Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best Chocolate We Tested on The Chocolate Cult in 2015

2015 ends... how was the year for you?

We covered a lot of brands and creators in 2015 and to remind us all of what has happened here on The Chocolate Cult below is the list of the chocolate makers, sellers, brands, writers, and artists who work with or write about chocolate that we've featured in the order in which we covered them. This was a varied year ranging from kids items to high-end products, from things you can find in many stores to items you must purchase online or in one small boutique.

Here is our list starting from the earliest in 2015 to just before today.

Kidz Zone
Equal Exchange
Chocion
Morning Pep
Suave
Rescue Chocolate
Jiva Organics
Splenda
Cheerios
Pasha Chocolate
Voilà Chocolat
Magnum
Russell Stover
INSTACANDI
My Chocolate Kit
Wellington Chocolate Factory
Brownie Brittle
HollysHomeComforts
Voila Chocolat
Viva Labs
South Beach
Peter Sis
Breyer's
Brookside Chocolate
Klondike
Chocolate.org
The Nut Shoppe, Inc.
Nick Splading
Nonni's
Pied Piper Chocolates
Country Crock
Lake Champlain Chocolates
240Sweet
Seattle Chocolates
Enjoû Chocolat
Rhodes Bread
Askinosie
Cailler
Zall Good
Vino Mio
Sweet Creations
Moose Toys
Cool Baker
Francois et Mimi

Weirdly many of the products we've been sent were not chocolate but tools, toys, or ingredients. That really narrows down the list, doesn't it? But still we had some very good chocolate to choose from.

The brand we picked is one that has sent us products for two years so we've gotten a good feel for their range of products from bars to pralines and covering the full spectrum of chocolate from white to dark. We haven't loved everything they have sent but when you get to test a wide range you understand how a company approaches chocolate, and chocolate is something this brand does very well. Beyond chocolate they are attempting to educate their buyers and the general public about chocolate with a blog, a historical section of their website, and the creation of some very lovely videos. They are a newer player in the industry and so you may not know them except through our blog or if you live in their home country of Germany. We have been honored by their trust of our test and writing about their creations.

Our 2015 Best Chocolate is: Chocion! Please leave comments below to congratulate them!


Previous Best of the Year on The Chocolate Cult have included:
Michel Cluizel (2014)
Askinosie Chocolate (2013)
TCHO (2012)
American Heritage Chocolate (2011)
Guittard (2010)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Don't Eat Your Christmas 2015 Chocolate!

I have two recalls to share, one is of everyday products some of you might have on hand but the other, the one I'll start with, is holiday specific. Put down any DOVE chocolate you may have and read this article before you give it to anyone else.

DOVE® Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes Recall

Mars Chocolate North America Issues Allergy Alert Voluntary Recall on Undeclared Peanuts, Wheat and Egg Ingredient for DOVE® Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes, 24.0 oz. Bag, Sold Only at One Major Retailer with Stores Across the U.S.
Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its DOVE® Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes, 24.0 oz. bag - this is a seasonal item only sold at one major retailer with stores across the U.S.

Item# 10139802 - UPC# 400050521
LOT CODE: 537CG4PA30, 537DG4PA30, 538AG4PA30, 538AM4PA30, 541AG4PA20, 542EM4PA20

This item is a purple 24 oz. bag clearly marked with DOVE® Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes branding on the front of packaging. The code dates and UPC code are located on the back of the packaging on the lower right side.

Approximately 6,700 cases of this item may contain some SNICKERS®, MILKY WAY® and TWIX® pieces that contain peanuts, wheat and/or eggs, but these ingredients are not listed on the outer package ingredient label. People who have allergies to peanuts, wheat and/or eggs have the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. No adverse reactions have been reported to date.

This item was shipped and distributed to only one retailer and sold at retail food stores starting September 19, 2015 through December 1, 2015 to the following locations: AZ, GA, MA, MS, OH, VA, CA, IA, MD, NH, OK, VT, CO, IL, ME, NJ, OR, WA, CT, IN, MI, NM, PA, WI, DE, KS, MN, NV, RI, WY, FL, KY, MO, NY and TX.

The issue was identified after a consumer notified Mars Chocolate North America of finding a SNICKERS® piece in this Dove Chocolate Assortment Snowflakes, 24.0 oz. bag.

Mars Chocolate is working with the impacted retailer to ensure that the recalled product is removed from sale. In the event that consumers believe they have purchased this item and have allergy concerns, they should return this product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund. Consumers with questions or concerns may call our toll-free number at 1-800-551-0907.
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American Pure Whey, New Bern, NC is recalling all lots distributed from 7/2015 to 09/2015 of the products 100% Pure Whey Protein Matrix and 100% Pure Whey Protein Isolate, because they may contain undeclared milk and soy that are present in the whey ingredient. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk and soy run the risk of serious or life threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. No other American Pure Whey products are affected, and the recalled products may be safely consumed by those who do not have an allergy or sensitivity to milk or soy.
The products were distributed to, AE, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, IL, IN, KY, KS, MA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NE, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, UT, VT, WA, WI & WY and reached directly to customers through internet mail order.

The products were manufactured under the American Pure Whey brand in 2 lbs, 5 lbs,10lbs, 20 lbs, and 50 lbs containers or in factory sealed food grade mylar bags in the following flavors: Chocolate, Cake Batter, Strawberry, Cookies n Cream, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Vanilla, Cinnamon Bun, Mango, Peach Apricot, Strawberry Banana, Rocky Road, Blueberry, Peanut Butter, and Unflavored. Affected packages do not include a "Contains milk and soy" statement below the ingredient listing.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after a routine product review revealed the products are made from a whey ingredient that contains milk and soy, however, the product was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of milk and soy on the label. This labeling issue was immediately corrected upon discovery. Subsequent investigation indicates, the problem was caused by a mis-labeling of the product.

Consumers who have purchased affected whey protein products are urged to return it to the manufacturer for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-399-0580, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Skip the Yucky Healthy Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess has access to products not just directly from companies and brands but also through blog groups, shopping clubs, or survey sites.  Today I'm pulled together "healthy" bars ranging from post-workout treats to meal replacements that I've gotten from my loyalty card at Krogers and through the SavingsStar.com program. Of course the goal of these freebies is to get you to buy the product again but if you haven't tried them, please keep reading to help figure out if you should even bother finding them in your local grocery store.

Chef Robert Irvine's FortifX Fit Crunch bars come in three varieties but I was sent the Peanut Butter one not their Cookies and Cream which would have made more sense for The Chocolate Cult but we don't control what we are sent and sometimes companies don't make the best choices. I got this as a Vine Reviewer on Amazon a while back and pre-wrote this review hoping I could pair it up with others at some point.  This fitness energy bar has soy, milk, and wheat in terms of allergens but only cocoa processed with alkali in terms of chocolate but then I wasn't expecting much given the variety I was sent.  It has 16g of protein, 3g sugars, 1g fiber, and 8g total fat; in terms of vitamins and minerals though this is very poor.  Let's be fair and give it a try. The bar is very dry inside not creamy as on the wrapper.  Breaking it apart was easy though it squished a bit when I did so. The chocolatey coating is very thin so I imagine I'm not going to get any cocoa flavor but I'm willing to try that first bite.  The first bite makes a drawn out crunch because it is both chewy and crunchy.  There is a burst of peanut butter that fades into sweet then returns to peanut butter; no chocolate at all.  There is nothing unpleasant about the bar but it is definitely for peanut butter lovers not chocolate lovers.

Shaklee 180 Toffee & Chocolate Crunch Snack Bar was sent to me through Pinchme.com.  The Shaklee 180 is more than a bar, it is a program for weight-loss yet they send only one bar meaning that I can only comment on this one bar; any health claims are untestable with just one bar. As you can see in our photo the only chocolate is in these tiny chips but they are made from chocolate liquor and cocoa butter; the bar has a lot of other ingredients but all are food items that I recognize; nothing artificial.  It has a toffee scent to and it both crunchy and sticky though the stickiness is really on the outside, it doesn't stick to my teeth. It has a strong toffee and grain flavor but even when I hit a chocolate chip I can't really taste it.  Disappointing; only for grainy toffee lovers.

The Premier Protein bar in Double Chocolate Crunch variety was a Friday Freebie through Kroger.  I use this electronic freebie coupon program most weekends when I go shopping.  Sometimes the products are good and we'll buy them again but most of the time they aren't particularly impressive and you know that making them a freebie is an attempt to generate any interest at all. Normally the freebie around $1 in value but I've use this on items that cost up to $5 in the past -- higher priced samples tend to entire boxes of items or several bottles of a drink so you can really try it.  In this case it was just a single bar.   Unlike the previous bar has chemicals in the ingredients list along with cocoa processed with alkali and cocoa powder.  It smells very soy and sweet; it does make some crunch with this little pieces you can see but really the taste is just blah not even slightly cocoa or even sweet just blah... I couldn't eat more than one bite.

K-Nourish is from Kellogg's.  I was sent a five-bar box through the Vine Program to try out and reveal to you all.  These bars come in three varieties but we got the "Dark Chocolate Nut Delight" so let's see if they live up to the name and the claims on the box. It is true that 14 vitamins and minerals are listed with 10% or higher presentation in each bar.  The fiber content isn't any higher than the daily bars I eat though and these have twice as many calories made up of more fiber and more fats.  As you can see the bar has several ingredients but for those of you with allergies you may want to note these: wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, milk, soy, peanuts, almonds, cashews.  This does have chocolate -- chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa processed with alkali, and something called "chocolate sea salt." The bar smells of cocoa, almonds, and grains. Oddly taking a bite barely makes a sound and the bar is more chewy than crunchy. The initial flavor is sweet with a very, very light cocoa -- unless you were working to sense that  you wouldn't get any chocolate at all. A generic nut and grain flavor is the final one I taste at the end of each bite. Too little chocolate flavor given the varieties of cacao in this bar and that is deeply disappointing.

To be blunt, Sisters and Brothers, I wouldn't buy or eat any of these in the future. Would you? Have you? Leave a comment and let me know your opinions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Display Your Cupcate Creations for the Holidays

Today is National Cupcake Day!


A while back I got this cupcake rack from Francois et Mimi via the Vine Program at Amazon.com. I've used it several times and and always found it to be a very pretty and functional way to display cupcakes.


There isn't much to really review here other than to say that it comes three pieces that are very easy to put together and to take apart and that the size of the cupcake holders is large enough for large or regular sized cupcakes. It will hold mini cupcakes but they seem so very small on the rack.


With that said, let's look at a few times I've used it at various parties.

As a centerpiece for our 2013 Holiday Party! By placing it at the center it gave our buffet table a bit of height.


In case you want to know those cupcakes were half chocolate and half vanilla with the chocolate piece on the top of a vanilla frosting.


I've used it a few times since that 2013 party but I haven't always taken photos so here are only a few more.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Quality Needs to be Goal of Any Chocolate Kit

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to look at another chocolate mold making kit that is aimed especially at kids. Today we're going to look at one from Cool Baker that uses hot water instead of a microwave or a stovetop to melt chocolate. I was skeptical about how well this "magic" of hot water was going to work with chocolate or chocolate coating but I gave it a good try. In this photo you can see the kit setup so that the melting step can begin. Note the pinks and purple colors. While you might think this means it is only for girls, I'll have you know that my husband's two favorite colors have always been purple and pink; I think this is gaudy but he liked it so he helped me test it out. I received this kit through the Amazon View program in exchange for writing a review on that website; you get the bonus of a much longer and photo enhanced version of that review right here.

Because I was skeptical about this kit, I bought three types of Wilton candy melts (two of which have cocoa in them so that works on The Chocolate Cult). These melt at lower temperatures and are designed for molded candy work. Pure white, milk, or darker chocolates are less easy to melt and mold so let's see how these discs worked.



You take the pink melting try and fill it with hot water then insert the divider. Don't worry, the water is sealed in but you will likely need to wipe off water that will get on the outside of the tray.


You add the chocolate or candy discs and let it set for a minute then you start stirring.


After 5 minutes of stirring the candy discs looked like this.


After 10 minutes the discs were partly melted but let's be honest -- this is not moldable smooth yet.

Why isn't this melting well? First: Hot water even inside a cute pink container cools down over time. Second: The sections are very small and it is difficult to stir the chocolate which would speed up the melt process. The little pink spatula thing is pretty large compared to the two smaller sections. Ultimately this takes more time that I really felt it was worth it and made such a small amount of melted candy that I transferred to microwave bowls and did as I always do so I could test the molds themselves.


The molds make an owl, three small pieces of candy, and two candy pops. The molds are plastic so they need a bit of oiling to work well. They did work as promised in the directions but I think I like my silicone molds better because they do not require oiling and thus are better tasting and "healthier" as well.


You fill up the molds partly, trying to do details but to be blunt the detailing was a bit of a challenge even with the little pink "brush" they provided. As you'll see even though I've been making mold candies and chocolates now for a few years, these had a few problems. With practice I'll get better I'm sure.


One you have cooled this first filling in, you add in the rest of your chocolate or candy melts and put the mold in the spinner. I have no idea what this is supposed to do. You can't really spin it fast enough to force the chocolate out into every part of the molds. The support legs also required my hand to hold them down as I turned the handle. Those same support legs, handle and spinner were nearly impossible to disassemble making this kit difficult to store. ARGH!


Here is a closeup of some of the finished creations. Look at the little present piece to see evidence that the spinner step didn't work in pushing the chocolate out.


Here are the treats made from using all of the molds. I was hoping I could use disposal lollipop sticks but I don't think that would work very well given how you have to close the molds.

I can't recommend you get this kit as a gift for anyone but just in case you want it, consider using the link below. Part of what you pay for the product will be returned to us through the affiliate program with Amazon and help me find better products and chocolate so you can learn about them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Cookie Swap Recipe from The Chocolate Cult

Once again The Chocolate Cult participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and once more I took a basic recipe idea and changed it to reflect my health needs and what I had in my pantry. I made 82 (83 calories a piece if you use my exact recipe below) Puffy Double Chip Pumpkin Cookies so have plenty for both the cookie swap and for our Annual Holiday Party my family throws. They are nice and fluffy inside but if you want to know how I made them, keep reading. Many of the ingredients I used I received throughout 2015 to test and write about once; I will mark* these on the recipe. Additional mentions of these free ingredients is just my being upfront with you all about them; I didn't receive any more compensation from the brands used in this recipe. In fact, I paid a fee to join this program because it befits the Cookies for Kids project.

Puffy Double Chip Pumpkin Cookies
By: TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:
1 Cup Country Crock Spread*
1 T Vanilla Extract
2 Servings Egg Substitute
1/2 C Splenda Brown Sugar Blend*
1 1/2 C morningpep xylitol*
15 oz can of Libby's Pumpkin
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
4 C King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
10 oz bag of Nestle Toll House Pumpkin baking chips
10 oz bag of Nestle Toll House Bittersweet baking chips

Instructions:
1) Lay Silicone mats on baking sheets and preheat oven to 375°F. Lay out parchment paper or a paper bag on a countertop or table to place the cookies onto cool.

2) Beat together spread, vanilla, and eggs substitute on medium setting of your electric mixer.

3) As those ingredients beat, measure out flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and blend them together.

4) Add pumpkin to the wet ingredients and mix on medium until thoroughly incorporated.


5) Add in the flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time, scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you do so.

6) Blend in the baking chips either using the mixer on low or by hand.


7) Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies onto the silicone mat and bake for 12 minutes.

8) Once the time is up, remove from the oven, allow to cool for two minutes then remove cookies to the paper you've laid out. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then enjoy. You can also eat them still warm if you like your baking chips melty.


Calories per cookies (using the same ingredients) = 83

Sadly I only got two sets of cookies from the other swappers; the first time in the five years I've been doing this that I didn't get three sets for the three that I sent. I know it might sound petty, but if you are going to participate in any type of exchange, make sure to send your treats out. According to the post office, all three of mine arrived on December 3. One of the recipients emailed me; I tried to contact the two who sent mine but only one's email worked.

I got Chocolate Chip Biscotti from Christina at Addicted to the Kitchen and Salted Caramel Vanilla Butter Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle from Amber at Caleigh's Kitchen. Thank you to both of them. I'll link to their recipes above when they are posted.

On top of those cookies, all three of the event sponsors sent me a nice gift! Cute liquid measuring "cups" that I'll review later on in 2016 from OKO, a silicone baking mat (mentioned this month in a review) from Dixie Crystals (sadly their coupon will go unused because I can never find their products where I live), and coupons for a couple of free products from Lake o'Lakes that I'll use and review later on in 2016.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

2 Chocolate Recalls for December 13, 2015

This first recall is of a product that I've had and I've really enjoyed it.

Kroger Recalls Bakery Fresh Goodness Chocolate Brownies Due to Undeclared Allergens

The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) said today it has recalled Bakery Fresh Goodness chocolate brownies (16 oz, tub) sold in its retail stores because the product may contain walnuts not listed on the label.
People who are allergic to walnuts could have a severe reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to walnuts, there is no safety issue with the product. One Kroger customer has reported a possible allergic reaction in connection with this product.

All stores operating under the JayC and Smith's names, as well as Kroger stores located in Georgia; South Carolina; Auburn, Alabama; Greater Cincinnati (including Northern Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio plus South Eastern Indiana); Central and Northwest Ohio; Northwestern West Virginia panhandle; Michigan; Hopkinsville and Bowling Green, Kentucky; Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; Indiana (except SE Indiana and Evansville); Illinois; Eastern Missouri; Texas and Louisiana; no other Kroger locations are included.

Kroger has removed this item from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.

Kroger is recalling the following item:

Bakery Fresh Goodness Brownies 11110-09172 Lot numbers beginning with 15307
Purchased between Nov. 7, 2015 - Nov. 16, 2015 16 oz

Customers allergic to walnuts who have purchased the above product should not consume it and should return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.

Customers who have questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS.
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Pine Valley Foods, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Crazy About Cookie Products Due to Undeclared Allergens

OUISIANA - Pine Valley Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling Crazy about Cookies Pre-portioned varieties after learning that a labeling misstatement on the sugar cookie dough & walnut chocolate chunk cookie dough that was sold and distributed. The sugar cookie dough in question did not properly disclose "milk" as an ingredient or allergen. The walnut chocolate chunk cookie dough in question did not properly disclose "egg" as an ingredient or allergen.

People who have allergies to milk or egg run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. People who have an allergy or sensitivity to milk and egg, or are lactose intolerant should not consume these products. No other Pine Valley Food's products are affected, and the recalled products may be safely consumed by those who do not have an allergy or sensitivity to milk nor egg.

Pine Valley Foods, Inc. takes no chances when it comes to the safety of our consumers.

The Pine Valley Food's cookie dough products that are affected by the recall are clearly labeled with a product description and date code on the packaging:

Crazy about Cookies 2.7lb Sugar Cookies Pre-Portion Item # 25-2004 UPC Code - 698768102120 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb Holiday Decorated Sugar Cookies Item #03-4034 UPC Code - 698768034346 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb Princess Decorated Sugar Cookies Item # 03-4031 UPC Code - 698768034315 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb Monsters Decorated Sugar Cookies Item # 03-4032 UPC Code - 698768034322 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb Birthday Decorated Sugar Cookies Item # 03-4033 UPC Code - 698768034339 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb Hello Kitty Decorated Sugar Cookies Item # 03-4035 UPC Code - 698768034353 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2lb DSC Custom Decorated Sugar Cookies Item # 101-2207 thru 101- 2355  UPC Code - None 10/9/15 – 11/23/15 (Julian Dates - 15282  - 15327)  

Crazy about Cookies 2.7lb Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies Pre-Portion Item # 25-2008 UPC Code - 698768102168 11/24/15 (Julian Date 15328)  

The Sugar & Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough varieties were distributed nationally to Distributors, Groups and Organizations within the Fundraising Industry.

Consumers who have purchased any of the products should return them to Pine Valley Foods, Inc. at 131 Frost Commercial Drive, West Monroe, LA. 71292, for replacement or destroy the products and provide proof of purchase for replacement. If you have any questions please call Customer Service at 318-397-1124 during the hours of 8AM – 5PM CST.

This recall is being conducted in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Make Your Own Candy Bars for the Holidays

Earlier this year I received this easy chef Chocolate Bar Maker from Moose Toys PTY LTD through the Amazon Vine program. Instead of only reviewing it on Amazon, I thought all of you might be interested in this product as a possible gift to give or a tool to use as you celebrate these late autumn and winter holidays. I hope this will work well because I've been using silicone molds to make chocolates and candy with for a few years now. The trick to this kit needs to go beyond some molds so let's see what it has to offer.

The kit includes these items which I took photos of for you all!

Easy Squeezer -- This is the big deal of this kit because instead of melting your chocolate in a pan or bowl and then needing to spoon or pour this device should allow more direct control over your creation. This is what you put your chocolate to melt it in the microwave. If you use something like Baker's brand chocolate, you can fit 9 pieces in easily as shown in the little booklet but you can keep adding in chocolate as it melts and you stir it. Also, you don't need to set your microwave on the lowest setting, 80% works in about the time that the booklet says it should take to melt different types of chocolate. By the way, this thing is a pain to clean.

Deco Nozzle -- This is really just the tip for the Easy Squeezer.

Large Sharing Mold and Large Swirl top Mold are very easy to use with or without the Filling Pockets.

Sharing Filling Pocket and Swirl Filling Pocket are to use with the Large Sharing Molds. This basically adds in an extra 20 minutes prep time to making bars but they are not difficult to use if you follow the directions. The Pockets clearly easily but they are also very flimsy compared to the molds so be careful.

2 Fun Size Smooth Molds are also easy to use but when you add in the 3 Mold Inserts (6 designs) it does make it slightly more difficult to remove the cooled chocolate. I discovered that white chocolate shows the patterns much better than dark or even milk chocolate. The Inserts are challenging to wash as per instructions but I found a soft brush worked great. In fact, the soft brush worked for all of the molds and the Squeezer's lid just not the Squeezer itself, you need a washcloth for that.

4 Wrappers -- Really? Only four of them? And the website does not offer any way to buy more wrappers.

1 Sticker Sheet (4 Labels) -- These are for the wrappers and again I'll point out that this really isn't very much to work with.

Instruction Booklet -- Is very small, just 4 pages, and primarily images to show you what to do. If you need with bar ideas, there is a "menu" of 9 suggested pairings but I just went with what I had on hand and played around with the kit.

How did all of these items work together to make chocolate and candy bars? Yes!

It takes time, patience, and constant clearing to use this kit. I made 14 bars in about 2 hours and 40 minutes starting from when I opened the first chocolate bar to break it up to when the last mold came out of the freezer and I popped the bar out. Because you cool these in the freezer they melt in your hands very fast so you need to store them in the refrigerator until it is time to serve. I think they look pretty, don't you. As to how they tasted well that can't be praised or blamed on the molds but on me. And they turned tasty! If you are thinking of using this with your kids, I recommend one kit per child it will speed up your process of making bars and cut back on competition for the molds, inserts, and filling pockets as well.

If you follow our links and purchase this Chocolate Bar Maker through these links, you'll be feeding The Chocolate Cult through our affiliate program with Amazon. If you want to get some melting candy to go with it, you can also follow the link below to get a bundled deal also through Amazon; to be blunt, it would be less expensive to just go buy chocolate in your local grocery store but just in case you want to do the bundle, here you go.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Can Chocolate Help these Ugly Sweaters?

As I've mentioned before, I've done some product testing and party throwing for brands via the Tryazon product. These are competitive programs often with only 50 bloggers being chosen to test out products and give out freebies to their guests. I try to combine these with ongoing monthly or seasonal events because everyone I know is busy. We were picked as one of 50 for this promotion from Sweet Creations. to make it more relevant I added cocoa to some of the cookies and chocolate to the decorating options.

Look at this cool kit that Sweet Creations sent me. It has a huge cookie cutter, two decorating bottles for frosting, decorative parchment paper to wrap cookies up in and boxes to put them in, the decorative stamp roller with three stamping wheels, and 8 minis spatulas with holiday designs that I gave out to the top decorators at our party. All of it came in this big, heavy duty bag that I'll put to good use when I go grocery shopping.


Since this is The Chocolate Cult, I decide to make the cookies as the recipe on the back of the cutter suggested but also ones with organic cocoa that I had left over from Equal Exchange.

The sweater cookies are huge! Bigger than the boxes that were sent but I put these together and added one of the decorative parchment papers to each because we had a lot of other treats at our party. A few people packed other treats in them and one broke up her sweater cookie to make it fit but the boxes really needed to be biggers, Sweet Creations.


We sent up one table for our guests to decorate the sweater cookies on. I stayed upstairs where I could help anyone who wanted to do this. This was our table layout. The kit had a letter that said I was given four decorating bottles but I was only sent two so I added in two others that I got as a gift for the 2014 Cookie Swap. I made red, blue, green, and yellow frosting for these bottles. As you can see I also added other frostings that we had on hand so guests could really make the cookies ugly if they wanted to.

Most people shared the table to decorate their cookies. In total, 13 of our 17 guests made created ugly sweater on the pre-made cookies. Below you see two guests working side-by-side but creating two very different ugly sweaters.


I took a photo of each decorator and their cookie. It would be 13 photos to share with you all so I'll just show the top three.. After the party my family picked the top three basing our choice to two criteria. First it had to be Christmas themed in some fashion. Second it had to be ugly, something that if we received as a gift we'd be horrified to wear. I will give the winners their own cute dual spatula set as a prize. Here are our top three ugly sweaters.

#1:

#2:

#3:

Sweet Creations has kits and products of a general nature and for seasonal holidays and events as well. I can only write about this one kit but if you have used other of their products, please do leave a comment and let us and them know what you liked or didn't like about it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Wine To-Go with Your Chocolate

I turned over these two Vino Mio Foldable Wine Bottles over to one of the Acolytes that helps me with wine testing here on The Chocolate Cult. I was going to give it to another Acolyte but with the busyness of the holiday season we missed each other; likely I have four people to help me with wine related products and he was able to step in. While he didn't test directly with chocolate, this is the sort of product we could see being used for picnics, hiking, even just very casual get togethers; all events that might involve chocolate. I was this product from Cassani through the Tomoson program; no other form of compensation was received for this testing and review. Here is what our tester found after pouring wine into the bottles and letting them set for his work day.

Vino Mio is a portable wine "bottle" designed to save space and eliminate the risk of breaking a bottle during travel.  The idea is to pour your favorite wine into the bag for easy transportation and when you finish you roll it up and take it back with you.  The bag is made of BPA free plastic and has a screw on cap. It was easy to fill without a funnel and once filled stands up on its own.  After several hours the flavor of the wine is unchanged and is easy to pour from.  The plastic is fairly thick and has wide seems to prevent breakage, and while I did no extreme torture test, the Vino Mio did not leak or spill when dropped with the cap tightly closed. I can imagine this would be a great product for those that enjoy picnics, camping, and other outdoor activities where glass bottles would be a hassle.  I tried it with a red wine but I think the Vino Mio would really shine with white wines as the flexible material would fit nicely in even a crowded cooler.  

Clean up was pretty easy although there is no cleaning instructions that come with it, I simply filled it with warm water and sloshed it around a few times and rinsed the cap thoroughly.  I'm unsure that I would use this often as I don't drink in the great outdoors much, but if I was a regular camper I would much rather have a few of these with me than glass bottles that I would need to dispose of after. When I used to camp the clean up was the most annoying part of the weekend, traveling back home with a large bag of trash in the back seat is smelly and sometimes messy so anything that eliminates some of that is very helpful.  I would recommend this product to anyone that finds themselves in need of a drink in places you want to leave only footprints.    

That's our Acolyte's view of the Vino Mio Foldable Wine Bottles. Have you tried them? What did you think of them? Could you see yourself using such a product in the future? Leave comments and let us know.

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