Sunday, April 30, 2017

Recall of Cocoa-dusted Chocolate Ginger

Cocoa-dusted Chocolate Ginger
Only one recall to share today.

Hummingbird Wholesale Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Hazelnut in Organic Cocoa-dusted Chocolate Ginger

Hummingbird Wholesale of Eugene, Oregon is recalling 5lbs of Organic Cocoa-Dusted Chocolate Ginger, because it may contain undeclared hazelnut. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to hazelnut run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Product was distributed to Capella Market in Eugene, Oregon and sold in their self-serve bulk food section from April 11th, 2017 through April 17th, 2017 The label below was attached to the bulk bin from which the affected product was offered. The product containing hazelnuts can be identified as dark brown spheres with a cocoa powder coating.


No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product containing Hazelnut was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of Hazelnut.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers who have purchased Hummingbird Wholesale Organic Cocoa-Dusted Hazelnut from Capella Market in Eugene, Oregon are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-541-686-0921 ext. 105 from 8 am – 4 pm PST, Monday through Friday.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Chocolate Mystery Series by Dawn Greenfield Ireland

Did you know that May is "National Mystery Month"? I didn't know that either until recently. What does that have to do with chocolate? Well, we've looked at other mystery novels where chocolate was a plot element usually in terms of what the amatuer sleuth does as a career but in Dawn Ireland's trilogy about the Alcott Sisters, chocolate isn't what they do but it is foundation of their family wealth. Unlike the humorous science fiction mystery series of Jackie Kingon or the oddly popular Hannah Swensen series, this book promises a combination of the two with quirky characters and a solid mystery. According to the book's back cover this is a "funny, cozy mystery with astrology theme." Of course you'll have to keep reading to see if the novel delivers on those promises. On Wednesday we had an interview with the author of The Alcott Family Adventure so today we're going to look at book one of the series, Hot Chocolate: Book 1 of the Alcott Family Adventures. I was sent a paperback copy of this book in exchange for this honest and objective feature on the Chocolate Cult; no other form of compensation was received.

I went looking for definition of "cozy mystery" and all of them said that the violence and sex very common to hardcore mysteries are downplayed, vaguely described, or made humorous. Hot Chocolate meets those criteria though personally I'm not a fan of the comedic objectification of nurse Bambi's body and clothing. The problem is that when I amused while reading it wasn't laughing with the sisters or the situation, it was more of a uneasy laughter or simply discomfort at how characters were described.

Another criteria for "cozy mystery" is that the heroine, and it is always a heroine, is someone the reader needs to like especially when series are very common in the genre. Quirky describes the Alcotts well from their old-fashioned names, interfamilial oddities, candy and chocolate colored luxury cars, and what to me often seemed like outlandish fashion and lifestyles. But quirky isn't likeable and to be blunt, I didn't like any of the three sisters. Of the three -- Madge, Lila Mae, and Dorothea -- Lila Mae is the one who gets most "screen time" and she is the least likeable of all of them. Her life is driven by a belief in astrology and other new age or "ancient" beliefs yet she makes sudden decisions when she really should be holding steadfast to her proclaimed beliefs. Overall I found her rude and self-centered. Dorothea is also very self-centered though I felt something for her given that her father has been her primary responsibility; taking care of elderly, ill parents can be very draining. Madge, the eldest, is the most likeable but we really don't spend enough time with her.

Obviously a mystery needs to be central to any subgenre within that larger literary category of mystery. The mystery is usually a disappearance or death. In the "cozy mystery" it is not shown, merely referred to, though a body may be examined just not in graphic detail. As I kept reading the book, I kept looking for a mystery. Normally the mystery should be revealed by the end of chapter three... honestly that feel late to me but standard guidelines for mysteries give it up to chapter three for the murder to happen. Remember the focus is on the mystery, not on world building or funny interpersonal relationships, that would be a different genre of fiction. There is no mystery in this book until chapter 11... chapter 11, page 123 is where a body is found (I'm not going to reveal which character). In a "cozy mystery" the victim, either murdered or missing, has less than a sterling reputation in his or her community and the victim in Hot Chocolate fits that criteria to a tee.

A "cozy mystery" should really revolve around the sleuth's actions, thoughts, and relationships she has with the small community where the mystery must be solved. We see a lot of interactions between the characters, we spend a lot of time on individuals, too, looking at their homes, their clothes, digging into their thoughts but the focus should be on the mystery and solving it. In the "cozy mystery" the heroine generally has a romantic or at least deep friendship with someone who can give her information the case -- a coroner, a detective, a reporter, etc -- and Lila Mae is romantically involved with Police Detective Chance Walker indicating that Lila Mae, as unlikeable as she is, is our sleuth. Yet that isn't what happens. The story continues to bounce around from characters -- we follow Detective Walker, we follow Bambi, we follow Lila Mae, there is no central sleuth. Without a central viewpoint sleuth the story roams around, not focused on gathering clues trying to find the killer.

In any mystery subgenre, solving the mystery should rely upon the sleuth's logic, use of experts or her own expertise, and be realistic. Given the astrology focus of the book I was worried about this criteria because through chapter 11 I wasn't seeing much from the Alcotts that spoke to their abilities at all in the mental skills required to be a sleuth. I didn't have to worry so much about that because there was no sleuth to follow as she searched for clues, using her relationships and mental prowess to solve the case. When Lila Mae thinks she has it solved, it comes out of the blue because the plot hasn't focused on her gathering any evidence or making any observations until that moment in chapter 33 when she declares that she knows who the killer is. Of course, it can't be that straight forward in any mystery, there have to be red herrings but in the end Lila Mae didn't solve the mystery, the police did. To be blunt, this book would be much better at half the length and following Lila Mae as she does her cozy mystery solving.

Finally I want to mention the style of the writing. We are told a lot about each of the Alcott sisters in highly descriptive paragraphs that layout everything from their clothing and homes to their histories. Written in a third person narrative fashion that switches between the sisters and some other characters, the style of detailed telling is fairly common in many books I've sent to review. I can't say that I'm a fan because I was taught to show more than tell, to let the world and the characters come into focus through their actions and words. The details we get on characters varies as we might expect with the sisters the main characters they should be the most detailed but which other characters we are given details about their looks, their clothes, their backgrounds, their attitudes, that varies quite a bit. I was thinking there might be a trend but even by the end of the book I couldn't find a pattern to which characters are more detailed than others beyond the sisters. This isn't to say that we aren't shown the sisters and their world, we are, I just wanted more showing and less telling. But what do I know when so books are coming out like this over the past decade?

If book one of the chocolatey fueled series sounds interesting to you, check it out on Amazon using our link below. You can find it in paperback, Kindle, and Audio form. Or you can visit Dawn's website to check out all of her books.




Sites Consulted for information about Mystery and Cozy Mystery genres:

Top Rules for Mystery Writing 

Cozy Mystery List

Immense Popularity of Cozy Mysteries

Mystery Writing Basics -- Characters and Plot

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meet the Author of the Hot Chocolate Mystery

Dawn Greenfield Ireland
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, help me welcome, author Dawn Greenfield Ireland to our blog today. She is the author of a series that we'll review the first book of on this coming Saturday. The series sounds yummy so let's learn more about Dawn. Dawn, thank you for answering our questions.

Dawn, how did you get into writing fiction?

I have always been a daydreamer. Back in 1979, I had a very long commute to work. A portion of that drive was over Addicks Dam/Barker Reservoir in West Houston, which, at that time, was beautifully forested on both sides of Highway 6 before getting to the I-10 freeway. 

I’m not even sure how I got to work in one piece from all the daydreaming, but I had a story developing in my head for several days, and I started jotting notes. I had no idea that I was going to write a book. I knew nothing about writing.

But, from this story that kept building in my head, I made sure I had a lined tablet and a pen on the passenger seat. When traffic (sic) backed up, I’d write furiously. That was the beginning of my first science fiction novel, back then called Second Chance. Now it is called Prophecy of Thol, to be published in 2017.

How many books have you have published?

Artistic Origins is the name of my company, which was created in 1995, and incorporated in 2005. Back in 1995 it was basically my technical writing company.

I’m the head dog, the author, publisher, the distributer (sic), the packer and the stand-in-line-at-the-post office gal (shipper).

Everything that goes out the door will have my logo:

The books I have written, to date are as follows: 

1. The Puppy Baby Book (2000)
2. Mastering Your Money (2009)
3. Hot Chocolate (2011)
4. Bitter Chocolate (2014)

My books coming in 2017:

5. Spicy Chocolate
6. Prophecy of Thol
7. Writers’ Preparation Handbook

Other books I have published:

1. Memoirs of a Dog by CousCous (Barbara) Mackey
2. Trail Blazers (10th Anniversary Edition) by Joseph Lawrence Thompson
3. A Journey Within by J. Mitchel Baker (coming Summer/Fall of 2017)

The Alcott Family Adventures focus on a family who have made their money through their chocolate business. Why did you decide to make their background in this business?

It could have been computers, electronics, or anything else. Then I thought about everyone I knew and what we all had in common: big time chocolate lovers. 

As a self-professed chocoholic, I thought of my late mother who had a serious chocolate addiction going on – she had Hersey’s chocolate bars stashed all over the place. 

I thought Hot Chocolate would be a fun way to treat everyone to a great little story with eccentric characters who grew up with chocolate – as their livelihood, and as an indulgence. 

Everyone loves the family I have created, their relationships with the large cast of characters, and the recipes in the back of the book.

How important is the Alcott chocolate business to the plots of the books?

Without the wealth from Alcott Chocolates, the story would not be set in Houston’s ultra-wealthy River Oaks. Bernie Alcott, the founder of Alcott Chocolates, and the patriarch at 92, is a wily character who constantly gives his middle-aged daughters fits.

These ultra-wealthy sisters are not like the socialites one might read about in the news. These gals have their own agendas.

Half of Dawn's Library
I know you have two books in the series currently out. Would you tell us the names of the first two books and where readers might find them?

Both Hot Chocolate and Bitter Chocolate are available on my website and on Amazon. 

Hot Chocolate is available as a paperback, eBook, and audio book. 

Bitter Chocolate is only available as an eBook, and audio book at this time.

If you want an autographed copy of the Hot Chocolate paperback, you can only get that on my website.

How many books do you plan to have in this series?

I’m currently working on #3 – Spicy Chocolate (available sometime in 2017). I don’t see any reason to quit now! And just think of the different titles I could create!

Let's get back to chocolate, our favorite topic here. Do you like chocolate and if so, what is your favorite kind?

I DO NOT DISCRIMINATE ☺ -- that said, I LOVE dark chocolate! I love chocolate with peppermint! I love white chocolate! I love milk chocolate! Ooohhh, and I love chocolate-covered almonds!

If chocolate were banned tomorrow, I would definitely be involved in a chocolate black market, or the chocolate underground movement!

Part of Dawn's Office
I know your books include recipes, are these family recipes or original ones that you created for this series of books?

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking, when I’m not writing or reading. Every recipe in the books are recipes that I have made multiple times that I thought my readers would enjoy. 

Some are old time favorites of mine. Some are new recipes I’ve come across from various emails or websites that I have tried and liked. Most of the time I tweak those recipes to make them my own. Sometimes they no longer resemble the original recipe with all my tweaking.

Have you considered a chocolate item tie-in for your series, such as a boxes of hot chocolate mix or bars?

This has been on my mind for a while now. The problem I come across is that I lean toward organic, gluten free, and soy free, not to mention that I am phobic about high fructose corn syrup. It is so hard to find products that contain pure ingredients. It is very stressful!

I would love to get to the point where I could have a sponsored product!

Other half of Dawn's Office 
What do you do when you aren't writing, Dawn?

When I’m not on my laptop creating something, or reading, I’m most likely cooking or baking something, or watching Netflix or Amazon Prime content. 

Several years ago, I began cooking on the weekends for the week ahead to make my life easier. I have continued this process, and I have to tell you, it sets me free to do everything else. 

Whether it is a pot of soup, a roast, or spaghetti sauce, I use canning jars to store liquid items, and freezer bags for meats and things. 

Just so you know, I’m going to document some of my life shortcuts and create a book.

Finally is there anything else you'd like us to know about your or your books?

Several years ago, I discovered there were several people named Dawn Ireland, so I started to use my whole name – Dawn Greenfield Ireland – so people would know it was me. I had been in contact with one of the Dawn Ireland’s who used to live in South Dakota, but we have lost touch.

The books have a very large cast. When I was writing Bitter Chocolate, I hired a guy to create a family tree of the characters. It is a great reference to see the relationships and connections of the characters. You can download the family tree for free.

The family tree will be updated in Spicy Chocolate with color coding so people can see the original cast in Hot Chocolate in one color, who was added in Bitter Chocolate in another color, and the newcomers in Spicy Chocolate.

About me, I’m originally from a small farming community in Western Massachusetts, which is no longer there – it is all subdivisions and a golf course now. I moved to Texas in 1968, and spent two years in San Antonio, then moved to Houston. I spent 44 years in Houston. This is where my career as a technical writer began in 1984 at Compaq Computer. In 2010, my oldest son moved to the east coast, then my youngest son moved in 2013!

When I was downsized from my technical writing job in 2015, I decided this was a good opportunity to move back to the east coast to be closer to my boys. I bought a house in the Catskill Mountain area of NY. I’ve spent two winters up here and I don’t want to experience another! I have recently put my house on the market. I can’t wait to get back to Houston – my tribe of creative people and the world I created there.

Twenty-two years ago, I created a critique group for writers. While we have tried to carry on online, it doesn’t work for me. When I get back home I’ll be happy to embrace my group once again!

Thank you, Dawn, for talking with us today. Readers, if you have any questions for Dawn or if you've read her books, leave a comment and maybe she'll get back to you.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jimmy's Cookies Recall

While I'm disappointed whenever I have to share any type of chocolate related recall with you, Sisters and Brothers, at least there is only one recall to share with you today.

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

Jimmy's Cookies Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk

Jimmy’s Cookies LLC of Clifton, NJ is recalling LOT #047 The Bakery Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies from all retail stores, because it may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The Bakery Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies LOT #047 was sold in retail stores and distributed Nationwide in bakeries.

The Bakery Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies LOT #047 are packed 10 cookies to a 14 oz. container with an orange label. LOT #047 can be found printed in black ink on the top of the package.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that the product containing milk was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of milk. Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by a temporary breakdown in the company’s labeling processes.

Consumers who have purchased The Bakery Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies from retail stores are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the firm Monday through Friday, from the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (EST) at (973) 779-8500.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Can Coconut Make Organic Brownie Brittle Even Better?

Organic Coconut Brownie Brittle, Sheila G's
We have been looking at the Organic Line of Sheila G's Brownie Brittle and today we turn our attention to the Organic Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Brownie Brittle. Since as many of your regular readers may know, I don't like coconut, years ago you (the readers) selected our first Acolyte to help me test products, specifically coconut ones. So today, Lisa is the author of this article, every word is hers after this initial paragraph. The Chocolate Cult was sent two bags of these variety of Brownie Brittle from Sheila G's Brownie Brittle in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received in exchange for this article.

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle is an attempt to make a snack based on what most people say is the best part of a brownie... the crunchy corners.  It definitely meets that criteria.

When I opened the bag and sniff, I couldn't quite identify what it is that I smelled.  A little sweet but no overwhelming chocolate or coconut scent.  I was worried.  The sniff test is one of the senses I rely on most and this wasn't cutting it.  The pieces are thin and the coconut is very obvious.  I bit off a small corner and got a nice crunch; far more so than any brownie corner I've ever made.  Chocolate was the predominant flavor.  The coconut adds a nice bit of texture but not as much flavor.  Chewing it is definitely a crunchy delight.

The package says a serving size is one ounce but since the pieces are not all the same size, it can be hard to determine exactly how much you're eating unless you have a good food scale.  I determined that five of the largest pieces available the bag come up to 1.25 ounces. For that you get 16 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of fat and the serving comes in at 150 calories.  I mention this because it's easy to blow through an entire bag without realizing how much you've eaten.  I know this from experience.

Also to be aware of, there is a non-organic version of this treat on the market.  I had some many months ago and I didn't think this tasted much different but to be certain, a friend helped me do a blind taste-test.  I couldn't tell the difference.  I like the product and the only thing I can say that I'd change would be to make the coconut flavor a little stronger.

Have you tried the Organic Chocolate and Toasted Coconut version of Brownie Brittle? If so, leave us a comment and let us know if you agree with Lisa's assessment.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Chocolate Recalls on Easter 2017

How disappointing to have recalls on this weekend with Passover, Western Easter, and Orthodox Easter as well as Ostara the traditional holiday to which Easter was connected. back in the 4th century Check these out to protect yourself and your family.

---------------------------------------

Recall of Chocolate Kokosh Cake

Orthodox Baking Co. in Belleville, N.J. 07109, today announced a voluntary recall of its 16 ounce packages of Oberlander Gluten Free Brand “Chocolate Kokosh Cake" chocolate filled cake because they contain undeclared almond paste. People who have allergies to almonds run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
The recalled "Chocolate Kokosh Cake" were distributed nationwide in retail stores and supermarkets. No other products are impacted.

The product comes in a 16 ounce, clear plastic package with a wraparound label. It is marked with a “last date sale” of April 30 printed on the back of the label and further identified with UPC #43711 18093 7.

This voluntary recall was initiated on April 5, 2017, after an unconfirmed report of an allergic reaction was investigated by Orthodox Baking Co. and it revealed that the almond paste-containing cake was distributed in packaging that identified in the ingredient declaration the presence of “kernel paste” instead of “almond paste”. The problem was caused by a labeling error limited to this item.

Production of the product has been suspended until FDA and the company are certain that the problem has been corrected.

Orthodox Baking has informed the FDA of our actions.

Consumers who have purchased 16 ounce packages of “Chocolate Kokosh Cake" chocolate filled cake are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Due to Passover Holiday consumers with questions may contact the company only during these specific dates and times: Thursday, April 13, 2017 from 1PM to 3PM EDST at the following number 1- 347-450-7077

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Nassau Candy Distributors of Hicksville, NY, is voluntarily recalling 8 oz. bags of H.E.B brand Pomegranate Infused Cranberries Covered in Dark Chocolate because they may contain undeclared Almonds. People who have allergies to Almonds run the risk of serious or life threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The product is packaged in 8 oz. zipper bags with UPC CODE 041220985883 and has a Best By Date of 02/27/18 on the lower right back panel of the packaging. No other product or Best By Dates are affected by this recall.

The recalled Pomegranate Infused Cranberries Covered in Dark Chocolate was distributed to H.E.B in San Antonio, Texas. All product with the Best By Date of 02/27/18 has been removed from the store shelves and destroyed.

The company has received one allergy complaint to date.

This recall was initiated after it was reported via a social media complaint that a bag contained almonds but were not listed on the packaging. The company continues its investigation into the matter and has temporarily suspended production of this item.

Consumers who have purchased the 8 oz. bags of H.E.B brand Pomegranate Infused Cranberries Covered in Dark Chocolate are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Nassau Candy Distributors at 516-433-7100 ext. 7297, Monday - Friday 9am - 4pm EST.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Burst of Spring for Easter or Mother's Day from Ococoa

If you have been reading the Chocolate Cult from the beginning you might recall a fairly early feature we did about Ococoa about their butter cups. They have expanded beyond butter cups now and now do a lot of products centered around holidays throughout the year. Right now, for a limited time, you can find their Forget-Me-Not collection which might be a lovely treat for Easter or Mother's Day or just to say "I'm so happy it is finally Spring!" I used a black or Easter Egg backdrop depending on the chocolate of the cup to show them in a more interesting fashion in several photos today but these are not only around for Easter. Today we're going to look at this current seasonal collection and give you our full sensory experience with them. Ococoa sent us a free 4 piece favor box of Forget-Me-Nots in exchange for writing an honest review of them; no other form of compensation was received.

The cups have salted butter caramel, vanilla marshmallow, and dark chocolate ganache -- all handmade in small batches. I'll show you the layers inside the cups when I reveal each type but for not here's another view of the cups as they were packaged in recyclable materials, well cushioned so they were not damaged at all. The tops of each cup has vintage style flowers in different colors. These are so cute to look at, aren't they? The cups themselves are dark chocolate or white chocolate. When I first opened the box, the white chocolate fragrances, creamy, sweet, with a strong hint of vanilla, was dominant. Separately the two types from each other for a while I then breathed them in individually. The white chocolate cups smelled the same but the dark chocolate cups had a strong vanilla scent with a deep undercurrent of darker cocoa to them. No caramel, salt, or marshmallow fragrance at this point.

Let's begin with the white chocolate cups. The layers are from bottom to top: marshmallow, ganache, and caramel. For my own enjoyment I'd just bite them open but to show you I used a very sharp knife and careful pressure. The white chocolate is still the main fragrance but not there is a hint of salt as well. I pop one half into my mouth and the first flavor I get is the salted caramel, tangy not sweet then the vanilla from marshmallow and white chocolate, and finally a light darker essence. The I try each layer by itself, well as much as I can bite it off clearly. The marshmallow is fluffy and really just has a very light vanilla taste that makes the white chocolate seem creamier. The dark ganache layer covers up the vanilla taste and brings out the creaminess of the white chocolate even stronger. The caramel layer's saltiness is lowered when I taste it with just the white chocolate and the caramel tastes even tangier. I rinsed my mouth out and rested my taste buds for 15 minutes before moving on to test these. Remember that to get the taste of an individual chocolate, whatever kind it is, don't mix it with other food or beverages when you first have it. That's the only way to learn what the chocolate itself is like. After that feel free to experiment with ways of eating it or combining it with drinks.

The dark chocolate cup layers are a bit harder to make out in the photo but I think it still turned out fine so you can see them.  The fragrance from the cut open cup is well balanced between the salty tangy, the darker chocolate, and a hint of sweetness. I try one half of the cup in two bites to see how the triple layers interact with the dark chocolate cup. The initial flavor is the dark chocolate followed immediately by a salty tangy and a creaminess, as the salt fades the tang and the dark chocolate return until the chocolate is the final taste on my tongue. Wonderful! Testing layer by layer adds a deeper experience. The marshmallow layer greatly intensifies the bitterness of the dark chocolate and I loved that. Interestingly the ganache layer makes the flavor very smooth and creamy. The caramel layer has the strongest salt flavor and the tangy of the caramel is very intense as is the chocolate, this was my favorite of the individual layers.

I liked both cups a lot but as you know, darker chocolate is my favorite so it isn't surprising that I loved the darker cups best. Both are worthy Sacraments for us so I hope you check them out. Even though Easter is tomorrow and it is too late to get Ococoa unless you live near one of their retail partners, you can order these online in time for Mother's Day easily.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Meet the Woman behind Ococoa

Diana Fill Cup Molds
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, help me welcome Diana Malouf, the founder and chocolatier beyond Ococoa to our blog today. Thank you Diana, for joining us.

Diana, Ococoa started the same year as this blog, 2009, and we did a feature on your butter cups in January 2010. At that time we weren't doing interviews so we're very curious, how did you get started in the chocolate business?

I frequently hand-made edible gifts for friends. Often times they were baked treats but one year I decided to try my hand at making peanut butter cups. I hand-painted the inside of the paper candy cups with what I thought was tempered chocolate. I honestly don’t remember if it tempered correctly, but nevertheless I was hooked. After a few years of experimenting, a friend talked me into starting Ococoa. 

Ococoa Cut and Stacked Butter Cups


You began with butter cups, delicious butter cups, that were not limited to the commonly and mass produced peanut butter cups many of us in the USA grew up with. Where did you get the idea of making different types of butter creams to fill chocolate cups?

After making that initial batch of peanut butter cups, I became curious about how other types of nut butters might work with chocolate and began experimenting from there. 

My Middle Eastern heritage largely influenced the flavors I initially gravitated towards. I use a number of ingredients that are popular in Middle Eastern desserts such as tahini, rose oil, pistachios, figs. 

One of the rules you follow at Ococoa is to "Use excellent ingredients" so what type of couverture do you use and has that changed as your business has grown over the years?

I have always used E. Guittard chocolate for most of my confections. It’s excellent quality and Fair Trade. I find that it nicely complements the fillings in my bon bons. When chocolate takes center stage such as in our Valentine’s hearts and the peat smoked truffle, I’ll use Valrhona. 

We've tested and written about E. Guittard here on The Chocolate Cult and I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. What do you think has been the greatest challenge you've overcome to have a successful chocolate business?

I started Ococoa because I enjoy making chocolate confections, playing with flavors, and learning new techniques. However running a business isn’t just about pursuing a passion; it involves a lot of nuts and bolts. My business partner Liz and I have to wear a lot of hats. Luckily she and I are very curious and determined people. 

Ococoa Caramelized Almonds
I see that the types of chocolates you offer now has expanded into Truffle & Caramel Bars and Caramelized Almonds. Why did you decide to expand your product line and do you think you'll expand it again in the near future?

If it were possible, I’d be introducing new products all the time. I love experimenting. However, launching new products requires a lot of care and resources and since time and space are finite, we have to be careful about how many products we offer at any given time. That being said, I’ve been toying with the idea a new line of caramel bars for the Fall. 

Currently you have seasonal gifts as well as your year round flavors of bars and butter cups. How many seasonal lines do you offer?  What is your best selling season?

 We have seasonal confections for Fall, Valentine’s Day, and Spring. In fact, we are currently carrying our Spring Forget-Me-Nots, which are filled with layers of caramel, marshmallow, and truffle. Valentine’s Day is naturally a big season for us. We offer a gift collection of hand-painted raspberry hearts that are simply delicious. My favorite is the White Chocolate Ganache with Raspberry Shrub; you get the sweetness of the white ganache with the tartness of the raspberry vinegar jam. It’s such a surprising yet balanced combination of flavors.

Diana Malouf


Let's get back to a more personal question. We know from your story of how you decided to get into the chocolate business, that you have a lifetime relationship with candy. Do you have a personal favorite type of chocolate -- white, milk, semi-sweet, darker?

I like well-crafted chocolate and that can include dark, milk and even white. I am heartened by the rise of the bean-to-bar movement over the past several years and that people are learning that chocolate can be enjoyed much like wine where you learn about the terroir of the bean and the importance of how the beans are processed. A good couverture is the result of quality processes. Having said that, I mostly work with dark chocolate because my flavors tend to be more rich and savory, rather than the sweeter notes of white or milk chocolate. 

Of all of the flavors of butter cups that you make and sell what is your personal favorite(s)?  Is that the same best selling flavor you offer?

My favorite amongst the butter cups is Sesame Fig. I love the combination of savory tahini blended with dark chocolate and balanced with the fig jam. The Peat Smoked Truffle is also near and dear to me. I infuse cream with smoked organic peat; then the cream is used as a base for the ganache. It’s a strong flavor, and it’s not for everyone, but I’m partial to peaty scotch so this suits me. 

Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Ococoa?

Well, this is a fun fact. Ococoa’s tag line is “thoughtfully crafted chocolate.” The primary motivation behind that choice was to emphasize how much time and deliberation goes into each confection we create. But it’s also a nod to the fact that Liz and I were both worked in brainy professions in our previous lives: she was a professor and I worked at a think-tank. Our love of learning has transferred over to Ococoa and all things chocolate.

Thank you, Diana, for speaking with us. I'm looking forward to sharing your Forget-Me-Not line with our readers on Saturday.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Magic Kingdom Chocolate

Magic Kingdom, March 8, 2017


Finally, I'll finish off this "On the Road" series about my 25th Wedding Anniversary in the Orlando, Florida, region by showing you what I found and enjoyed in terms of chocolate during two full days at the Magic Kingdom theme park of Disney World. We had extra magic hours one morning and extra magic hours one night for two very full days of fun, sun, and food. Lots of chocolate to share with you but first here we are at the Magic Kingdom.







Crystal Palace Friendship Day Banner

Here's the weird thing, I don't remember chocolate at our character breakfasts at the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps I was just too excited to meet all of the Winnie the Pooh characters at the Crystal Palace's Friendship Day Celebration but I tried to take photos whenever I had chocolate so I could share that with you all. It cost one sit down meal point on the Deluxe Meal Plan. The breakfast was still wonderful and we got to meet Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and my favorite, Tigger.





Cinderella's Royal Table Allergy Menu

The breakfast we were served in Cinderella's Royal Table had a lot of lovely pastries but none of them chocolate but our server made sure to only get the tree nut free ones. We got our photos taken downstairs with Cinderella. That made perfect sense for her to greet us first because it is her castle after all, right? Then upstairs we met Rapunzel, Jasmine, Ariel, and Snow White. This is one of the more expensive meals you can get in Disney World and it is difficult to get either breakfast, lunch, or dinner because the amount of seating is limited. It costs two sit down meal points per person on the Deluxe Meal Plan, tip included (the only place that you didn't need to tip,  in fact, we tried and couldn't tip there). I thought it was worth it because it is so difficult to get into but we also really liked our pastries, our juices and tea, and the entrees we had. Our server was excellent. Here's a photo of the allergy menu.




Liberty Tree Brownie


Clearly I needed chocolate at some point during the days but that first day in Magic Kingdom I waited until we had dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. This is a family-style service where the server brings the food out, you eat as much as you want, and if you want more you can have more. It was one sit down meal point on the Deluxe Meal Plan per guest. Non-alcoholic drinks and desserts were included so I got the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream; not period dessert, the chocolate wasn't spicy enough for that, but delicious nonetheless. My hubby could only safely have a packaged cookie so he wasn't very happy. When we checked in we were told to try another dessert which they only serve for lunch, that was weird.







Main Street Confectionery Rice Krispy Treat


On our way out of the Magic Kingdom that first night we stopped in at the Main Street Confectionery and used one of our snack points to get this huge treat -- rice krispies and marshmallows in the shape of Mickey (or Minnie)'s head with mini M and Ms. I wanted to do to the custom treat area but the line was long and I was feeling tired.






Sundaes from Friar's Nook


The second day in Magic Kingdom had more chocolate. After the Cinderella breakfast the day got very hot so at one point we went to The Friar's Nook and each got a sundae that cost one snack point on the meal plan. The sign said that it would be vanilla soft serve with hot fudge but the server at the window said I could get it with chocolate soft serve so, of course, I did; hubby got his with vanilla. It took us a while to find a place to sit/stand so the sundaes got a bit melty but here's a photo for you.





Tony's Chocolate-Hazelnut Budino


For our last sit down meal at a Disney World theme park we went to Tony's Town Square Restaurant. If you've seen Lady and the Tramp then you know this place. Yes, we did re-enact that spaghetti eating scene and our server took photos but this is about chocolate, folks. For one sit down meal point each we got non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers, a main course, and a dessert each. My husband got gelato but I got the Chocolate-Hazelnut Budino because I was getting a bit annoyed by my choices for food being limited by his allergy. That's fine if I decide to not eat tree nuts but something I want to eat them and then I just don't kiss him until after I've brushed my teeth. This was yummy. I took a couple of photos but here is the one that shows you the chocolate inside the dessert.






Since it was extra Magic Hours that night we went to the north east corner of the Magic Kingdom to see the Circus section that is usually thought of more for little kids. The rides might be more geared toward kids but we liked the Dumbo ride and we loved finding Big Top Treats. We each used a snack point from our meal plan. Both are shaped like Mickey Mouse as you can see. The first is a cake pop with marshmallow ears while the other is a brownie with solid chocolate ears.

Big Top Treat, Magic Kingdom, Disney World

That was it for chocolate in the Magic Kingdom but I'm certain if I went back and did not go to the same places, I'd discover even more.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Chocolates at Epcot Center

The Garden Grill Breakfast, Epcot
Epcot requires more than one day we discovered and I feel like we realized that the last time we visited back in 1994. Oh, well, we made the most of our day and had some delicious and interesting chocolates in the World Showcase and in Future World. Our first stop was a character breakfast at 8:05am at the Land Pavilion to eat at The Garden Grill. I'm going to be doing a feature on them because they gave us a free piece of cake but since it was part of this day, I just wanted to mention it and say that as part of the regular breakfast I had a chocolate hazelnut sauce (little black bowl by my fork to the right of my plate) that I used on my Mickey waffles and my tater tots -- delicious. Here in this photo you can see the entire spread for the breakfast pre-cake.

Zeppole di Caterina, Via Napoli Ristorante, Epcot
For lunch, we went to Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, in the Italy showcase where our Disney Deluxe Meal plan got us each non-alcoholic beverages, one appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. For my dessert I had Zeppole di Caterina which is "Ricotta cheese fritters, served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce" and dusted with powdered sugar. I tried the fritters solo, with the whipped cream only, with the chocolate sauce only, and with both chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It was delicious every of these ways but, of course, my favorite involved the chocolate sauce.

The World Showcase is big. We spent a couple of hours after seeing everything on our touringplans.com list except dinner reservations, focused on finding chocolates and this is what we found. I will confess we got distracted a few times by the awesome topiaries in March that are everywhere in Epcot and we did do a ride and a show here and there. I didn't have time to look deeply through every area but of those I did, this is what I found.

Chocolate Mousse, Les Halles, Epcot
We went to the France showcase where it was more difficult to find chocolate than it really should be. I mean, come on, France should have some high quality chocolates. Finally way in the back I discovered Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie which is a quick-service eatery that has more than just baked goods. You can basically get a full meal there but we didn't need a full meal, just some chocolate. What is more French than chocolate mousse? The server behind the counter was a bit confused as to why I wanted only one item but she happily got it for me. I shared it with my hubby because we were on the hunt for chocolate and I didn't know how much we'd fine or if it would be treats we'd need to eat right away or could take with us. This was everything that chocolate mousse should be and the edible chocolate beads on the top was just a bonus delight.

Butlers Irish Whiskey Truffle Bar, Epcot
In the UK showcase there was a lot of packaged candies but if I could I really wanted to use our Snack points on the meal plan to buy these treats to tell you all about. In this case I had to spent about five dollars at The Tea Caddy for this Butler's Irish Whiskey Truffle Bar. This was one of the finer chocolate products they had in the shop, most of the items I found around the UK showcase was mass made candies that I can actually find in my huge Kroger grocery store in Indiana. I wanted something I couldn't just walk in and find easily where I live and regularly shop. By the way, you can taste the whiskey in these but I don't think the alcohol is a real issue to worry about.

Jelina Chocolatier Box, Epcot
We took a break and saw the "O Canada" film in the Canada showcase but we also found the Northwest Mercantile Trade Post shop that had some Canadian chocolates, for tourists but still, made in Canada. They had a couple of items to choose from but I went simple with Jelina Chocolatier's Milk and Dark maple leaf chocolate made crunch bits of maple syrup. Each piece is individually wrapped but I unwrapped two to show you their real size compared to what is on the box. The box had 12 pieces in total, six milk and six dark. The maple syrup pieces were crunchy but their flavor wasn't as strong as I thought it would be and that was a bit disappointing to me.

As the sun was going down we found a small shop called Taste of Marrakesh booth in the Morocco showcase. They had baklava with chocolate and almonds so my hubby couldn't eat this with me. It was delicious!

Chocolate Baklava, Taste of Marrakesh
Meiji Milk & Black Chocolate Bars, Epcot
In the Japan Showcase my hubby wanted to see the Kawaii exhibit which was right next to Mitsukoshi shop. The Mitsukoshi shop was packed with people but they did have a lot of candies and candy bars that I do not see regularly anywhere else. Luckily they all had English labels and I got two bars from Meiji which is a food company that has been around for more than a century. These were okay tasting but not really great by the expectations of my years with The Chocolate Cult blog has created in me. But at least I can say that I've tried mass produced candy bars from Japan!

In the German showcase we found Karamell-Kuche and we used two Snack points from our meal plan because there were so many chocolatety options to choose from. My hubby got the chocolate caramel cookie and I got the dark chocolate caramel with sea salt. So good! We split each and shared them because all things in Moderation even if it is super delicious and you walked 8 miles that day.

Karamell-Kuche Treats, Epcot

Desserts, Akershus Royal, Epcot
For our dinner reservation we did another character meal called Princess Storybook Dining Dinner at Akershus Royal in the Norway showcase. One of my brother-in-laws is Norwegian-American but I can't say I've really had much food from any Scandinavian countries before this dinner. Surprisingly one of the three desserts brought out to us was this creamy chocolate cake that you can see first in the photograph. I think this was called "Sweet Chocolate Mousse" (it tasted like that) then there was the mini loaf of a sweet bread (no tree nuts), and a sweet rice pudding with strawberry drizzle. It was all very delicious. Which we were there we got to meet several Disney princesses as well as witness the parade of kids dressed as princesses and princes. This was the only place we went that included boys; very cool!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Multiple Recalls for April 9 2017

Several recalls to share with you all for a variety of reasons. Keep reading, check your pantries, freezers, and refrigerator to protect yourself and your families.

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

Nutiva Expands Voluntary Recall

Nutiva, an Organic Superfoods company, has decided to expand its initial voluntary product recall of the Organic Plant Based Protein Superfood 30 Shake – Vanilla to include all lots of both Vanilla and Chocolate flavored products after identifying that this product may contain trace amounts peanuts. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product. “We are choosing to voluntarily recall all of our Organic Plant Based Protein Superfood 30 Shakes as a precautionary measure to provide the safest products for our customers,” states John W. Roulac, Nutiva’s CEO.

The affected products include:


These items were sold on the internet and through distributors in Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Consumers who have purchased these items and have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts are urged to not eat the product, and to dispose of it or return it for refund to where it was originally purchased. Nutiva has taken these steps strictly as a precautionary measure to assure our customers of our commitment to quality. No other Nutiva items are impacted by this recall.

Customers with questions may contact (800) 993-4367 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday - Friday, or email help@nutiva.com.

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Whole Foods Market ® in Hadley, Massachusetts is issuing an allergy alert to recall six-packs of Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins due to an in-store labeling error.

The muffins, which were labeled as “Made Right Here 6pk Banana Choc Chip Muffins”, contained walnuts, which were not declared on the ingredient list. 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. The muffins were sold in clear, plastic six-pack containers and had a “Sell by” date of March 28, 2017.

Signage is posted to notify customers of this recall.

One allergic reaction has been reported.

Consumers who have purchased this product may bring their receipt to the store for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact the store at 1-413-586-9932.

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One Shift of NuGo Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter Recalled

The recall is only for Lot B16119A. No other products are affected.
Lifestyle Evolution is voluntarily recalling one shift of NuGo Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter nutrition bars. In isolated cases, a product with milk allergen was incorrectly packaged into Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter wrappers and cartons. The NuGo Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter wrapper does not list milk as an allergen.

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. The product is safe for consumption by those who do not have milk, peanut, almond, or soy allergies.

This action relates only to NuGo Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter product with this code printed on the package:

Product: NuGo Slim
Flavor: Crunchy Peanut Butter
Manufacturing Code: B16119A
Best By Date: 28-Jul-17
Item Number Bar: 6 91535 20701 1
Item Number Box: 6 91535 20702 8


Only this specific lot code is impacted. No other Lot Codes, or any other NuGo products, are involved in this action.

Consumers who have purchased this specific lot code can return product to the store where it was purchased. Consumers may call the number listed or visit our website for instructions on what to do with the product.

Lifestyle Evolution is conducting this voluntary recall because of undeclared declared milk allergy due to incorrect packaging being used. We have not received any reports of illness associated with this product, but we are voluntarily recalling this product out of an abundance of caution.

For more information or assistance, please contact us at 1-888-421-2032 (Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5pm EST) or contact@nugonutrition.com

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Wegmans Original Killer Brownies with Pecans Allergy Alert

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. has initiated a voluntary recall of Wegmans Original Killer Brownies with Pecans, because the product may contain peanuts, not declared on the label.    People who have an allergy to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Wegmans Original Killer Brownies with Pecans (best-by dates 03/21/17 through 4/5/17 only) with UPC number 20818400000 were sold between 3/16 and 4/1/17.  The product is sold prepackaged by the pound in a plastic clamshell, or individually on the cookie bar, in the Bakery Department in only 15 Wegmans stores (listed below) in these areas of New York State:


This product is produced by Killer Brownie Distributing, Ltd. in Dayton, Ohio.  The recall was initiated when a Wegmans employee reported that some cases received from the manufacturer were labelled incorrectly:  the cases were labeled ‘Original Brownies with Pecans,’ but actually contained ‘Peanut Butter Brownies.’

Approximately 612 lbs. of the product were received from the manufacturer incorrectly labeled.    Wegmans recovered approximately 365 lbs. either removed from sale or still in inventory; the remainder was sold to customers.  Wegmans placed automated phone calls to customers, who purchased the packaged product using their Shoppers Club card, to alert them to the recall.
There have been no reported injuries or illnesses associated with this recall.

Concerned customers should return the product to Wegmans for a full refund.  Customers who have consumed the product and feel they are experiencing symptoms should contact their physician.

Wegmans’ customers who have questions or concerns about this recall should contact the consumer affairs department Monday through Friday 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. (EST) toll free at 1-855-934-3663.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Cake Strikes Taste Bud Gold

Splitsville Table, Disney Springs
To close off the "On the Road" articles from our 25th Wedding Anniversary vacation to Disney World I want to look at the first sit-down dining experience we had with the Deluxe Disney Meal Plan at Splitsville Dining Room in Disney Springs. We had dinner reservations and basically killed time walking around Disney Springs until we could get in. Honestly reservations are the only way to get sit-down meals at any place in the Disney realm so take making reservations seriously and do it months in advance. We made reservations 96 days in advance and still didn't get into some of the restaurants and events that we wanted. The photo to the right is of the center piece at our table with hubby's hat also in view. To the right you see the kitchen and to the left one of several bowling lanes you can also pay to play on as you are waiting for and eating your food. Because we both have food allergies almost every sit-down restaurant we went to had the servers and a chef come talk to us... this got tiresome after awhile but this was our first experience. The server and the manager were awesome guys, very helpful, very friendly. In fact the manager was very interested when I mentioned The Chocolate Cult and gave him and the server business cards.

Giant Chocolate Cake, Splitsville, Disney Springs
With the Disney Meal Plans there can be restrictions on what menu items you can get, no alcohol for example, but at Splitsville the only limit beyond the alcohol was on the desserts but there was a great brownie so I was happy ordering that. But for some reason they upgraded me for free to this Giant Cake (that is what it is called on their menu) so that means they get a feature here on The Chocolate Cult. They didn't ask for the feature and no other form of compensation was received in exchange for this honest article.

Giant Chocolate Cake, Splitsville, Disney Springs
Let's look closer at this cake. It is six layers of dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate frosting between each layer and on the top and the outside. As you can see they placed it on a plat with ample drizzles of chocolate sauce and a dopple of cream. Wisely they served it with a spoon because I tried but you can't get all six layers into one bite; neither the utensil nor my mouth is large enough for that. I took notes on my smartphone while I ate it so I could share the experience with you all today. I tried the cake with the drizzle, with the cream, and by itself and each changed the taste and texture; I can't say I liked it best in any particular way but by itself I tasted something that might have been cinnamon in it that gave it a bit of kick. The cake was moist but not dense, it had a wonderful cocoa fragrance, and I slowly ate it to appreciate each bite more. If you can take some of your other food back to your hotel or share this with a friend it is well worth getting meal plan or no meal plan.

We would definitely go to Splitsville Dining Room again if we return to Disney Springs but we better do some bowling to burn off some calories because what you get on the meal plan is a ton of food!