. These four flavors – Dark Horse Chocolate Raspberry Toffee, Maple Bourbon Pecan, Right Brain CEO Stout, and Coconut Almond – all partly get their flavors from various alcohols so I asked our Coconut, Alcohol, and Mocha Acolytes to help me test them. We met one Saturday morning and tasted them using our standard testing methods. I only sampled two varieties so most of this article will be drawn from the experiences of my three assistants that morning – Elizabeth, Lisa, and Cindy. All of these toffees soy and milk if those are allergens for you; I'll list other allergens as we look at specific flavors. Made with real butter, these are not vegan products if that is a concern for you as well. I was sent one bag of each of the four flavors we're covering today for free from Mel's Toffee in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

Mel's Toffee Coconut Almond Toffee
We started with the Coconut Almond which gets part of its flavor from Arcadia Aleo's Cocoa Loco, a Triple Chocolate Stout. Since I'm not a fan of coconut, I didn't taste this toffee; if you have a coconut allergen this has both coconut oil and flakes. These are toffee pieces that are dark in color, oddly incandescent one of the tester commented, with pieces of nuts and coconut flakes as well as dark chocolate drizzle. The fragrance was similar to coconut shortbread but not much chocolate. It is very solid and crunchy yet dissolves in the mouth and it only made a soft sound when the testers bit into a piece. Any of this toffee that stuck on the teeth also quickly dissolved. The taste was buttery and sweet coconut but the amount of chocolate varied greatly, the testers only got chocolate when they bit into a drizzled line. However while the toffee is called "Coconut Almond" none of the three testers tasted any of the nuts even though they could see them. It was the flavor differences from the title that led to a remarked different in final opinions about this flavor -- one would buy it, one would eat if again if offer, but one was disappointed and wouldn't have it again.

Mel's Toffee Right Brain CEO Stout Toffee
Right Brain CEO Stout is made from a stout brewed with coffee beans so I sat out this tasting as well since I hope you all recall how much I hate coffee. This toffee also include Oreo crumbs which means it has wheat, I know some of you avoid wheat. It was difficult to zoom in close enough and still show you the label but I think you can make out the Oreo crumbs on the top of this varieties' pieces. Click on the photo to get a closer look if you like. The toffee itself was lighter in color so the drizzle and the crumbs stand out more. This had a very strong coffee fragrance. These piece broke apart more easily when the three testers tried them and therefore the crunch they made was softer when they bit into them and as they chewed them. It was also not as sticky as the first variety had been. In terms of flavor the coffee was the strongest element followed by stout, buttery sweetness, and then some chocolate if you bit into the drizzles. The Oreo crumbs added a bit to the texture but not so much to the flavor. None of the three testers would buy this variety again because they really wanted more from the Oreo crumbs and the chocolate to counter the coffee's intensity.

Mel's Toffee Maple Bourbon Pecan
Maple Bourbon Pecan is made with Jim Beam Maple. In terms of allergens, both pecans and graham crackers (wheat) are on the ingredients list. This toffee is slightly darker in color so the chocolate drizzle doesn't stand out as well in the photo. The scent is strongly maple and bourbon with hints of graham crackers for one tester; one tester thought the maple fragrance had a strong smokey quality to it as well which a couple of us thought was a lot like bacon. This was as solid as the first toffee but stickier, a lot sticker on our teeth. It made a snapping soft that ranged from soft to sharp depending on the tester and the thickness of the piece they had. All four of us tasted a strong maple flavor, one still picked up the smoky essence. Bourbon and then sweetness followed but no one could taste the pecan or the chocolate unless we bit right into those. No one mentioned a graham cracker flavor or crunch either. I liked this flavor. I and one other tester would purchase it in the future while another would definitely keep eating it but the fourth really didn't like the smoky fragrance or taste she was picking out.

Mel's Toffee Chocolate Raspberry Toffee
Chocolate Raspberry Toffee is made with Dark Horse Raspberry Ale. This flavor includes Oreo crumbs so that means wheat is part of the ingredients that some of you may be looking to avoid. This one was the prettiest that we tested -- you can see the chocolate drizzle against the lighter toffee and the Oreo crumbs stand out as well. The scent was buttery toffee but the raspberry element seemed so slight that it might have merely been our expectation of it that created any hint of it at all. Thus we were all surprised by how strong that raspberry ale flavor came out when we tasted them, it was the primary element followed by buttery sweetness, strong hints of chocolate, and even an Oreo flavor.  These pieces made a good strong snap when we took a bite and the crunch was constant; the toffee stuck less to our teeth compared to the previous three flavors. All of us would buy this variety again because the balance of flavors was perfect this time around. The Chocolate Raspberry Toffee was by far the favorite of these alcohol based varieties of Mel's Toffee.

Have you had Mel's Toffee before? If so, leave a comment and tell us what you thought of it. If you've had all of the four varieties we revealed today, do you agree with our opinion that the Raspberry Chocolate was the best?

If you haven't do you think any of the four flavors we covered today – – would be something you'd like to try? Leave a comment and let us know that, too.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dark Chocolate Chip Lemon Cookies

enjoy life 66% dark chocolate morsels
When we receive boxes of chocolate, one of the common combinations are chocolate plus lemon. The chocolate can be white, milk, semi-sweet, or even dark and the lemon can vary from creamy and tart to creamy and sweet. Usually these are a delightful comparison of flavors particular when the chocolate is darker. I was sent these 66% cacao dark chocolate morsels from enjoy life and I thought maybe they would be a good excuse to see if the chocolate and lemon flavors might work well in a lemon cookie. I was sent a free 9 oz bag of enjoy life chocolate chips in exchange for a fair and honest article on this blog; no other form of compensation was received.

As you know, The Chocolate Cult is NOT a recipe site, it is not a cooking or baking or candy making. Yes, we do have recipes and we do test recipes from time to time but that is not our focus. So instead of trying to create a new lemon cookie recipe and not wanting to go out and buy lemons that I wouldn't use for anything else, I turned to a boxed lemon cookie mix. I think this is a good way to really test out the chips because as long as I follow the directions, I can't mess up the cookies, right?

Let's see what the final product looks like.

How did they taste? Well, while they were cooking they smelled great, the lemon was strong but the dark chocolate fragrance was there as well. Notice that the amount of chips varied greatly so the ones with more chips were more chocolate and less lemon, the cookies with fewer chips had a stronger lemon flavor. I love them both. At 98 calories, these weren't a wreck either in terms of my daily food routine. The chips were nice and melty when you bit into one but they didn't lose their shape, just as chocolate chips are supposed to do when you bake with them. I loved them!

Final analysis: These dark chocolate morsels are Sacrament Worthy just as all the other enjoy life products have been so far.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

National Chocolate Ice Cream Day 2017

Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

Do you like chocolate ice cream?

I find that chocolate and cold have a conflict; the cold tends to dampen the flavor of chocolate. Therefore a good chocolate ice cream is one to remember.

I want you to leave a comment and tell me what your favorite chocolate ice cream is?

What brand if you buy it from a grocery store?

What shop if you buy it at an ice cream shop?

What recipe do you use if you make your own?

Need some inspiration?

Check out photos from some of our previous chocolate ice cream posts!

So leave your comments and let me know about your favorite chocolate ice cream!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

PPROBAR Meal Replacement with Chocolate

We more products from PROBAR® to test out for you all but we go caught up in a lot of other products and covered those. We didn't forget you, PROBAR®, so today, if you are still looking for a way to get back into you summer body form before it is officially summer, we're going to see if this brand's meal bar line give us enough of what our bodies need to qualify as a meal. Of course you need enough calories but nutritional values, particularly a lot of protein and balance between carbs, fats, and proteins are key to answering this question. Of course all of that means nothing if the bars don't taste good because otherwise it becomes a chore to eat it versus a normal meal. we received three of these PROBAR® Meal bars -- Koka Moka, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Coconut. I called upon two of our Acolytes to help with these reviews so their words will be in italics below. I was sent free Meal bars from PROBAR® to test out and write about as objectively and honestly as we could on The Chocolate Cult; no other form of compensation was received.

Elizabeth, our Mocha Acolyte, received a couple of PROBAR® products to test and the Koka Moka Meal bar was one of these. Sadly, she wasn't impressed. When she opened it, she found the square that you see she's taken a bite out of and the smell was a strong granola, nuttiness. what you would expect a power bar to smell like. When she tried it, it had chewy texture and a taste more granola and chocolate, with hints of coffee. Nutritionally this meal bar was just ok, has 48 g carbs and that is a lot for only 9 g of protein.

Your Chocolate Priestess tested the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Meal bar. At 390 calories this is very much like a lunch meal for me so I tried it out then. When I cut open the wrapper I immediately smelled chocolate and peanut butter so that was a good sign. The bar looks like something I could make at home -- I can see nuts, oats, chocolate chips, and little seeds. I take a bite and the bar itself is soft and easy to bite into and chew. Whenever I hit a nut or seed they are crunchy; when I bite into a chip there is a burst of semi-sweet chocolate but that is the only time I taste chocolate. The peanut butter flavor is lightly roasted and is a constant undercurrent of flavor. The bar is okay but I'd like more chocolate, too. The bar is certified organic and gluten-free and verified non-GMO however it has ingredients you might be allergic to such as almonds, sunflower seeds, rice, pumpkin seeds, rosemary, and papaya and obviously peanuts and chocolate. I liked this bar and I would have it again but I'd love it if it was more chocolatey.

Lisa looked at the Coconut Chocolate MealThe scent is predominantly coconut, almost like suntan oil but I don't discern any chocolate aroma. The texture is soft and chewy, rather like an oatmeal cookie. The first bite I let just rest on my tongue for a few moments to see what flavors would come out. After two minutes, however, there wasn't really much flavor at all. A hint of sweetness and grain but no chocolate or coconut.  Once I start chewing it's a different story. Still a lot of sweet oat flavor but now the coconut is coming to the forefront. After three bites I finally get some chocolate flavor coming through. Despite having both nuts and seeds in it, there isn't much crunchiness to it. The bar measures roughly 2" X 2" and weighs in at three ounces. I know that doesn't sound like much but this is a very dense and heavy bar.  It clocks in at a hefty 350 calories, 17 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbohydrates (5 grams of fiber) and 8 grams of protein Because of its high calorie and carb count, I can see taking this along with me if I were on a long (20+ mile) bike hike. and wanted a mid-point snack.

The Meal bars come 12 to a pack much like you order other PROBAR® products on their website (check our links to each flavor) but you might be able to find them in stores around the USA since they sell products in over two dozen brick and mortar locations like Target, HyVee, and Whole Foods just to mention a few I'm personally familiar shopping in.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Celebrate Summer's Arrival with Chocolate

June will see the official arrival  of summer even if where you live has felt that way (or not) for some time now. Here is a list of serious and fun holidays that last a day, a week, or even the full month that you can celebrate with Chocolate. How are you going to mark these dates? Leave a comment and let us know.

June = National Dairy Month

1st Friday June = National Donut Day falls on June 2, 2017, this year. Here are some freebies I've learned about that might interest you.

     Duck Donuts
     Dunkin' Donuts
     Krispy Kreme
     Fractured Prune Donuts
     Honey Dew Donuts
     Sugar Shack Donuts

Win Free Donuts with these promotions:
     LaMar's Donuts

June 2 = National Rocky Road Day

June 3 = National Chocolate Macaroon Day

June 7 = National Chocolate Ice Cream Day

June 11 = National German Chocolate Cake Day

June 11 = Birthday (1796) of Francois-Louis Cailler, first Swiss chocolatier

June 12 = National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

June 14 = International Steampunk Day in honor of the birthday of H.G. Wells

Charles-Amedee Kohler
June 15, 1790 = Birthday of Charles-Amedee Kohler, Swiss confectioner

June 16 = National Fudge Day

June 22 = National Chocolate Éclair Day

June 24 = National Pralines Day

June 26 = National Chocolate Pudding Day

June 30, 1971 = Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory along with The Willy Wonka Candy Factory is released

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Go More with NuGo Dark

It's time for our final three varieties of NuGo Dark bars. We used two of our specialists to help me, Your Chocolate Priestess, test out these bars. Because of that the quality of photos, their background, and lighting may be different since each tester took her own photos. If you don't remember our earlier articles you might want to check here for the first three bars and here for our interview with one of the employees at NuGo. Don't worry the links will open a new window so you won't lose this article. If it seems like 2017 is becoming the "Year of the Bar" here on The Chocolate Cult, I've had that thought, too. We've had bad bars, good bars, even great bars and we'll keep doing this articles for as long as we have the products to reveal to you all. Originally I was sent this box of six flavors of NuGo Dark in exchange for an honest and objective feature article about them. Some of the flavors came in sets of 2-3 bars while others (like the Mocha and Peanut Butter Cup) were single bars. No other form of compensation was received.

Let's start with the bar I tested myself, the NuGo Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt Bar. That's a lot of words in one title, huh? The first ingredient is unsweetened chocolate; exactly what I now expect from this line of products. There is also soy and rice of those are allergy concerns. Weirdly no pretzels listed and as you can see in this photo no evidence of pretzels inside the bar. Dark chocolate is the only fragrance before and after I break the bar in half. The bars are crunchy when I chew them but make almost no sound when I take a bite. The initial flavor is a salty dark chocolate but that's overcome by an inside that does taste a lot like pretzels. Disappointingly the dark chocolate fades away before the pretzel flavor does which is not what I was expected given the other three bars I tested in March. It was still good just not as good as those first three.

Lisa, our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte, tested the NuGo Dark Chocolate Coconut Bar.  This was her experience with the bar. As soon as I opened the package, I could smell the chocolate and coconut scent.  The chocolate coating softened after holding it for just a few seconds.  It was soft, creamy and not at all waxy.  My expectations were set pretty high at this point and when I broke it in half I got another whiff of chocolate and coconut.  The bar is soft but firm.  It doesn't quite snap when broken but you can tell that there are a lot of solid things in it.  It's not a few ingredients held together with some kind of sugar/syrup. In addition to the toasted coconut, the filling contains almonds, soy crisps, non-toasted coconut, and brown rice crisps.  While not noisy when broken in half, once I start chewing I can hear all those crunchy ingredients. Even though there is soy in the bar, all I taste are chocolate and coconut. I've eaten dozens of chocolate nutrition bars and while some have been better than others, none of them can compare to the NuGo Dark Chocolate Coconut bar.  I'd give this a five out of five coconuts.

Elizabeth, our new Mocha Acolyte, tested the NuGo Dark Mocha Chocolate Bar. In terms of nutrition, it was good. only 30g of carbs and 10 g of protein. The bar had a strong coffee smell with a hint of chocolate when she unwrapped it. You can see how it looks in the photo to the right. It had soft crispy texture when I bit into it, Elizabeth reports and a nice blend of coffee and chocolate to the taste. Overall thoughts - I would buy this, Elizabeth adds.

Normally you buy these bars in sleeves of 12 per flavor and you can find the entire NuGo Dark Chocolate line on their website. Nutritionally the entire line of NuGo Dark are very close to each other but in terms of flavor they varied widely. These bars all were ones we've try to buy again. But what about you? Have you had these three flavors? What did you think about them.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tree Nut Allergy Alert for Chocolate Chip Cookies

Only one recall to share today.

Arabella Station Whole Foods Market Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Arabella Station Whole Foods Market store, located at 5600 Magazine Street in New Orleans, is voluntarily recalling packaged oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because the product contained tree nut allergens (walnuts) that were not listed on the product label. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to walnuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. 
All affected products have been removed from store shelves. The recall affected oatmeal chocolate chip cookies sold in packs of 18 with a best-by date of May 19, 2017. They can be identified by UPC code beginning with 247191. The products were sold at the Arabella Station Whole Foods Market store at 5600 Magazine Street. No other stores were affected by the recall. 
One allergic reaction has been reported to date. 
Customers who purchased these product and wish to return them can bring a valid receipt into stores for a full refund. Consumers with additional questions should contact the local store at (504) 899-9119.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lying Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

You may have noticed that in 2017 I not only continued to be honest about what is in the products we review but also ramped up my language. I'm just disgusted with the misleading labels and images on products that try to trick us into buying and consuming all types of products. If it's clothes, what's the most harm it can do to you other than your wallet? But anything you put in your body can harm you, too. Today we're looking at another protein bar that looks great on the wrapper but may not be what you think once you look more closely at it. I received this PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar for free using my Kroger Loyalty card; neither Kroger nor PowerBar knew they'd be subject to a feature article here on The Chocolate Cult. I'm doing this for all of you, Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate.

The first thing to note is that the bar looks much like it does on the wrapper minus the distracting mound of peanut butter, pieces of chocolate, peanut pieces in the art. Oddly the bar has almost no scent to it when I unwrap it. It continues to have little scent when I break it apart to take this photo and bring it up to my nose, the scent is bland, not even sweet, definitely neither peanut nor chocolate. Of course if we look at the label we see the "chocolate coating" is made with cocoa not chocolate liquor and certainly no cocoa butter. Nutritionally this bar is loaded with protein as promised, 20 grams of it, which is more than the 12 grams of sugars. It also has 4 grams of dietary fiber and only 3 grams of saturated fat. Not a horrible protein bar by any means though in terms of pure ingredients, particular chocolate, it is disappointing. The bars makes a light crunch when I take a bite and when I chew which is surprising since I see only what appears to be creaminess inside. The peanut butter is rather bland, not sweet but also not roasted either. As for chocolate, our most important flavor concern, I taste none of it. The chocolate coating must have used very little cocoa plus consider the photo above again, it is a thin coating over a lot of peanut buttery inside.  The texture isn't bad, the flavor isn't overwhelmingly sweet so I don't hate it, I'm just disappointed in it. This isn't something I'd buy again.

Now you tell me if you think it is fair for products to claim any "chocolate" title of they are only made with cocoa or are they lying to us? How do you feel about companies lying? Do you just assume they all do?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What are You Baking Today?

Today is World Baking Day. We have a lot of "National" days but not so many "World" days to celebrate with chocolate. So I thought we might celebrate by looking back at a few of the recipes I've created over the years. Then I want to hear from you in a comment telling me if you are going to bake today and if so, what are you making.

I've introduced you to Chocolate Chunk Blondies very recently.

Back in 2015, I tried out a recipe for Zebra Cookies.

If you are sensitive to gluten, look back at this Rice Flour Chocolate Cake.

So what are you baking today?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Chocolate Recall for Mother's Day 2017

Well, drat! I have a chocolate related recall to share with you all on Mother's Day.

---------- Recalls ----------

Recall of Mikawaya Chocolate Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream

Mikawaya is issuing a voluntary recall of a limited number of Mikawaya Brand Chocolate Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream, which may inadvertently contain peanuts. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the product. Only product labeled with UPC code of 070934990609 and lot number LOT 090-17 is included in this recall. The UPC code can be found on the back of the box and the lot number is printed on the top enclosure.

The affected product is sold in a paperboard box, containing 9.1oz (258g) of 6-1.5oz (43g) pieces with UPC code of 070934990609 and lot number LOT 090-17. The product was distributed to all Trader Joe’s stores nationwide and has been removed from sale.

The recall was initiated after receiving one customer report that a Chocolate Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream contained the presence of peanut butter. Mikawaya has not received any reports of illness or allergic reactions associated with this product.

No other Mikawaya Brand products besides this specific lot of Chocolate Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream are affected by this voluntary recall.

Customers who have purchased Mikawaya Chocolate Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream with the affected UPC code and lot number, and have an allergy or sensitivity to peanuts, are advised not to consume the product. Customers may return the product to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund. Customers with questions may contact Mikawaya at (323) 587-5504 (Monday – Friday) between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Quinoa Goes Unreal with Chocolate and Peanut Butter

While not an official fun food holiday, a few years back, a petition was circulating online and through to declare May 14th National Quinoa Day. Back around Halloween we tested out a Milk Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Peanut Butter Cup from Unreal Candy but I saved the focused review today in honor of the quinoa lovers attempt to get a fun food holiday started. Maybe this will post will help them out. As you can see the bag these come in is a bright green one, one of my favorite colors, but that doesn't mean I'll automatically love the treats,  you'll have to keep reading to find out. I did receive this bag of treats to test out, share, and write about from Unreal via the Tryazon program, no other form of compensation was received for this honest review.

These cups come individually wrapped in silver with the "UNREAL" label in matching green so you cannot confuse them if you happen to mix several varieties together but kept them wrapped. The cup is 1.5 inches across and 0.25 inches thick and looks a lot like the Halloween version of Unreal's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter cups did. There is no external sign of any crispy anything inside so we'll need to take a bite to find out. The cup has a light chocolate and sweet fragrance to it. The chocolate itself makes no noise when I take a bite but the inside makes a very loud crunch when I chew. However even though the inside makes noise it is thick and creamy, tasting almost entirely like a sweet yet roasted peanut butter. The flavors blend very well in this cup and I like it though not as much as I have Unreal's dark chocolate treats in the past. Each cup is 80 calories made of some organic ingredients with over 30% of these certified fair trade products. This is milk chocolate so it has dairy but also sunflower, quinoa, and coconut derived ingredients in case any of those are an allergy problem for you.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you have tried these out and what you thought of them, please. If you haven't tried them, is this a variety of peanut butter cup you've be willing to give a chance?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fair Trade and Chocolate

Fair Trade Challenge Image
This weekend, May 12-14, 2017, people around the world will be celebrating the growing practice of fair trade. Today I want to reveal what I've learned about fairtrade and the chocolate industry. Not all of it is as good as you may have been led to believe by the big announcement from some brand names. I want to talk about what fair trade is, how it connects with cocoa production and manufacturing, and how it affects consumers. I'm going to be using a lot of graphics and images from some organizations to demonstrate which chocolate making brands stand in terms of fair trade and I'll note which sites gave me with graphics as we go along.

Let's start with a definition of "Fair Trade" -- At the most basic level this simply means that the producers, the cocoa farmers and workers at cocoa plantations, are paid a wage that they can live on. It can also mean good treatment of workers by employers. However the specifics of what qualifies as fair wages and treatment varies and is certified by different organizations in different ways. Sometimes "Fair Trade" refers to a relationship between the chocolate grower and worker and the company that ultimately turns their raw ingredients into the chocolate products you buy. The phrase "fair trade" is used in a variety of ways. If you care, look into the brand of chocolate you are buying and into the organization that they received fair trade certification from, if they did at all. Given that "fair trade" is increasingly desired  by some consumers (if not backed by their spending), companies are putting those labels on their goods. We've seen enough lies from brands here on The Chocolate Cult to know you can't assume that what the label claims is true. Yes, you'll need to do a little work, folks, if you care.

Why should you care? Think about it this way. If you were paid horribly and had to work for a long time, do you think that you'd honestly do the best you could? Do you truly believe that you'd produce the best quality of products that you could under conditions you felt were unfair? If you want high quality products, safe chocolate, maybe you need to pay a bit more so that the producers and those working for them are motivated to the best job they can. I really like the below graphics as a simple visual of the benefits of fair trade.
Let's look at some graphs to show you what manufactures stand in regards to fair trade. You'll recognize some of the names of companies we've test and written about in the past.

There are a lot of brands not on the lists or the above charts, too. When you find a chocolate bar, when you walk into chocolate shop, check out the labels, ask the questions, and then look into the organizations that have verified this particular treat is whatever you are interested in be it fair trade, sustainable agriculture, or GMO free. Don't assume, research. But realize that you will pay more and decide if paying more worth it to you.

For me, when a brand is actually doing everything it claims on the label, it is worth paying more for most of the time.

Are you concerned about Fair Trade at all? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Sources Consulted for this Essay:

Green America

Fair Trade Challenge

The Good Shopping Guide

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International

Lake Champlain Chocolates

Slave Free Chocolate

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fish and Peanuts = Chocolate Recall

Yes, you read the title correctly -- issues of undeclared peanuts and fish are causing the two recalls below.

----------- Recalls ----------

LOS ANGELES, CA – May 1, 2017 – Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), a premier global nutrition company, is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its Protein Bar – Peanut Butter because the product may contain a trace amount of fish gelatin, which was added to the product as part of a flavoring ingredient provided by a third-party supplier. The amount of gelatin in the finished product is extremely low (approximately 0.02%). The gelatin is a highly processed collagen from fish skin, which contains a negligible amount of parvalbumin, a fish allergen.
There have been no reports to date of any illnesses or adverse health effects associated with the affected product. Nonetheless, the Company is taking this voluntary action out of an abundance of caution. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been notified of this recall.

The product was distributed in the U.S. from 6/30/2016 to 4/7/2017, exclusively to individual independent distributors as 14-pack cartons. Lots numbers affected are 066539A11, 066553A11, 066601A11, 066660A11, 066688A11, and 066691A11.

Herbalife maintains high quality standards for its products and is dedicated to the health, safety, and satisfaction of its consumers. Independent distributors and their customers that have purchased this product are urged to return the product for exchange or refund. Consumers with questions about this issue may contact Herbalife’s customer service department from 9:00am – 6:00pm Pacific Standard Time, Monday – Friday at 1-866-866-4744.

Ben and Jerry's Undeclared Peanut Recall

Unilever is voluntarily recalling a limited number of boxes of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Pint Slices, which may inadvertently contain Vanilla Peanut Butter Cup Pint Slices. Although the slices were individually wrapped and identified as Vanilla Peanut Butter Cup Pint Slices, the ingredient peanut butter (containing the known allergen peanut), is undeclared on the outer product packaging. Persons who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the product.
This limited voluntary recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The affected product is sold in a paperboard box, containing 9 fL oz (266 mL) (3 individually wrapped ice cream slices) with UPC code of 076840657940 best by date AUG1218LT2 and lot number of AUG1218LT2.

The product was manufactured in the United States. The product was distributed nationwide and reached consumers through retail stores. No product was shipped outside of the U.S. No other Ben & Jerry’s products – besides this specific lot of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Pints Slices - are affected by this voluntary recall, including other Pint Slices, pints or any products served in Ben & Jerry's franchised Scoop Shops.

The recall was initiated after receiving one consumer complaint, where it was discovered that Vanilla Peanut Butter Cups Pint Slices were distributed in outer packaging that did not call out the presence of peanut butter. Unilever has not received any reports of illness associated with this product, but the company is voluntarily recalling this product out of an abundance of caution.

Consumers who have purchased boxes of the above product with the affected UPC code and date code are asked to immediately discontinue use of the product, retain the outer box and call 877-270-7397, which is operational 24 hours a day, for more information about the recall and to request a replacement coupon. A consumer services representative is available between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM EDT.

The company is placing a notification on the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) web site

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chocolate Toffee Trio

Mel's Toffee Trio
On Wednesday you met the woman behind Mel's Toffee so today I'm going to introduce you to three of the seven varieties of chocolate toffee they make. There are the alcohol free varieties; I'm going to be helped out by three Acolytes when I test the four other varieties because they have more expertise with different types of liquor than I do. Let's get back to the three types of toffee I'm looking at today. First thing to note is that there are not made with almonds so this is a safe toffee for anyone with tree nuts. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether or not it even qualifies as toffee when there aren't almonds, I'm just glad that some of you could enjoy this because I know that tree nut allergies are common. The three types I'll be covering today are Plain Jane, Sea Salt Pretzel, and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Mel's Toffee sent me one bag of each of these three flavors to test out and write as objective a review as possible here on The Chocolate Cult; no other form of compensation was received.

Mel's Toffee -- Plain Jane

Plain Jane Toffee is jazzed up a bit with that dark chocolate drizzle that Michelle mentioned in our interview on Wednesday. Didn't read that? Go check it out then come back. It is made with butter (cream), sugar, water, dark chocolate, and salt and has both dairy and soy in it if those are allergy concerns. As you can see, the chocolate drizzle is generous and the toffee is thick. The toffee has a rich caramel color to it but the drizzle stands out against it. I cut open the resealable bag and the buttery sweetness hit me immediately. When I take a bite the toffee makes a snap and then continues to crunch as I chew. It gets stickier with each chew as I expect with thick toffee but it also melts off of my teeth with a few more chews. The flavor is buttery and sweet but the dark chocolate adds a hint of bitter when I bite into. As expected the toffee flavor itself is the dominant one. I like it.

Mel's Toffee -- Sea Salt Pretzel 
The Sea Salt Pretzel Toffee is more than just drizzle with chocolate, it has chocolate on the top and the bottom, the amount of pretzel pieces varied from piece to piece. I chose one that was looked to be balanced between toffee, chocolate, and pretzels. Of course this has more ingredients on the label but for those of you with allergies the ones that stand out will be dairy, wheat, corn, and soy. The sea salt is himalayan pink though I can't really see the salt crystals. This had a salt and chocolate fragrance when I opened the resealable bag but the sweet buttery scent became apparent when I brought the piece I selected to my nose. This piece makes a loud snap and continues to be crunchy as I chew it. it is a bit less sticky on my teeth. The initial flavor is the chocolate followed by the salt and the buttery sweet of the toffee which builds as I continue to chew a bite, the pretzels themselves are more texture than different flavor. Of the two so far, this is my favorite and you know that is all about the amount of dark chocolate.

Mel's Toffee -- Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate Peanut Butter Toffee has very few ingredients again with salted peanuts and dry milk powder added to the basic list from Plain Jane Toffee thus you have three allergens -- dairy, peanuts, and soy. The orange label makes me think of peanut butter which isn't orange but still for some reason it feels right. I was not expecting a strong peanut butter fragrance when I opened the resealable bag but it was the dominant scent. As you can see, the toffee looks quite different from the Plain Jane version because you can see the pieces of peanuts in what appears to be a lighter colored toffee but also less chocolate drizzle. I was expecting more chocolate drizzle given the name and given the photo on the website, weren't you? Maybe I just got an under-chocolated batch. The toffee itself without drizzle is crunchy and has a flavor almost exactly like a sweet crunchy peanut butter would, the light chocolate drizzle doesn't affect the flavor very much. Of the three flavors this is my least favorite but if you really love peanut butter this would be the variety you'd want.

While I liked all three flavors of Mel's Toffee, the amount of chocolate on them really made it easy for me to pick my favorite: Sea Salt Pretzel Toffee. You can buy quarter, half, and one pound bags of these flavors at multiple locations in Michigan or online. If you've had any of these three flavors yourself please leave us a comment and let us know what you think about them.