Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chocolate in August 2011

Tomorrow is the first day of August.  Yes, yes, today I will indeed chose our Blue Bunny Ice Cream Giveaway winner but so you may plan ahead, here is a look at how you might celebrate with Chocolate in August.

August 2 = National Ice Cream Sandwich Day -- homemade, store bought, or ice cream parlor created

August 5 = National Waffle Day -- I love waffles

August 10 = National S'mores Day -- so many options once you get creative

August 12 = John Cadbury's Birthday (1801-1889) -- please tell me that Cadbury means something to you

August 18 = National Soft Serve Ice Cream Day -- sounds like a little trip out to me

August 20 = National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day -- I wish my friend would find her recipe so I could post an interview with her, she makes great chocolate pecan pie

August 24 = National Waffle Day -- clearly I'll need to do a post on why there are two such days in August let alone the year

August 27 = National Pots de Crème Day -- wonder if I can learn to make these?

August 30 = National Toasted Marshmallow Day -- we'll be returning to our friend at 240sweet for this celebration

Now to the GIVEAWAY.

We had 26 legitimate entries -- some people didn't state how they followed or didn't include me on their promotions so I couldn't check that they did them. I don't ask a lot, so please do follow the directions.

Using we chose Erin as our winner and SRas our runner up in case I can't contact Erin.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blue Bunny Scoop Ice Creams

As I hope you have figured out, tomorrow the winner of our GIVEAWAY will be announced.  Some of you may be waiting to see what your Chocolate Priestess thinks about the five final products Blue Bunny sent her free coupons for -- in this case containers you can scoop your ice cream from.  Tomorrow morning, I'll go through the process of selecting the winner who will have my favorites sent directly to his/her home.  You can't enter the GIVEAWAY here, you must follow this link and follow the directions there.

Now on to today's Saturday Sacrament.

Previously I looked at five different novelty items from Blue Bunny and ranked them 1-5 in terms of their chocolate content and quality. I'm going to do the same today with five 1.75 quart containers of ice cream.  How many of you remember when ice cream came in pints, two quarts and then gallon containers from the grocery stores?  I remember. I also remember when one by one all the companies reduced the size of the two quart but not the price.  Any way, let's get on with the five flavors I choose.

Four of the varieties were Premium meaning the highest fat and sugar content, or REAL ICE CREAM if you prefer.  The first I used as a foundational taste in the form of Homemade Chocolate the idea being that I could then compare the other varieties which had chocolate.  The color, as you can see, is not as deep as on the plastic container.  This has a slight cocoa scent and a good cocoa flavor, slightly dark.  While it is creamy and smooth as it should be it also has this strong sweet flavor that takes threatens to take over my taste buds. 

There was a new variety that I wanted to try that I couldn't find at the Walmart where I used my freebie coupons so I turned to what I hoped would be another intense chocolaty variety: Super Fudge Brownie.  This has the chocolate base above but a deeper brown color, dark pieces of brownies and a stronger chocolaty scent.  The sweetness is still here but dampened when I hit a brownie piece that are fudgy in texture, even chewy, and very intensely chocolaty.  These off-set the sweetness and give this an extra kick that made it my favorite of the five varieties I tried.

Chunky Chocolate Chip was another variety we tried for the simple structure of two flavors -- vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips that are really more large chocolate shavings or pieces than chips.  Vanilla ice cream should taste like vanilla however this really tastes sweet and I wouldn't describe vanilla as sweet really, it is a unique flavor that I just didn't find here.  In terms of the chips these are more pieces or curls of chocolate than chips.  These have a rather bitter taste so I tried some by themselves and discovered the bitterness was intensified with the ice cream but not by themselves suggesting that my tongue is comparing the two essences.  Sadly this is really cocoa with a lot of added ingredients, not even cocoa butter. 

Now what if you added a few more flavors into that mix to get Super Chunky Cookie Dough ice cream?  One thing that happens is that the chocolate scent is toned down but so is the sweetness of the ice cream and that allows the chocolate pieces, the same as in the previous variety, come through more strongly.  The cookie pieces aren't too solid, they are a definite doughy taste while the chocolate pieces are more solid and even crunch a bit.  I think this brand allowed more of the cocoa essence to come through compared to the previous one but neither were as chocolaty as the first two I tried.

Since I revealed on light or no sugar added for each of the four brands we've done featured reviews about this month, I continued that trend with the No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Ice Cream from Blue Bunny in the Mint Chocolate Chip version.  This was also the mint flavor that one of our Acolytes and one of my family members wanted to try each time.  Less added sugar resulted in a much less sweet ice cream and this allowed both the cooling mint and the bitter chocolate to come through more strongly.  Normally I'm not a big fan of the mint because I believe it really tones down any chocolaty essence but in this cause the sweetness is what has been hiding the cocoa so without that added fat, the chocolate pieces could come through very well.  In the future I want to try more of the no added sugar varieties and see if this observation proves correct.

When I first mentioned this giveaway of Blue Bunny I had a few private emails from people saying that they'd love to enter but frankly they found this brand too sweet.  In my childhood memories that sweetness didn't stand out but then I was likely more drawn to sweet than really to chocolate as I am as an adult.  A disappointed in three of these, the bottom three on the list below, is that they had cocoa but not chocolate itself and yes, that does taste different.  The Chocolate Priestess must focus on the cocoa and chocolate content and from that view point, I rank these 1.75 quarts as follows from most chocolaty to least.

1. Super Fudge Brownie
2. Homemade Chocolate
3.  No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Mint Chocolate Chip
4. Super Chunky Cookie Dough
5. Chunky Chocolate Chip

There you go, a total of ten ice cream products from Blue Bunny that I, my family and my Acolytes all tried so that you, Sisters and Brothers, can make a wise decision.  Don't worry though, in August we'll have even more ice cream reviews and maybe I'll get to use my new ice cream maker and share that adventure with you all.  Remember today, Saturday, July 30, 2011, is the LAST day to enter the GIVEAWAY so go to that post, read the guidelines and enter.

Friday, July 29, 2011

National Cheesecake Day 2011

If you have to have cheesecake tomorrow, I know that will be a difficult decision for many of you to make, Sisters and Brothers, even though tomorrow is "National Cheesecake Day", why not make it a chocolate version?

Your Chocolate Priestess would write about this on Saturday but it is our final day before the big July GIVEAWAY from Blue Bunny and I'll be ranking five more of their ice cream varieties that have chocolate.

So you tell me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's Your Favorite Chocolate Milk?

Today, Sisters & Brothers, is "National Chocolate Milk Day" so I have one very important question for you.

What is your favorite chocolate milk?

Is it a particular brand?  I loved Dean's Over the Moon but it seems to have disappeared in my area.

Is it only available at a particular restaurant?  I can't think of a good chocolate milk place, can you?

Is it what you make and home and if so how do you make it?  I love using the Hershey's Dark syrup or their light syrup but I always use skim milk because that is what I grew up drinking.

Leave a comment telling me what you favorite chocolate milk is.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smart Way To Celebrate National Hot Fudge Sundae Day?

That's right, Sisters and Brothers, as you were warned back at the start of this month, today is "National Hot Fudge Sundae Day" and in honor of that I want to talk about healthier choices that might fit the bill to help you celebrate today.

I found these "Chocolate Chip Cookies Dough Sundaes" from Smart Ones on sale at our local Super Target that last year added a fairly big “grocery” section to it.  I say “grocery” like this because the variety of food they offer really pales in comparison to even a modest grocery in this area of the country.  But I was looking around and saw these were a good price so I figured they might make an interesting review for you, Sisters and Brothers.

There are two single servings in this box each with 170 calories.  That includes 1.5g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 100mg sodium, 15g sugars, 3g protein with 4% of the iron and 8% of the calcium you need daily.  Or to use the Weight Watcher lingo since Smart Ones are created by that program, one cups is worth 3 points.

I uncovered the top to let it set out in room temperature for five minutes as directed and immediately noticed this looked quite different from the picture on the box.  I checked out the other serving but it looked even less like the image the company wants  you to see.   Doesn’t that annoy you?  I find it misleading when companies show us the ideal and not simply the best — obviously they want the best to be shown but it should strong resemble what you get.  This is one reason I do my own photos here.  You aren’t getting market or propaganda from your Chocolate Priestess only the closest she can provide to what she sees.

The ice cream tasted like average soft-serve vanilla.  The cookie crust layer is very thin and the cookie pieces didn’t really seem terrible soft even after six minutes of thawing.  But the chocolate pieces and the sauce tasted great and the ingredients proclaim it all real chocolate.  On sale not a bad treat and as long as you don’t serve it to guests you want to impress the eyes of, I think it’s an acceptable choice for you all.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Chocolates from Häagen-Dazs

Our fourth featured ice cream review comes from a name you've probably heard: Häagen-Dazs.  Contrary to what might first pop into your head, this isn't a European deliciancy but another brand from the Nestlé-Dreyer's company.  They sent us two freebie coupons and instead of choosing more novelties, your Chocolate Priestess wanted to stick with the scooped ice cream for these last three Saturday Sacraments this month.  I chose two pints that we had never tried before, so you are experiencing with me for the first time, Sisters and Brothers.

First up, one of the "five" line which means this is ice cream made from just five ingredients in this case skim milk, cream, sugar, cocoa, and egg yolks.  Using the skim milk actually helps reduce the total fat content about 31% compared to their premium varieties.  I wanted to do the "Milk Chocolate" one as a good basic chocolate flavor we could compare the second pint to.  In this photo you can see that we got the entire pint into two of our cute bowls -- we were a bit piggy I confess because my prior experience with Häagen-Dazs says this will be good. This bowl you see had 385 calories made of 12.25g saturated fat, 122.5mg cholesterol, 113.75mg sodium, maybe 1g fiber, 35g sugars, 10.5g proteins, with 10.5% daily iron, 14% daily vitamin A, and 26.25% daily calcium.  EEK to the calories and fat!  Good thing I ate very well and biked today, huh?

It has a decent cocoa scent but overall very creamy fragrance; both get a bit stronger as I let it melt a bit.  Yes, that's right, I like to let my ice cream melt a bit.  I've even been known to make ice cream soup!  Back to this ice cream right here in my white cone bowl.  The cocoa taste is much stronger when I take a bite and let it melt, going from creamy to more intense.  The cold doesn't dull it as much as it often does with cheap or artificial chocolate ice creams but temperature always affect flavor.  I say let it melt in your mouth to get the maximum cocoaness.  There are no added ingredients so this is just smooth and simple and sometimes that is great.

The second pint I used the coupons for was the "Chocolate Peanut Butter" which we've never had before and that surprised me since we often like that flavor combination.  I know this is going to look so bad when you see the nutritional value for this bowl but actually we split it into three bowls tonight because we knew it was premium and our housemate also likes the peanut butter and chocolate combination. So this bowl of mine has 408.3 calories made of 11.7g saturated fat, 105mg cholesterol, 99.2mg sodium, 2.3g fiber, 25.7g sugars, 9.3g protein.  See, still not as good as the previously nutritionally but if I wasn't trying this for all of you, Sisters and Brothers, I'd only have this premium ice cream maybe three times a year at birthday and often then I go for lighter varieties.  So how is the ice cream?  It has a strong peanut butter scent with only a light cocoa undertone.  The ice cream itself is basically the "five" variety by taste and by ingredients.  The peanut butter swirl is mostly solidly and a bit crunchy though it melts at a similar pace as the ice cream does.  The cocoa in the ice cream holds its own against the peanuts and the result is that I am pleased and feeling much cooler by the time I'm finished.

Now some of you may be judging me. How is this being moderate?  Well, let be blunt. Just a few years ago it would have been nothing for me to sit down and eat the entire pint on my own in the course of an hour.  That I slow down, that I share, that I think, that is what The Chocolate Cult has helped me do.  Is it perfect? Am I perfect?  I've never claimed to be, I am merely trying to lead us on a path toward Moderation and Purposefulness when it comes to Chocolate.  To do that, I have to recommend the "five" variety more strongly that the premium but in terms of chocolate flavor and content, they are equal and they are more than worthy of Sacramental status.

So there you have it, Sisters and Brothers.  Do you agree with my assessment of these two products from Häagen-Dazs?  Do you have other flavors you think we should try here on The Chocolate Cult?

Finally did you enter our GIVEAWAY yet this month to get your own ice cream in August?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nutritional Cookies?

I was walking through my local Kroger last week, they moved all of the aisles around it was so annoying.  I spied two boxes of cookies on the top shelf that I had never seen before.  These "WhoNu? nutrition rich cookies" -- have any of you seen these?

They were on sale, I had a coupon it turned out, I forgot about that, so I bought a box of each.  There are two varieties: Chocolate sandwich cookie and a chocolate chip cookie.

The chocolate sandwich varieties look like the average round chocolate cookie with white stuff in the middle though they had a sort of fruity scent.  Three cookies make a serving and on the back of the box and the front, it claims this contains a lot of good things by comparing them to food you eat like oatmeal or spinach.  A serving has 160 calories made of 2g saturated fat, 140mg sodium, 3g fiber, 14g sugars, but only 1g protein.  It list 20 minerals and vitamins so 16 more than the average cookie even bothers to list.  Most of these are in the 10% range of daily needs with a few in the 25-30% range such as Vitamins A, C, B12, D, E, and Calcium.  But how do they taste?  They taste like crunchy cocoa cookies with just a bit of the white stuff -- maybe half the amount of other cookies of this same form.  There is an aftertaste which is mostly cocoa with a hint of over sweetness but in general these were much better than other versions of this same cookie type made healthier.

Next I looked at the crispy chocolate chip variety.  Let me state right now that I prefer my chocolate chip cookies to be soft, occasionally chewy even.  These had a slightly more fruity scent but I could still smell the chocolate.  They are about the same diameter as the previous cookie so a bit on the smaller side for boxed chocolate chip cookies.  The amount of vitamins and minerals in three of these is identical to the earlier cookie but there are some differences in other basic nutritional facts.  These have 150 calories of 2g saturated fat, 100mg sodium, 3g fiber, 9g sugars, and 2g protein.  Eating this is also compared to eating everyday foods like blueberries and tomato juice though I hope these still taste like chocolate.  The chocolate chips do taste like darker chocolate but the cookie part is very fruity sweet in taste. I didn't like it nearly as much as the chocolate sandwich cookies.  These also had an aftertaste that wasn't great, overly sweet, and it built up by the end of one serving. These won't be hard to resist for me at least.

I remember when "healthy" cookie came out in grocery stores.  They were terrible!  They tasted like prunes and were either too hard or too moist.  I remember we fed ours to squirrels in Riverside Park in Manhattan -- those critters will eat anything and follow you around for more.  These WhoNu? cookies are better than those but the chocolate chips ones need more work to make cookies that can seriously compete against other store brands.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

GIVEAWAY and National Ice Cream Day

In 1984, as one of the better things he did, President Ronald Reagan declared July to be National Ice Cream Month (The Chocolate Cult has been celebrating all month and will continue to do so) but also made the 3rd Sunday of July National Ice Cream Day.  I suspect heavy influence from dairy businesses myself but this doubling up of "important days" also reflects a trend among politicians to try and distract us from other issues by throwing celebrations.  If this were ancient Rome we'd say "bread and circuses" without pause.

We also have a GIVEAWAY this month and I'm going to repeat that information, giving you all who may have forgotten another chance to enter.  If you have all ready entered by leaving a comment on the original posting July 1, 2011, please do not comment here -- instead do the extra things after the four points in the directions.

Blue Bunny Ice Cream will send one lucky public Chocolate Cult member a shipment of my, your Chocolate Priestess's, favorite products. So you can enter for a while and I'll be doing two featured reviews during the month on July 9 and July 30, 2011, with the winner announced on July 31, 2011, at Noon (Eastern).  Just because you can enter at any time, don't put it off.

Directions to Win the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Giveaway!

1. In a comment below tell your Chocolate Priestess what flavor of ice cream or novelty treat from Blue Bunny Ice Cream you think you'd love to try.   Check out their website for their full list.

NOTICE: Blogspot is having problems it seems with comments not posting. So if you are a Follower via Facebook you may also leave a comment there once to get an entry into the giveaway.

2.  You need to have a street address in the United States of America to win.  This is ice cream being delivered to you, it will melt if someone isn't there to get the delivery but we'll try to give you a heads up on that if you are the winner.

3.  In your comment about your favorite flavor, tell me how you are a public follower of The Chocolate Cult.  Make sure you are, I check and a few folks are not showing up where they claim.  Double check if you are at all uncertain and give me the name you are listed under.  You can follow via Google Friend Finder, Facebook, or Networked Blogs -- all are on the right hand side of the blog so go check and join or check what name you are under.

4.  Make sure you have an email linked to your comment or leave on in your comment -- be wary of spammers and don't cut and paste your email please.

Finally if you want extra chances to win you can spread the word about this giveaway.   Send a link for this giveaway to Facebook and include @TammyJo Eckhart so I see it.  Or Send a link to this giveaway to Twitter including @thetammyjo so I can see it. You can even "like" the King Arthur Flour page on Facebook and then thank them for the giveaway and I'll see that as well if you add @TammyJo Eckhart to your comment.

I'll be adding photos of the different flavors and treats I'm trying for July on our Facebook page so you if you follow us there, you can leave a comment and get another entry.

We will use to select our winner -- you're number will be the order in which your comments appear here and the order I see them on the above extra chances.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Four Flavors of Turkey Hill Ice Cream

July is National Ice Cream Month, Sisters and Brothers, and if you've been reading the first two Saturdays were full of ice cream. Today is no exception and we're going to look at a family favorite in my house: Turkey Hill Dairy.  I only saw them a few years ago in my area grocery stores and we tried them at that time because they were lower priced, had a lower fat variety, and I had a coupon.  Well, the good folks there wanted to help us celebrate the month here on The Chocolate Cult so they sent us four freebie coupons and I picked out four varieties including our favorite plus others we hadn't tried before.

Let's start with the simplest chocolate flavor: Chocolate but it is subtitled Philadelphia Style Ice Cream and this is part of their All Natural Recipe line of ice cream.  This has a lighter color than other flavors we like from Turkey Hill Dairy but it has a creamy cocoa scent even though it is cold; a good sign because common complaint about ice cream is that it dulls the chocolate's scent and flavor.  The taste is very creamy and of course cold while the chocolate is very cocoay meaning that it has the bitter undertones that I expect from cocoa but not from milk chocolate.  In fact, this is much what I'd expect from a cold hot chocolate and that is pretty neat to eat.  The bitterness lingers just like you expect from darker chocolate too so all around this is a winner though being full fat and sugared ice cream you need to eat it less often or less of it.

One of the flavors we got is a limited edition one called Lady Liberty Mint in honor of the Statue of Liberty. As you can see this is very green but mint is pretty green if you've ever used the real deal in your own cooking.  The scent isn't very strong for either mint or chocolate as you can see there are cookie pieces mixed into the ice cream much as in the variety we'll look at.  When I take a big whiff I get more cool than fragrance.  These cookie pieces are very crunchy and remain crunchy even when I let the ice cream melt a bit.  The mint was strong though not as strong as I thought it might be, it had a cooling sensation but oddly this felt less cold than the other varieties we tried.  When I let the ice cream melt first, I got more cocoa from the cookie though their flavor held up much better than I thought they might.  Oh, don't worry mint lovers, there is definitely mint here but the cocoa was able to hold it's own as well making me pleasantly surprised.

After these two unusual treats for our house, we turned to an old favorite that I promise to look at with objective eyes: Extreme Cookies & Cream.  You can get it in the premium or light variety but we almost always go with light ice or no sugar added.  If the chocolate is as good why add more calories. Of course that isn't an excuse to eat it all in one sitting, share with a few friends or make it last several nights.The chocolate ice cream has a cocoa flavor as well as a creaminess that I have grown to associate with this brand.  The cookie pieces are a bit crunchy at first but not very crunchy after that.  The ribbons of chocolate taste differently from either the ice cream or the cookies so that's really three distinct chocolate flavors and some textual variety you get in one container.

Chocolate Nutty Moose Tracks is a flavor we haven't tried before so when I saw it at our local Kroger, I had to give it a try.  Moose Tracks refers to the type of fudge so you'll find this name in many different brands of ice cream.  In this case, this variety is part of the Light Recipe line from Turkey Hill Dairy.  If you are allergic to peanuts STAY AWAY from this particular variety because it has chocolate covered peanuts and peanut oil.  No tree nuts though which as you may recall is a serious food allergy in my family, Sisters and Brothers.  My hubby got a bit carried way with the amount as you can see in the photo but I hope you can see this a chocolate ice cream with big ribbons of fudge in it, fudge that melts like a candy bar might when I touched it with one finger.  There is a cocoa scent and a fudge scent with an underline of peanut that is very, very weak only because it is covered with the fudge.  Once I bite into such a peanut, a very intense but not sweet peanut flavor flooded my mouth but it did not overcome the fudge itself.  The fudge too can be a bit crunchy if you bite but I found the flavor more intense if I just put it in my mouth and let it melt.  Overall a good combination of two chocolate flavors, the coldness of the ice cream, an innate creaminess, and the peanuts crunch and earthy quality.  This goes on our list of "ice cream to have again" in my family.

In terms of chocolate, my personal opinions about these four flavors are that they should ranked from most to least chocolaty as follows:
     Chocolate Nutty Moose Tracks
     Extreme Cookies & Cream
     Lady Liberty Mint

There you go, Sisters and Brothers, chocolate ice cream from Turkey Hill Dairy.   They make other products, too, but I hope this selection gave you enough information to go try them yourself.  The chocolate is very good in each and that is difficult to do with ice cream.   So for less money and a lot of variety on top of their good chocolate content, Turkey Hill is a worthy Sacrament for us all in The Chocolate Cult.

While it isn't for Turkey Hill, please remember to enter our GIVEAWAY this month if you are qualified to do so.  Winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tough Talk about Pricing of Chocolate

I've talked about history, agriculture, fair trade, even highlighted women as chocolate makers in the past.  One thing your Chocolate Priestess has not spent a lot of time on: the price of chocolate from the consumer's view.

Oh, I've talked about how we have to think about all those social and political issues, how you need to spend your money wisely, that is what are reviews are designed to do -- help you make better choices on chocolate.  But I've never come right out and discussed what I think is a huge problem with many chocolatiers and companies today.

Chocolate, quality chocolate, is very over-priced.

When I walk into a local store and see a fair-trade, eco-friendly produced bar of the same size as another big brand bar I compare not just ingredients, not just business practices but also prices.  Today it is difficult to find such a socially conscious bar in the same size as the general Hershey's bar many of us grew up with in the USA that competes with in in terms of price unless it, too, comes from a big brand name.  There are some bigger names out there now in terms of chocolate, fair-trade, and other issues we try to care about but I don't think I've seen them for less that 2+ times the price of that standard bar and then that was on sale, with a coupon.

Something has to change if we, if producers, if growers, if chocolatiers, want to promote chocolate culture and do it in a way that can change the industry worldwide.  All the slogans in the world won't make Hanna Homemaker or Lisa Lawyer or Kurt Construction Worker pick up an Endangered Species bar when she/he can get 3 of the cheap big name bars for the same price.  During the holidays when the bulk of candy is sold in the USA, unless it is Valentine's Day, they, which means us, are going to go for pennies per ounce over helping the farmers that are just news stories.

So I want to challenge all the chocolatiers out there, all the candy shops, all the companies trying to do the right thing to think a bit more about pricing.  You want to make a good living, you want to pay your workers and those who grow and bring you the chocolate a good living wage.  If you want to grow your business you are going to have to think about Jane and Joe America, Betty and Edger UK, and the rest of the world who buys your products and think about the tough choices we have to make for our families.

You can help us in three ways.

You can promote your social consciousness more aggressively.  That will get some of us to buy your products but to be blunt we can only do that so often.

You can also look at your own business and evaluate what you using in your products.  I've seen so many companies put out dozens and dozens of flavors and then I see those flavors, those novelties left over by the dozens and dozens if not more the week or so after a big holiday or in the discount bins at the stores.  This trend toward fancier and stranger combinations of chocolates... is it really reflecting well in your bottom line?  How much of your price is counting in the "fact" that you'll waste X amount of products or the fact that to try this new flavor you have to buy these extra ingredients?

Finally you tone down your business expectations.  Not long ago on LinkedIn a chocolate maker bemoaned the fact that after seven years business had gone under.  No reflection on what she could have done differently, no consideration that maybe her advertisements were appropriate, just a blaming of the economic conditions of the world.  Why can't you be happy as a local shop?  Or a regional shop?  Why can't you be thrilled that folks rave about your truffles instead of insisting you can do cookies, too?

I admire the men and women who hear Cacao calling their creativity and their passion, who take that risk of starting a business.  I adore everyone who has ever sent us offerings to try and then reveal to you all.  I want them to succeed.  I want chocolate to be available to the world and to be a force of change in the world.

It can only be that if more of us buy the best chocolates and cocoas created under the best circumstances and we'll only do that if we honestly feel it is worth the price.  Help us see that the benefit to cost ratio is much closer than it seems when we walk through our stores or explore the Internet.  Reflect on your business and communicate better with us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: The True History of Chocolate

Some time back, your Chocolate Priestess had a birthday and received a few books.  Something you may not know about me is that I've been reviewing books now for different publications and organizations for many years now. When I review a book on here for all of you, Sisters and Brothers, I try to use the same standards as I would for any other publication or site I review on.  However here I'll also provide links to the books I'm looking at.

Today I want to talk about the Coe book The True History of Chocolate second edition. Please note that the link below is the the latest edition of the book that I had to update to with changes to the Amazon Affiliate program, by clicking on it, you'll also be helping to support this blog. 

This book from Thames & Hudson presents itself as two books in one. First a scholarly look into the history and development of chocolate from the first human use of cacao to the 1990s.  However this book is also a work of love.  You see, the bulk of the research for this book was done by Sophie D. Coe who passed away before finished that basic work.  Her husband, Micahel D. Coe, tried to finish her research and put the book together.

While Mr. Coe's heart was in the right place and I'm sure we can understand his desire to complete his wife's work, one of the most common complaints about the book is that the scholarship and the way the book is written seems lacking in several areas.  I do have a PhD in history, ancient Mediterranean history but that means I can judge research in other fields to some degree feeling confident I understand the basics of evidence, interpretation and argument.  This lack of analysis and cautious interpretation of evidence occurred most often in the first three chapters because Coe is looking at pre-written societies and then the reports of conquerors whose words should always be read cautiously.

At certain points in the book, recipes, diary entries, advertizements and images are reproduced for us, the reader.  If the book did nothing else, collecting such things together would be worthwhile.  There are well over 250 drawings and images in the book, several of them color but most are in black and white.  Diagrams make the process of creating chocolate more understandable.  It was simply fun to see how chocolate has been advertized, praised and demonized over the years.  But such reproductions is not a history, merely a collection of information.

I agree there places where the text seems awkward and the conclusions seem based on very limited evidence but over all, I think The True History of Chocolate (Second Edition) is a good book for someone who wants to learn more about the history of cacao and how chocolate was created and developed over the centuries.   The book is less that twenty dollars and should entertain and inform you for many hours.  You can always follow up on the bibliography if you want further information.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blue Bunny Novelty Ice Creams

Since July's Saturday Sacraments will be all about ice cream and since we started with a novelty selection, your Chocolate Priestess thought our first featured review of Blue Bunny Ice Cream would make sense if we stuck to the novelty theme.  They have a peanut covered ice cream cone but also ice cream sandwiches and bars so a wider selection.  We're going to look at five of these so hold on and get ready to cool down with us.

The first thing we had to get from Blue Bunny with our freebie coupons was the Mint Grasshopper we saw in the displays at Walmark, they came in a 10 pack box so with moderation this will last a while.  As you all know, I'm not a fan of Walmark for various reasons but the nice people at Blue Bunny told me flat out that that store had the greatest variety of their products.  That was true though we did find them spread out a bit over three sections -- novelty non-sandwich, sandwich, and tubs I'd say.  Let's get back to the ice cream shall we?

Mint Grasshopper Ice Cream sandwiches jumped out at us because while mint chocolate flavors are common, the added "grasshopper" name reflects something that should be creamy if we consider the grasshopper pie as opposed to the mint chocolate pie.  For ice cream which is creamy all ready this make perfect sense, doesn't it? The chocolate cookie crumbs were chocolatey but they didn't honestly compete much with the mint's flavor and cooling sensation.  A good combo for mint chocolate lovers certainly but I want more chocolate so I turned to the next novelty we bought.

Next to balance with the above product and because it was also unique among the ice creams we've tried in the past, we got Peanut Butter Fudge Chip Ice Cream sandwiches that also come in a 10 pack box.  This had a strong peanut scent but also a good cocoa essence as well when I took a sniff.  The cookie again stuck to my hand making our Milk Chocolate Acolyte ask when I didn't keep it in the paper it comes wrapped in.  Well, I like to get in close contact with my chocolate plus I had all ready unwrapped it for the photo.  Even this far from it you can see the chocolate chips, Sisters and Brothers.  The peanut butter ice cream was not too sweet and the chips crunched when I found and chewed them releasing a semi-sweet cocoaness into my mouth that really blended well with the peanut butter.  The chips coupled with the chocolate cookie held their own well and I preferred this sandwich over the first.

I wanted to make sure I tried some of the lower calorie novelties as well so I picked the Sweet Freedom Snack Size Vanilla Ice Cream Cones that come in a 6 pack box.  These are smaller than other chocolate covered cones I've seen before in grocery stores measuring 4.5 long and 1.75 inches in diameter on the scoop part.  The thin layer of milk chocolate is covered in peanut pieces and also cone pieces giving it a unique flavoring that does not allow the peanuts to dominate.  Until you eat through those pieces they are the main flavor then the vanilla ice creams lets the chocolate through.  The cone is covered inside with another thin layer of chocolate and the vanilla ice cream goes all the way down to the tip.  Good balance between creamy, chocolate and nutty flavors over all.

While I had cones and sandwiches growing up, the number one ice cream novelty I enjoyed as a child was those bars on sticks, I'm not even sure there is a specific word for these.  I chose two varieties to share with you all but there are a lot more on the website so as many choices as the store had, it didn't come close to the true variety that Blue Bunny offers.

First up is the Chocolate Sundae Ice Cream Bar that seems like it should be amazingly chocolaty.  It comes in a 6 bar box and has the wooden sticks that for some reason just make eating ice cream a bit more fun.  Both bars we'll end this Saturday Sacrament with measured 4.5 X 1.75 X 1 inches with only about 1 inch of stick at the bottom.  This is a bar of vanilla ice cream covered with tan, brown and black cookie crumbs all of which taste different from each other going from a sweet to a slightly semi-sweet flavor.  The fragrance is very strongly vanilla with a hint of a few other scents from the crumbs.  It makes no sound at all because it stated to melt very quickly after being unwrapped and therefore became wet -- but I don't think the crumbs would have made much noise any way.  Taking a bite I discoverd what you can see on the box: chocolate ice cream inside.  This is a sweet chocolate ice cream that blends smoothly with the vanilla layer around it.  Sadly the chocolate layer is nearest the cone so we get a bit less of it but it does go all the way through the bar.

The second bar and the final novelty to reveal to you all today, Sisters and Brothers, is the Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bar that is also a 6 pack but there isn't a direct link to these on the website, only to a single King sized variety so the nutritional values are a little lower different. As you can see this is almost black in color once it hits the air and starts to melt, wetting down the thick covering of chocolate cookie crumbs. Oddly it smelled like nothing at all.  But it did have a slight crunch when I took a bite and inside was a strong cocoa and weaker creamy taste with a sweet edge that was surprising.  The pieces of cookies are so numerous and so integrated into the vanilla ice cream that every time I chewed it was a bit crunchy and nicely chocolaty in essence.  This was very much like having a few chocolate and cream cookies with a bowl of ice cream on the side.

My favorites then in order of best to least chocolatey:
     1) Peanut Butter Fudge Chip Sandwich
     2) Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bar
     3) Chocolate Sundae Ice Cream Bar
     4) Mint Grasshopper Sandwich
     5) Sweet Freedom Snack Size Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

Don't forget that Blue Bunny is also sponsoring our July GIVEAWAY where you could win my favorite treats of these for yourself.  You have to enter the giveaway though on that page not here in the comment section below.  But please do leave a comment and let me, our Acolytes, friends, and Blue Bunny know what you thought of their bars, sandwiches and cones.   And so you aren't worried... No, I didn't eat this all at the same time. This was pre-written for you all, Sisters and Brothers, over the course of a full week with help of friends and Acolytes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

National Chocolate with Almonds Day

Yesterday was a fun food holiday.  Today and tomorrow are both fun food holidays.

Tomorrow, July 9, is National Sugar Cookie Day.  You can make chocolate sugar cookies and you can decorate sugar cookies with chocolate but tomorrow is also our "Saturday Sacrament" and sadly no sugar cookies to reveal.  Instead we'll be looking at five of the possible ice cream novelties you could win if you go back and enter this month's GIVEAWAY.

Today, July 8, is "National Chocolate with Almonds Day" which sounds like either a "holiday" created by candy bar companies or by the almond industry.   I did research and I can't determine when this started or who created it. There is a very similar day focused on bittersweet chocolate and almonds later in the year.  Mentions of this fun food holiday go back at least four years on various websites but I couldn't trace it further.  Since none of those sites claimed to be creating it, I'm wondering if some newspaper or magazine somewhere declared it -- that has happened with other fun food holidays.

Almonds are not my favorite nut.  They aren't my least favorite either.  Their combination with chocolate is very, very common, almost too common given how many products we've featured in our Sacraments.  Almost any nut can be paired with chocolate though some are better than others in your Chocolate Priestess's opinion.

Do you like almonds with chocolate?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chocolate Day

Today, Sisters and Brothers, is "Chocolate Day" not to be confused with things like "National Chocolate Day" or "World Chocolate Day" or "International Chocolate Day" -- this is just plain old "Chocolate Day".

So here's your assignment, write down what you have that has chocolate, cocoa, or cacao in any form in it and leave us a comment.

OR you may leave a comment with what you plan to eat today to celebrate.

Mine had more chocolate drizzle
I'm starting my day off with a Fiber One™ Chocolate Oatmeal bar along with a glass of cranberry and carrot juice after biking for 30 minutes.

For lunch I made chocolate milk the way my mother always did.  Almost full glass of skim milk with Hershey's syrup stirred in.  I used the lower sugar variety that was not available when I was a child.

Finally for dinner we had one of the ice cream bars you'll see featured here on the "Saturday Sacrament" on July 9, 2011.

Now, how did you celebrate "Chocolate Day?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chocolate Priestess Natural Food Issues Interview

Your Chocolate Priestess has been interviewed again.  While this was in our local food co-op's newsletter that goes out to over 9000 households in a six-county area.

I think it is important to talk about issues of fair trade, ecological considerations but also economic considerations (which I noticed they cut out...).  But we did indeed talk about the whys of the chocolate cult, the global climate concerns, and the reporter herself went through the testing process with me (which she didn't mention).  In a way it was like working with a new Acolyte, a volunteer, before they are entrusted to do a featured review section or entire review on her/his own.

If you'd like to read the interview you can find it HERE.  I'm on the third page of the newsletter.

Let me know if I made a food us myself or us so I can do better in the future for us all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Drum into the 4th of July with Ice Cream

Sisters and Brothers, as I hope you saw at the end of June, July has a lot of ice cream related holidays because the entire month is "National Ice Cream Month".  While yesterday was "Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day" today is our first Saturday Sacrament and in two days my home country will celebrate Independence -- not when we truly had it but when the fight began.  The Fourth of July.  A few big names in ice cream have sent us coupons for Saturday Sacraments and we will start off with the folks from Nestlé-Dreyer's and their Drumstick brand.  We used the two big coupons for free products to pick out two 8 count boxes which have a total of six different drumsticks in them.   I found these are our local Walmart simply because it had the biggest selection to chose from.
New Sprinkles Drumstick Variety Pack
The Classic has three flavors: 2 Vanilla, 3 Chocolate, and 3 Vanilla Caramel.  Of course they will all be covered in chocolate and peanut pieces with what I grew up calling a waffle cone.  Each flavor is clearly labeled on the individual wrappers so you know which one you are picking.  Just like labeling chocolates is a good idea for folks with allergies, this is good too though probably not so much for allergies as for the fact that people have different tastes. In terms of nutritional information these all have between 290 (Vanilla) and 310 (Vanilla Caramel and Chocolate) calories.  The Vanilla Caramel has more sugars, the Vanilla has less sodium, and the Chocolate has more fiber but otherwise they are basically identical.

Classic Peanut Topping
The Vanilla Caramel Drumsticks I shared with two other people and they both really liked this variety.   The treat itself measured about 5.75 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide across the chocolate covered ice cream scoop.  As you can see there is a waffle cone topped by one scoop shaped chocolate covered section and covered with pieces of peanuts. Just unwrapped I couldn't really tell the variety until I leaned in and took a whiff.  There is a strong caramel and then peanut scent but no chocolate or vanilla yet.  Taking a swallow bite through the slightly crunchy peanuts reveals vanilla ice cream while a deeper bite shows a fairly large blob of caramel that has a dark color and a very tangy taste. Blended with the creamy vanilla and touch of chocolate the scoop was good but I wanted more chocolate.  I got it when I got to the cone because the cone is lined with milk chocolate and taking bites makes a satisfying crunch each time.  The ice cream continued to about 2 inches before the tip of the waffle cone.  The caramel in the ice cream also continued straight down the cone until the final 1.5 inches where it was solid milk chocolate what the box calls "chocolatey nugget".  The size and structure of drumsticks is the same for every variety so I won't repeat this information.

The Classic Chocolate is the same approximate size with the same peanut pieces on top. It also smells like peanuts and tastes like peanuts until I've eaten off the top section of the shell.  To the right you can see my hand again and the ice cream once I've eaten off the shell.  The big challenge with chocolate ice cream is the flavor because cold can have a dampening effect on cocoa flavors often.  There was a definite light chocolate flavor to the ice cream itself but the over all chocolate essence increased with crunchy bites down to the milk chocolate filled tip tinged with waffle cone tang and sweetness.

The Classic Vanilla flavor looks a lot like the Vanilla Caramel variety but without anything inside the ice cream itself.  Not only did the vanilla's fragrance break through the peanut covered top slightly but for some reason the ice cream seemed very cold compared to the previous two varieties.  It might have been the time of day I tried it but it really did feel colder which meant the normal vanilla kick I expect was really more creamy in taste and allowed a bit of the chocolate shell's flavor through.  Both were overwhelmed by the peanuts however.  Getting through that and down to the waffle cone reminded me for the Drumstick I grew up with -- creamy, crunchy, a slight hint of milk chocolate that grew with each bite I traveled down the cone until I got to my favorite part.

The Sprinkled has three flavors as well: 2 Vanilla Cherry, 3 Vanilla, and 3 Chocolate.  Beyond the normal waffle cones and the chocolate shell over the ice cream scoop these also have chocolate and vanilla jimmies.  Now many folks don't know what a jimmie is but when I see "sprinkle" I think more of the little colored sugar crystals I might use on cookies.  These three varieties vary slightly in nutritional value with the Vanilla Cherry better with less fat and cholesterol even though it is larger by 4-5 grams compared to the other two. However it does have more sugars while the Vanilla one has a touch more fiber and the Chocolate a gram more protein.

The Sprinkled Chocolate is the Classic but with sugar jimmies in vanilla and chocolate on top.  The sprinkles are very sweet, so much so that I started knocking mine off the top of my treat though others in the group I shared these with really liked that sweetness.  I separated them out and yes, the white and the brown ones do taste different, the brown are a touch less sweet and have a hint of cocoa while the white were just too sweet for me.  The scent through the chocolate shell is part sugar and part chocolate, something the peanuts didn't really allow for until you took a bite.  The top section is so heavy with sprinkles that it broke into several pieces I hope you can see in this photo, Sisters and Brothers.  The ice cream seemed more bitter than in the original version but that might be in comparison to the sugar jimmies or the peanuts; I really preferred the ice cream here.  As I licked down the ice cream and started crunching away at the cone, more and more chocolate flavor with each bite, I accidentally licked and sucked too hard and with a big old SCHLORP the rest of the ice cream, a good inch and a half of it, came up out of the cone.  That left me with nice waffle cone crunch and flavor balanced by good milk chocolate.

The Vanilla Sprinkled is pretty much the same as the Classic minus the peanuts so let's see if it tastes different.  It does because the vanilla's flavor has no real competition beyond the sugary sprinkles. This also means that the chocolate shell on top of the ice cream comes out more strongly.  Once more the vanilla ice cream seems colder in my mouth.  As I eat it down and the chocolate gets stronger, the vanilla still comes through reminding me of the from scratch chocolate our Chocolate Fruit Acolyte and I made before Christmas.  A good balance of cone, chocolate and vanilla that I can strongly approve of.

The Vanilla Cherry is the all new flavor in this book like the Vanilla Caramel was for the Original variety.  Mine had some cherry gel outside the shell but when I looked at it, I didn't see a break in the chocolate coating.  Taking a bite right there didn't reveal any more of the gel so I have not idea how it got there.  Given that it took a while to get to the cherry gel you see in the photo, you'd think this would be like the Vanilla flavor, right?  Nope. This vanilla was more creamy, less cold, and when I hit that cherry gel it was thick, tart and yet sweet.  I could move it around with my tongue or eat around it as I wanted but it went all the way down to the chocolatey nugget at the bottom of the waffle cone.

Over all these Drumsticks were much like my childhood memories recalled them to be -- fun treats but not treats I should have all the time.  They do have real cocoa and chocolate but also a lot of added natural and artificial stuff which makes the ingredient list long.  It's good that the boxes are made of 100% recycled materials and can be recycled but here's to hoping that they can stop taking out the cocoa butter and adding in all the other oils on the list both for our health and for the survival of cacao.  They are an adventure of texture going from peanut or sprinkles to smooth chocolate shell to cold ice cream and then the crunchy cone.  In terms of chocolate flavor that builds with each bite down the cone.  I do have a favorite: Sprinkled Chocolate because you get a lot more of our Sacred Substance for your mouth and your money compared to the other flavors.

My Favorite Part -- the Milk Chocolate Bottom
When I think of the Fourth of July, I think of fireworks but also of parades with lots of drums and that's why I decided this was a good time to reveal the old favorites and the new variation of Drumstick.  While taking a quart or more of ice cream to a picnic or even out camping seems like a lot of space to give over to ice cream, these individual treats seem like a great way to have just enough and to have enough variety to satisfy most folks.  So what did you think, Sisters and Brothers?  Will you be taking these with you to your Fourth of July events or adding them to your summer routine?

Friday, July 1, 2011

GIVEAWAY Blue Bunny Ice Cream in July 2011

It has been a while, Sisters and Brothers, since we had a giveaway here on The Chocolate Cult after the overwhelming number of giveaways for the 2010 Christmas season.

July is "National Ice Cream Month" and we have a lot of things planned for you.  The first up is a HUGE GIVEAWAY sponsored by Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

I grew with Blue Bunny Ice Cream and then I moved to the East Coast and then to Indiana and didn't see it for a while.  Now I'm seeing in in our local stores and I'm excited to do two featured reviews on their products via freebie coupons and to host this giveaway.

What can you win?

Blue Bunny Ice Cream will send one lucky public Chocolate Cult member a shipment of my, your Chocolate Priestess's, favorite products. So you can enter for a while and I'll be doing two featured reviews during the month on July 9 and July 30, 2011, with the winner announced on July 31, 2011, at Noon (Eastern).  Just because you can enter at any time, don't put it off.

Directions to Win the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Giveaway!

1. In a comment below tell your Chocolate Priestess what flavor of ice cream or novelty treat from Blue Bunny Ice Cream you think you'd love to try.   Check out their website for their full list.

NOTICE: Blogspot is having problems it seems with comments not posting. So if you are a Follower via Facebook you may also leave a comment there once to get an entry into the giveaway.

2.  You need to have a street address in the United States of America to win.  This is ice cream being delivered to you, it will melt if someone isn't there to get the delivery but we'll try to give you a heads up on that if you are the winner.

3.  In your comment about your favorite flavor, tell me how you are a public follower of The Chocolate Cult.  Make sure you are, I check and a few folks are not showing up where they claim.  Double check if you are at all uncertain and give me the name you are listed under.  You can follow via Google Friend Finder, Facebook, or Networked Blogs -- all are on the right hand side of the blog so go check and join or check what name you are under.

4.  Make sure you have an email linked to your comment or leave on in your comment -- be wary of spammers and don't cut and paste your email please.

Finally if you want extra chances to win you can spread the word about this giveaway.   Send a link for this giveaway to Facebook and include @TammyJo Eckhart so I see it.  Or Send a link to this giveaway to Twitter including @thetammyjo so I can see it. You can even "like" the King Arthur Flour page on Facebook and then thank them for the giveaway and I'll see that as well if you add @TammyJo Eckhart to your comment.

I'll be adding photos of the different flavors and treats I'm trying for July on our Facebook page so you if you follow us there, you can leave a comment and get another entry.

We will use to select our winner -- you're number will be the order in which your comments appear here and the order I see them on the above extra chances.

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