Saturday, January 19, 2019

Classroom Friendly Valentine's Treats

Surprise! I got another box of goodies form enjoy life foods earlier this week and the treats inside were Valentine's Day themed and focused on gift-giving to multiple people on this loving holiday in the USA. Other countries do mark Valentine's Day but not necessarily in the way we do in America. One of the traditions of Valentine's Day that doesn't get a lot of attention that is of interest to anyone with a child in public (and some private) school, is the student Valentine exchange. I remember making boxes for the Valentine the day before and then on the day of (or the closest to) Valentine's Day every student would stand up and we'd walk around and drop something into everyone's boxes. Wealthier kids might have more than just paper cards so you could go home with lollipops but chocolate? Nope, I don't recall gettin that when I was a kid. We were sent one free bag of each of enjoy life foods Valentine's treats in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

These Valentine's bags are part of the Seasonal Chocolate Minis line at enjoy life foods. This link will show a different holiday or season depending on when you check the line out. The four bags all have a decoration that is named and given a personality on the back of the bag --Amore the dove on the Ricemilk Crunch Chocolate Minis, Juliet the heart on the Richmilk Chocolate Minis, Betty the bee on the Dark Chocolate Minis, and Cupid on the Variety Pack which has all three different minis. You can cut these out, the Cupid is the most difficult but using them as decorations is left up to you to figure out. Cutting them out was okay, I didn't do a perfect job as you can see. Since they are plastic I laid them upside down for a while to help them become flatter but over time like you see in the photo to the left they did roll on the edges a bit. What makes plastic stick to paper? I don't think glue would do it but many you could punch a hole in them and hang them up.

Let's look at each of these goodie bags; each has 18 pieces of treats inside. Inside each bag the decoration stops so if you don't use these all for Valentine's Day just use them at other times.

Richmilk Chocolate Minis come in a pink bag with Juliet the heart on the front. The individually wrapped pieces are marked by their title as well as purple. This has a strong cocoa scent to it, stronger than I expected. Looking at the ingredients I see (in order) cane sugar, cocoa butter, unsweetened chocolate, dried rice syrup, and salt... So why is it called "ricemilk"? Not sure so let's move on to the eating, shall we? Biting into it I discover it a bit of a challenge because it is thick. In fact each of these pieces measures 1.5 X 1 X 0.25 inches. The initial flavor is sweet chocolate; it stays consistent through each chew. The sweetness is intense, not what I was expecting from the scent. Great for folks who love sweeter chocolate so this should appeal to children especially because hate bitter more than adults.

Ricemilk Crunch Chocolate Minis is in a red bag with Amore the dove on the cover. The pieces are wrapped individually and marked by their title and brighter blue on the edges. In this photo to the left I show you the bottom side so you can see the crunchy pieces; the top looks identical to the previous piece. This has exactly the same fragrance as the previous piece so the crunchy pieces offer nothing new in terms of scent. This should taste different because the rice crisps include not just rice but several other ingredients not in the ricemilk variety -- rice flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey, and salt. This flavor is not what I was expecting. The chocolate is stronger to begin with then a tangier sweetness builds up with each chew that reminded me a bit of molasses (which it does not have). The rice is crispy and crunches with each chew. Again, this is for a sweet chocolate lover.

Dark Chocolate Minis has Betty the bee on the front of the orange bag. These wrappers have a red edge as well as the title of the variety of chocolate inside. This is a bit darker in color than the previous two pieces. The ingredients here are the simplest -- unsweetened chocolate, cane sugar, ad cocoa butter. That's basic chocolate, folks, pure as it can get! The cocoa scent is strong and dark. Now this is the piece for your Chocolate Priestess! Dark chocolate where the bitter slowly builds with each chew, still sweet though, and it even melts on your tongue if you want even more intense chocolate flavor. Definitely Sacrament Worthy!

Variety Pack has the Cupid figure on a purple bag and has the other varieties inside, 6 each I counted. I don't need to cover them individually for you all, do I?

Would these enjoy life food Valentine's bags help you or your child(ren) this year at any events? We'd love to hear about it so please leave a comment and let us know.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Can Premier Nutrition Get a Protein Shake Chocolatey Enough?

Premier Protein Shakes, Chocolate
I've been trying out protein bars for some time now. I've also hand protein shakes but I'm sent fewer of those to test out for all you Chocolate Lovers because of shipping concerns with a lot of beverages. One big problem I've had with a lot of these products I'm asked to review is that the whey and plant additives they use to up the protein often has a flavor that overpowers the cocoa powder they've used. Or those products add in artificial sweeteners or just plain sugars and the sweetness overwhelms. Anything that claims to be chocolate needs to taste like chocolate first and foremost, don't you agree? Today let's see if Premier Nutrition's Chocolate Shake can do better in terms of taste and nutrition.  I received the 14 FL OZ 12-pack of this product from Premier Nutrition via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a fair and honest review on the website; no other form of compensation was received. This article is a bonus to them to help you make an informed decision about the product.

They really want to keep the beverage inside the bottle safe. There are two safety seals on each one. First, a red wrapper that I found easy to peel once I found the V-shaped perforated section. Under the cap was the second seal in with three tabs that were easy to lift up to help me peel off that one. When I opened it the liquid inside was very frothy because I had shaken the bottle well as per directions on its label and set it aside for a while so I was a bit surprised at many bubbles it still had. Also the bottle is pretty full so I didn't hear much movement of liquid when I shook it. In terms of nutritional values, aside from the ones I mentioned in the opening paragraph, here is what else there is each bottle. The cocoa powder inside is the 4th ingredient on the list; it is processed with alkali. Then there are 13 other ingredients, most of them chemical names. Then there is a list of vitamins and minerals whose daily percentage is listed on the nutritional label. It is on that label that we also find that each bottle should have 3g of dietary fiber, 560mg potassium, 410mg sodium, 20mg cholesterol, 1g saturated fat.

Premier Protein Shake, Chocolate Poured
I chilled a bottle of this shake as the directions suggested so I could drink it cold. Unless it is hot cocoa or hot chocolate, I like my chocolate drinks cold ideally. The shake isn't quit as dark as the image on the label suggests it will be. It had a strong sweet scent with an underlining cocoa fragrance, too. The flavor is sweet as well with that unmistakable whey flavor but the cocoa did come through just not as much as I had hoped. The shake was smooth not gritty as many protein drinks can be. It wasn't thick like a milk shake but it also wasn't as thin as chocolate milk would be.

This product is okay but for me just too sweet and too much of a whey flavor to compete well in terms of chocolate. But if you'd like to check it out, please follow our links and help support this blog as you do so.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Michel Cluizel Baking Chips Test 1

Before 2018 was over, I was contacted by the marketing folks at Chocolat Michel Cluizel about some of their new products. Of course, given our previous experience with their bars, I said yes. I was sent two small bags of their baking chips so I'm going to make the same cookies twice using each variety of chips once to compare them. I'm going to start with the 51% chips that are a brand new product now yet available on their website but it is basically this Plantation Riachuelo bar in baking chip form! I was sent 5.35 ounces of these chips for free in exchange for a fair and honest article here on this blog; no other form of compensation was received.

51% Plantation Riachuelo Baking Chips
If I'd been sent the normal 10-11 ounces of the chips, I would have made my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. However I needed a recipe that called for fewer chips so I used a low-fat basic cookie recipe I have that I've used with chocolate or butterscotch chips. The focus is on letting the chips be the fats in the cookie and letting their flavor shine out. Because there is a lot of sweetness in the recipe I find it works best with darker chocolate chips.

For many folks my basic cookies may seem odd. They tend to be puffy not flat, chewy not crisp, but growing up with a mother who had heart disease this is how I learned to bake. If you like the more traditional fat amount or crisp cookies, this is not the recipe you want to try out.

Basic Low-Fat Cookie Dough with Baking Chips
By TammyJo Eckhart

3/4 C Unsweetened Applesauce
1 tsp Real Vanilla
6 T Liquid Egg Whites
1/2 C tap water with 2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C Splenda Sugar Blend
1/4 C Brown Sugar
3.5 C Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (depending on the chips you use and your taste)
5-6 ounces Dark Chocolate Chips


1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

2. Using a stand alone mixer, beat together all of the "wet" ingredients.

3. Add in salt and sugars and mix well.

4. Mix in Flour until a soft but not runny dough is formed; it should stick to the beater without fall off of it.

5. Stir by hand or use the mixer to blend in the chips until they are everywhere. Yes, there will seem like fewer chips than your traditional chocolate chip recipe because there are. This is a lower-fat cookie and chips are where the most fat can be cut!

6. Using a regular sized spoon like you might use for a meal, drop by spoonfuls onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets. You can get 15 cookies per sheet because these are doughy and lake butter, they will not spread out but upward. The recipe should yield between 48 and 60 cookies depending on how large you make them.

7. Bake for 10-11 minutes depending on how golden you like your cookies.

8. Simply slide the parchment paper from the cookie sheet onto a table or counter top and let cool. How long? That's a matter of your preference but at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your mouth. Warning the Cookies may stick a bit to the paper so peel them off and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling if you like cool chocolate chip cookies.

How did these 51% Plantation Riachuelo Baking Chips hold up to my basic cookie dough recipe?

The chips are slightly sweeter than I expected but they offered these delightful bursts of chocolate when I encountered them in each fluffy cookie. The chips sweetness has a caramel like essence and almost a weak spiciness as promised on the bag they were sent in; I didn't get the licorice or berries in the cookie but I did in one of the chips I tried solo. While the chips themselves are not the traditional baking chip shape, these are flatter, they still held their shapes well and if you eat the cookies after 10 minutes, they will melt as you bite into them.

I give these baking chips Sacrament Status here on The Chocolate Cult.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Welcome in 2019 with Chocolate

January 2 = National Cream Puff Day; Feast Day of St. Macarius the Younger, 4th century patron of confectioners because before he took his vows, he was a merchant who sold fruits, candies, and pastries.

January 3 = National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day
January 5 = National Whipped Cream Day - I used this so much over the December holiday season. Did you? Do you prefer to make it yourself or to buy it? I did both!

January 6 = National Shortbread Day

January 8 = National English Toffee Day - You can find articles on this blog about English Toffees here

January 10 = Bittersweet Chocolate Day; National Cream Cheese Brownie Day

January 19 = National Popcorn Day - My brother-in-law is an Eagle Scout. I'm a former Girl Scout who rose to the Senior level before our troop ceased to exist. We try to support neighborhood kids who are Scouts so this past 2018 fall we bought some popcorn from the Boy Scouts who visited our house. This is expensive for the amount you get but we tell ourselves that it is for a good cause. We'll open it on this fun food holiday.

January 21 = National Granola (bar) Day

January 23 = National Pie Day; National Banana Bread Day

January 27 = National Chocolate Cake Day - One of my favorites was the surprise piece of chocolate cake we got as part of our breakfast at the Garden Grill in Epcot Center of Disney World back in 2017 when my hubby and I visited for our 25th wedding anniversary. It wasn't so much the flavor but the thought and the surprise of it that made a huge impression on me. It tasted just fine though after that huge breakfast and hanging out with the characters it was simply a sweet chocolatey way to end our time at that one place in the entire Epcot Center.

January 30 = National Croissant Day

January 31 = National Hot Chocolate Day (apparently also in December though I'm unsure why we need it on multiple days)

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