Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brownie Brittle Party Report

I was selected as a party host by the Sheila G Brands, LLC, company for their Brownie Brittle products through Tryazon. This is 1 of 50 blogs to get the honor of testing and reporting on the four varieties of this lower calorie treat for our readers to learn about. I was sent this sample that you see in the photograph to the right. It includes 10 1oz packages of their Chocolate Chip and 10 1oz packages of their Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle; 1 5oz package of all four flavors including the two mentioned earlier as well as Toffee and Mint Chocolate Chip; a 16oz bag of the Chocolate Chip variety; and finally a Cookies for Kids Cancer spatula. I also was given a $15 off code and I have $10 codes to hand out to guests should they want to order the product. Since I have this exact same spatula from the 2014 Cookie Exchange, I had a drawing for one of my guests to win it this past Friday evening.

The first thing to note is that this is one serving of Brownie Brittle. The big pieces survived best in the large, 1 pound bag of the chocolate chip variety. Most of the pieces in the 5oz bags were broken up and there were a lot of crumbs. I'm a bit concerned that the 1oz bags I gave to my guests will be nothing but crumbs. If that was the case, I hope they leave a comment below letting the brand know because this could be a probably with how they are shipped. How do I know that these two in-tact pieces are one serving? I weighed them with my kitchen scale. There were enough in-tact or half in-tact pieces that I used them for a particular treat you'll see later in this post. Keep reading, you'll get there.

Allergen Note: All four varieties have wheat, eggs, soy, and milk in them as well as cocoa processed with alkali. Only the toffee variety has tree nuts it in so you know it is real toffee just sugar and butter pretending to be toffee.

I consulted the information in the box and on their website and used their recipe ideas for the party. I made three recipes in all. Because they will get samples of two of the four varieties of Brownie Brittle I made a simple dip (recipe from their website) and scoops of vanilla ice cream to try with the Mint Chocolate Chip and the Toffee Crunch so that they could taste those directly. Here's my dip recipe:

Simple Dessert Dip

Ingredients:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 C creme de cocoa
3.5 C powdered sugar
8oz low fat cream cheese

Directions:
1. Set cream cheese out to bring it to room temperature.

2. Pour whipping cream into a large bowl. Add in the creme de cocoa and the powdered sugar.

3. Using the whisk attachment of your beater, slowly mix in the powdered sugar, scraping the sides and bottom at least once.

4. Turn the beater on high and beat for 8 minutes. Resulting mixture should be light and fluffy.

5. Next mix the cream cheese up by hand using a spoon until it is smooth and creamy.

6. Add the cream cheese to the whipped cream mixture. Switch to paddle attachment on your beater and mix slowly for about 2 minutes.

7. Spoon into bowls to serve with Brownie Brittle pieces, fruit, veggies, or other treats. I used red and white bowls at the party to signal what had tree nuts (red) and what didn't (white) for allergy concerns.


I also made Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes. I basically used a box cake mix (Fudge this time), crumbled up the Brownie Brittle Salted Caramel in the 5oz bag and layered it on top of one spoonful of batter, then added a half spoon of batter onto that and baked it as the mix directed. After letting the cupcakes cool I added caramel frosting and sprinkled it with more of the crumbs.


Finally I used the Brownie Brittle Chocolate Chip variety which had large pieces of brittle -- the other bags had much smaller pieces (a problem with this product being shipped in a bag frankly). I layered it as I might graham crackers with frosting -- the leftover caramel and plain vanilla.


Finally I offered my guests a scoop of vanilla ice cream to try any of the leftover brittle pieces with and everyone tried that out..

I had enough people who said they were coming, I put out an invitation two weeks before, but some guests pulled out at the last minute. I was getting very stressed and all this stress was making me never want to do a hosted party for a brand again unless they pay me a good chunk of money to cover the costs and my time. I tried to put my best face on for it and hope that the people who came enjoyed when I created and the brand itself.

But did the folks who did make it have fun? Did they like my recipes and the product? People really seemed to like most of the varieties. Everyone agreed that the chocolate chip, mint, and salted caramel tasted like their name but everyone had difficulty finding the toffee flavor in that bunch. I think unless you hit a bit of the toffee itself it was more difficult to taste. People also preferred the brittle plain or with only vanilla flavors added, the caramel frosting and the dip, while good I was told, overpowered some of the brittle's flavor. Let's take a look at some of those guests in action.


We waited until four people arrived to start the line. As you can see it was calm, everyone was taking a turn moving from one side of the table to the other.


You can't see the vanilla ice cream option, leaving that out would have only led to melting but one person, who didn't want his photo taken, let us take a photo of his ice cream with the brittle over it. Yes, he used the Toffee variety.





My tasters took their task to evaluate very seriously. Here you see one intent upon her treats while you can sort of see another person trying his out as well off to the left hand side.


The man on the left you can see here because he won the spatula for his camper so he can make treats when he goes out camping. He had an idea that bigger pieces of Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle might make for a substitute for graham crackers in s'mores.








Since people pulled out at the last minute I continued to serve up the treats over the rest of the weekend when other people came to the house. Here you can see them trying the cupcakes with the Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle Cupcake and the bagged samples as well. Some really got into the eating with enthusiasm.


Others were very serious about trying those cupcakes and put their all into it.



Cupcakes, always a challenge to the mouth but my tasters made a go of it. You have to open wide to get the cake, the frosting, and the brownie brittle in one bite.


Sometimes you just want to taste the product itself, not it in a recipe. I'm that way myself. If I don't like the ingredient alone, why would I want it in a recipe?



While the party itself had lower turn out, having leftovers allowed me to share the Brownie Brittle with more people. I took this tray of the Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip variety to a potluck along with the dessert dip and shared it with about three dozen other volunteers for the university museum. I put out a card with the name and varieties of the products on it and I had a handful ask me more about it. You can see the bowl with the brittle and my dessert dip on the table. This was just a few of us at the start of the party. Thank you to our director for sending me this photo.

Ultimately I shared Brownie Brittle with around 50 people so I no longer feel too bad about folks pulling out of the party in the last hours. I do, however, feel that unless I have a lot more lead time to arrange a brand tasting and greater flexibility in dates, that this was a lot more stress than it was worth.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Multitude of Recalls to End April 2015

Sadly there are a lot of recalls to share with you all. If you follow us on Facebook you got our notice about the recalls for Blue Bell being expanded to their entire line. I'm betting many of you aren't following us there so we'll start with that recall today.

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Blue Bell Creameries Voluntarily Expands Recall to Include All of its Products Due to Possible Health Risk

Consumer Contact: 1-866-608-3940

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 20, 2015 – BRENHAM, TX – Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, Texas, is voluntarily recalling all of its products currently on the market made at all of its facilities including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president. “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”

The products being recalled are distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,  South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.

Today’s decision was the result of findings from an enhanced sampling program initiated by Blue Bell which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17, 2015, and March 27, 2015, contained the bacteria. This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants and as previously reported five patients were treated in Kansas and three in Texas after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

“At every step, we have made decisions in the best interest of our customers based on the evidence we had available at the time,” Kruse said. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities and so we have taken this unprecedented step. We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem.”

Blue Bell is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.

In addition to the “test and hold” system, Blue Bell is implementing additional safety procedures and testing including:

Expanding our already robust system of daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment
Expanding our system of swabbing and testing our plant environment by 800 percent to include more surfaces
Sending samples daily to a leading microbiology laboratory for testing
Providing additional employee training
Blue Bell expects to resume distribution soon on a limited basis once it is confident in the safety of its product.
Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 1-866-608-3940 Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. CST or go to bluebell.com

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Prolainat Voluntarily Recalls Trader Joe’s A Dozen Sweet Bites Due to Undeclared Coconut

Consumer Contact: Trader Joe’s Customer Relations at 626-599-3817

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 15, 2015 – PROLAINAT is voluntarily recalling all lots of 9.16 oz packages of Trader Joe’s A Dozen Sweet Bites (Chocolate & Coffee “OpĂ©ra” Cake, Raspberry “Macaron Aux Framboises” Cake, Caramel & Chocolate Cake) due to undeclared coconut. People who have an allergy or sensitivity to coconut run the risk of serious or life threatening allergic reaction if they consume the product. The Trader Joe’s A Dozen Sweet Cakes is safe for consumption by those who do not have coconut allergies.

The recalled product was produced from January 1, 2011 to February 5, 2015 and distributed to Trader Joe’s stores nationwide. The product was sold frozen and packaged in a 9.16 oz box with a photograph of the product on the front of the box and a UPC #00967679 that can be found printed the back of the package.

The recall was initiated after a routine product packaging review surfaced the omission of coconut from the ingredient panel. All affected product has been removed from shelves and from distribution.

No allergic reactions or illnesses have been reported to date.

Customers who have purchased 9.16 oz packages of Trader Joe’s A Dozen Sweet Bites and have a sensitivity to coconut are urged to discard the product or return it to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund. Customers with questions may contact Trader Joe’s Customer Relations at 626-599-3817 [Monday through Friday, 6:00AM to 6:00 PM PST].

We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers for any inconvenience.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Recalls All Products Because of Possible Health Risks

Consumer Contact: 614-360-3905

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 23, 2015 — Columbus, Ohio — Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has initiated a voluntary recall of all ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches for all flavors and containers because of the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes . The company is ceasing all sales and closing all scoop shops until all products are ensured to be 100% safe.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals infected by Listeria may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, infected pregnant women can suffer miscarriages or stillbirths.

The ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches being recalled were distributed in the United States to retail outlets, including food service accounts and grocery markets, as well as online at jenis.com. This recall includes all products bearing the “Jeni’s” brand name.

The contamination was discovered in a sample randomly collected by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is not aware of any illness reports to date related to the recalled products. However, out of an abundance of caution, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is taking this voluntary precautionary measure in order to ensure complete consumer safety. “Our top priority is guaranteeing the safety of all consumers by taking every possible precaution,” says John Lowe, CEO of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

“We have decided to recall everything currently on retailer shelves, and we are closing our scoop shops until we are 100% confident every item we sell is safe. We have called in experts to help us find the root cause. We will be working with our suppliers to determine if the bacteria was introduced by one of the ingredients we use. We will not reopen the kitchen until we can ensure the safety of our customers.”

Customers who have purchased any of the products are urged to dispose of them or return them to the store where they were purchased for an exchange or full refund, and consult with their physician regarding any medical questions. Customers may also contact Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at 614-360-3905 between the hours of 9 am and 10 pm (E.D.T.) on April 23 and 24, from 9 am to 5 pm (E.D.T.) on April 25 and 26, and from 9 am to 5 pm (E.D.T.) on Mondays through Fridays thereafter. Jeni’s can also be contacted by email at recall@jenis.com, and at jenis.com/recall

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Sweet Sam's Baking Company Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Starbucks Black & White Mini Cookies

Consumer Contact: 1-800-782-7282

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 23, 2015 — Sweet Sam's Baking Company of Bronx, NY is recalling all lots of Starbucks Black & White Mini Cookies sold in Starbucks Company operated stores on or before Thursday, April 23rd, 2015, because they contain milk, an allergen that is not declared on the packaging. People who have an allergy to milk run the risk of experiencing a serious or life-threatening reaction if they consume the product.

The Black & White Mini Cookies were sold in Starbucks Company -operated stores in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

The product comes in a 2.0 oz. (56 g) clear film package, each containing two cookies.

Printed upon the front of the package are the words “Black & White Mini Cookies”, “A New York City Favorite”, and “SKU 408785”. On the rear panel, among other details, are the words, “Manufactured for: Starbucks Coffee Company”, and UPC code “833282000495”.

The recall was initiated by Sweet Sam's Baking Company after it was discovered that the label did not reveal the presence of milk. Two customers with milk allergies reported having an allergic reaction after consuming the product. No other illnesses have been reported to date. A product packaging review determined that the private-label packaging design omitted the presence of milk from the ingredient panel. Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by an oversight in the design process of the private label. The packaging for Black & White Cookies sold under Sweet Sam's own trademark does not suffer from this error. The company will be revising the labeling of the product before re-introducing onto the market.

Consumers who have purchased packages of Black & White Mini Cookies sold at Starbucks and have an allergy to milk are urged to discard the product or return it to any Starbucks store for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Starbucks’s Customer Relations at 1-800-782-7282, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Pacific Time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Celebrate New Zealand with Chocolate!

Ever since we got a few samples from Wellington Chocolate Factory in New Zealand I've been on the look out for a good date to do our first feature about them.  Today just happens to be an important public holiday for them, Anzac Day. What is Anzac Day? Here is a description from a government website: Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. (1) ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day. (2) Since we have readers in both Australia and New Zealand, I want to honor them today by introducing the world to four bars from the Wellington Chocolate Factory that came in this Tasting Pack.

We'll start with the Coconut Milk Chocolate Bar tested by our own Fruit Acolyte. The label on the full sized bar is a bit eerie with a huge eye looking out of a cacao tree but on the tasting pack bar most of this is covered by the general black label. What did our tester think of the bar? She did not like it at all. She said she took one bite, it tasted very sour, and she spit it right back out. Now this particular assistant of mine is a very adventuresome eater -- she tries everything and is really into cooking from scratch. However if she doesn't like something, she does not hold back her punches. We don't know if this bar was supposed to taste sour or if something happened to it in the travel between here and New Zealand but as you'll see, her experience with this bar does not come close to our experiences with the other varieties.

Next let's look at the three 70% dark chocolate bars starting with the Dominican Republic Bar with a wrapper showing a statue on a peach-orange background under the black central label of the tasting pack. The very thing I noticed when I was photographing these was that this bar is darker in color than the two below even though they are all 70%. This must reflect the beans which will also be the big factor in any flavor difference between these three bars. This has a stronger earthy cocoa fragrance with some sweet fruitiness that is citrus in nature. The first bite makes only a soft sound but my mouth is flood with an intense marmalade like flavor and surprisingly smooth chocolate that gets a bit more bitter with each chew.  With just one little section the cocoa buzz starts and my eyes widen to let in more light. Letting the second piece melt in my mouth allows the chocolate and the sweetness to blend more from the start but the bitter edge still grows as it slowly melts. At first it seems like the bitterness is taking over but then the sweet marmalade flavor comes back and the two flavors trade back and forth making this a very engaging experience for my mouth. I really loved this both ways that I tested it.

The Peru Norandino Bar has colorfully dressed girl hold and standing next to alpacas beneath the black tasting pack label. This has a nutty and cocoa scent to it when I bring a third of the bar to my nose; there is a hint of something sweet as well. It makes a soft sound when I take a bite and immediately I get a creamy cocoa with a hint of sweet that turns very fruity and bitter within moments before fading back into the sweet cocoa flavor again. Letting a bite melt in my mouth reveals an apricot sweetness, less bitterness, and a creamy chocolate. Over the minute it takes to melt, the apricot flavor intensifies the most until it is almost all that I can taste. I recommend chewing this rather than letting it melt in your mouth if you want the chocolate to be the stronger flavor.

Finally the Madagascar Somia Plantation Bar has a maroon wrapper a pink drawing of a cacao tree a critter that looks like a lemur under the black tasting pack label. The cocoa scent is very light with a strong plum-like fragrance when I take a whiff of it.  For some reason this bar makes a louder snap when I take a bite and is harder to break into pieces. The initial flavor is a dark but not bitter chocolate with a sweet edge that turns into a berry-like flavors before the chocolate returns with a more bitter edge that delivers a cocoa buzz. The next piece melts very slowly in my mouth, slower than the other two 70% bars have. The dark cocoa is smooth and not bitter at all and then very slowly and very slightly that berry sweetness starts to appear on my tongue. Working it with my tongue releases more of the fruity flavors.  Again I enjoy both ways of eating this bar so I think you should decide if you want more or less berry flavors when you try it.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers, four simple creations from Wellington Chocolate Factory. For our readers commemorating Anzac Day, we honor your sacrifices and loyalty. For every reader here, try at least three of these four bars and you will not be disappointed.


Notes on Research for this post:
1: https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac-day/
2: http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac-tradition/

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Does Your Love of Chocolate Impact Your View of Earth Day?


Today's article is really about you, our dear Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, and what you think. Today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, a social movement that attempts to help humans understand our relationship to the Earth, all it does for us, and all the ways we affect the Earth.

Please leave comments below answering this question:

Does your love of Chocolate impact your view of Earth Day?  If so, how and why?

I look forward to reading your comments!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Texas Fried Pecan Praline' Truffles and Bark

Back on April 14th it was "National Pecan Day" but April has been busy with fun food holidays and features scheduled months ago, so I had to postpone this one until now.  These two creations are from My Chocolate Kit whose founder, Holli, we spoke with just this past Wednesday here in this post. They sent us their Texas fried pecan praline' truffles and bark to try out. As you can see the sample came wrapped very prettily.

Let's start with the bark itself. The label says that it is made with cocoa powder and cocoa butter as the chocolate ingredients but it also has organic coconut oil, vanilla, Celtic sea salt, agave syrup, sugar, chia, cinnamon, cayenne but may also include nuts, seeds, spices, and fruits... obviously pecan, right, since it is called Texas 'Fried Pecan Praline. On one side it is dark brown and the other white so sort of a dark and white chocolatey candy -- this two-sided coating is unique among the barks we've tried on The Chocolate Cult in the past. It is very sticky and a bit challenging to get out of the bag in the case of one piece. Putting the darker side on my tongue reveals a darker cocoa flavor then sweetness, pecans, and finally a creaminess. Putting the white side down gives the creamy sweetness an advantage. Not every bite is crunchy nor is every bite sticky, it really depends on if I'm hitting more candy coating and nuts or more of the sweetness holidng all the pieces together. I'm not getting any fruits or seeds really but that was a "may" part of the ingredient list. Since I like darker chocolate it is no surprise that I prefer to eat this bark dark side down.

The Texas 'Fried Pecan Praline also comes in a heart-shaped truffle form as well. This was wrapped in gold foil that again was very sticky in one part. This is exactly like the bark minus the white chocolatey coating so there is no creaminess in this at all just nice darker chocolate with the pecans. It is also less sticky and less sweet, I noticed less of the syrup that was in the bark probably because it is all covered in the darker candy. It was also crunchier because the pecan pieces were closer together and the coating was much thicker. Can you see the golden sheen to the heart? I thought that made it very pretty and it could be a good gift for a loved one.

My Chocolate Kit though does not focus on pre-made treats but that's what we were sent so that's what we could test. Both of these tasted great and would make excellent gifts. This small company's focus on supporting better cocoa farming practices as well as a focus on education helps earn it Sacrament status here on The Chocolate Cult.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meet Holli from My Chocolate Kit

Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, please help me welcome Holli Beckwith, the founder of My Chocolate Kit. We'll feature some of her creations on Saturday April 18th.  Thank you for agreeing to speak with us, Holli. (Holli's word will be in Italics as is our tradition for interviews on The Chocolate Cult)

Holli, how did you get into the chocolate business?

In 2008, my corporate job as Director of Spa Concepts and Planning was eliminated and I went on unemployment. I saw it coming so created my own business 'spaYOGA+' combining all my spa loves… yoga + tea, wine, chocolate, aromatherapy & energy recovery!  I had all the organic components for everything but the chocolate… I knew of 2 organic companies, one never responded and the other would not sign my non disclosure agreement, so I watched an 8 min. youtube video, picked up ingredients at whole foods and made my first batch.

I wanted a chocolate that everyone could eat which was a very tall order! My sister sat down to test it and were amazed at how delicious it was. I have only made one change to the original recipe which is a superfood called MILA (a proprietary micro-sliced blend of organic Chia from the equator zone) This superfood ramps up the health benefits and makes the chocolate melt like butter in your mouth. It's odorless, tasteless & doesn't change the texture. YUM!
 
Would you tell us a bit more about My Chocolate Kit? It seems to not just be products someone could buy like you sent us, but an activity really.

MY Chocolate Kit is sugar & dairy free, has no trans fats or chemicals, is vegan, kosher, organic, fair trade when I can get it, green & sustainable, gluten-free, non GMO, halal, totally guilt free, fun and tastes really good! I use Agave Nectar, vegan butter and coconut cream for all my recipes requiring sugar, butter or cream.

I created the kit to support Moms & Youngsters (MY). I have created women's development programs in Malaysia, India & Mexico where I have done some my spa projects, and now delighted to create the same in my homes here in Texas and New York. The kits are put together by single moms so they have a sustainable business of their own, can make their own hours, and I will pay cash for the kits they return to me they have put together.  They will then be incentivized to take a small loan to start their own business after a years commitment.  

It is in a kit form because the chocolate has a melting point of approx. 72 degrees Fahrenheit and can't be put into a box on a shelf to sell. It has to be kept soft-froze until about 15 min. before serving.

Each kit contains all the ingredients to make 1 pound of chocolate, my Corazon de chocolate Recipe book and a 'Hearts' chocolate mold. I also now have a kids kit, a starter & pro kit as well.

You don't only sell products online but you also host events. Would you tell our readers about these events?

I have now in the past year learned to 'Temper' chocolate so I can make chocolate for weddings, events, retail & private label. (The chocolate for MY Chocolate Kit does not have to be Tempered and is much easier to make). Horseshoe Bay, Tx is a Resort city and I live & work here for the winter & spring. 

During this time I work with the resort, local vineyards, art galleries and my own personal 'Health Happenings' workshops & classes to create chocolates for wine dinners, wine & chocolate pairings, tequila & chocolate pairing events & the resorts annual Balloon Festival. I also have chocolate in the resort's 'Market' and make wedding favors of my signature chocolate truffles - Texas Fried Pecan Praline. it's truly to die for!

Who tends to come to your events? Are these kid-focused or do adults enjoy them as well?

At the Stone House here, I have my commercial kitchen and office. I do events including 'The ART of Chocolate' where guests learn to taste chocolate and make chocolate. I also do Yoga + Chocolate which is a fun event each season. To date I have focused on adults. Now that I have the 'MY Chocolate Kids Kit', I want to create parties for kids, in their homes and here at the Stone House. This will also be presented by the single Moms, like a Tupperware party of days gone by!

The world is full of cheap chocolate that makes a lot of profit. Your website points out that your kits are "eco-friendly" and "sustainable", "free of chemicals and pesticides" as well as "sugar & dairy free, chemical & trans fat free, vegan, kosher and gluten free." Why is making sure your products meet these standards important to your company?

When I first created the chocolate, my Yoga students all said they were dieting, had health issues or couldn't eat chocolate. Some said they didn't even like chocolate. When I told them they could eat this chocolate, they were all super happy and looked forward to the classes. Even those who 'didn't like chocolate' found they loved real chocolate without all the stupid stuff.

It's now been 3 years that I have been making the chocolate, and a year that it's been online. One of my most important issues is that when children are looking at my chocolates and their parents are freaking out, I can say there is no sugar, dairy, gluten-free and their eyes smile. Not every mother cares, but I would say more do than don't. I love making the chocolate when my nieces and nephews come visit. They ALWAYS ask if we can make chocolate?! 

I haven't said this yet, but it's so stupid easy to make! When I have my classes, I put up my containers with the flavors I want, make up the batch of chocolate, pour it into the containers, let it set for 15 min. then put it in the freezer until I am ready to 'chunk' it up for the classes. So in under an hour I have prepped and made chocolate that's ready to go!

Where do you get the ingredients for your kits?

I now have U.S. vendors I get some of my ingredients, molds, equipment and packaging from to be sustainable and to keep my 'carbon footprint' on the down-low. I was blessed last year to visit Mexico and go on the 'Ruta de Cacao' (the cocoa route) and to find a plantation I can now get my beans, cacao powder, butter and mass from. I will also be doing a similar single moms initiative with the plantation to support those who work there.  I also work locally to find 'made in America' products. I only use Texas Pecans, American produced packaging (thats green & sustainable), grow many of my own spices and look for local farmers to get whatever else I need.

In terms of ounces of chocolate, how much chocolate will your basic kit make?

Each kit will create 16 ounces or 1 pound of chocolate. My Go Pro Kit will make 32 ounces or 2 pounds.This offers the opportunity to make enough for a party of 4 (or 8 kids) or you can make small amounts as you like

Do you think that the chocolate kits are a good educational tool?

Absolutely!  I hope to have an elementary school program to teach about healthier snacks and through this program teach them to make chocolate. I will pair the health benefits of the snacks like the flavorings of dried fruits, nuts, alternative sweeteners like pure maple syrup, agave & molasses with the benefits of raw chocolate. Then they can select the 'other' flavorings & spices being offered or go find in the marketplace together. 

Each kid will have their own 'sandwich size' tupperware container to create their snack and take it home with them after tasting. I will do this as my give away to help kids learn to select and create healthier snacks for themselves and their families. It will also be great working with the school lunch chefs to continue the idea after and to do something seasonally or for special holidays.

Of course, they will all have the website info for MY Chocolate Kit after.

I've run into people who don't know that cocoa beans are the starting point of chocolate. What do you think is the top misconception about making chocolate that people?

I agree totally. Our history starts with 'Hershey' Chocolate and we've never really known where it comes from. I present cocoa beans at every event I have and also include them in MY Chocolate Kids Kit just for this reason. I think the biggest misconception is where it actually comes from and how the beans become chocolate. That was my biggest reason to go to Mexico and see the whole process from growing the trees, picking the pods, fermenting & roasting the beans and then making the 'paste'. It was an amazing trip and the knowledge beyond my imaginings!

You mentioned to me that the day our feature goes live will also be your birthday. Happy early Birthday! How important is chocolate to celebrating your birthday personally?

This year I will be helping out at Sea Turtle, Inc. in South Padre Island, Texas for a few weeks & on my birthday! I hope to be sharing my 'Save the Turtles' chocolate with everyone and if they purchase a kit, giving the profits to Sea Turtle, Inc. I have had the joy to be a part of Turtle projects in Malaysia, Mexico and my home here in Horseshoe Bay, and I hope MY turtle chocolates will help raise awareness to save & rescue turtles. So much fun to share chocolate this way! YUM!!

Thank you, Holli, for speaking with us today.

Thank you TammyJo, this has been so much fun! And if you & all your readers are ever in the Austin area (right by Horseshoe Bay) or New York City, please let me know so I can share the joys of chocolate making with you.

Readers, if you have any questions or comments please do leave them below.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Chocion Experience

We have tested and featured several products from Chocion and we'll have several more such articles in the 2015. Today I want to share a video that they have recently put out and take a look at their History Page on their website. Let's start by looking at this lovely and dynamic video.


Das Schokoladen-Universum der Film from CHOCION - Finest Chocolate on Vimeo.

I like everything about this video. The music which is dreamy yet a bit dark in the beginning then picks up lighter instruments and pace as it goes along to a burst of energy before resuming a calmer yet sensual tone. The images that start with pieces of chocolate then go to smoke reminding me of how cacao pods are processed that turns into a flowing river of dark, milk, and white chocolate. The energy of the video picks up as we see chocolate forming into the chocolate spoons we tested and featured in November of 2014 -- those earned Sacrament Status, our highest ranking on The Chocolate Cult. The images are well settled into dynamic backgrounds that do not distract from the chocolate but give hints of the processing of chocolate products as well as the history of chocolate. Speaking of which...

As historian I'm not surprised that so many of us don't seem to care about the history around us, especially when it comes to things we think are common. One of the "common things" tends to be chocolate even though it really isn't an easy product to make from farm to factory. Chocion devotes a page to the history of chocolate on their website that I'd like to review for you. Please note that I'm reading their site translated into English so I'm not going to critique the quality of the writing, only the presentation and the information.

It is a bit tricky to find since I don't see it highlighted on the top menu on their main website; you have to go to the bottom of the page and look under "More Information."

The history page is laid out in a main body of text that you can scroll down but there is also a left side back that you can click to look at the 15 main sections that begins with "The Olmecs" and ends with "The History of CHOCION." Given that Chocion is a German company it is not surprising that they highlight Germany history and uniqueness but it also reflects the fact that Germany has played a role in the creation of what chocolate was in Europe and what it is today around the world. The history page also looks at other nations and peoples roles so I think it is balanced given the logical marketing needs to focus on what makes Chocion special.

The information presented is very straightforward and should be easy to understand by the average chocolate consumer. However it is also blandly laid out without any images at all and I think that might bore the visually obsessed Internet user. I would urge Chocion to include one image per main section on this page. Poke around their history page and let us know what you think.

Also go back and check out the video and let us know what you thought of it in a comment below.

--------------------
Note:

The Chocolate Cult was paid to write this post but given our history of testing and writing about Chocion chocolate we believe the information in this article should be of interest to our readers.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blue Bell Ice Cream Recalls

Just two big recalls to share with our USA readers all from Blue Blue Creameries which make ice cream and frozen treats. We've included a few photos but there are so many products in this expanded recall that we didn't include images for every item. This expands upon a previous Blue Bell Creameries recall we shared here.

Blue Bell Ice Cream Recalls Frozen Snack Items Because of Possible Health Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Updated March 23, 2015 — Brenham, TX - Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, Texas, is recalling 10 frozen snack items because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
Blue Bell continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in order to resolve this issue.

The FDA found Listeria bacteria in samples of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars and individually packaged SCOOPS. Seven other products made on the same production line were also recalled: individually packaged Sour Pop Green Apple Bar, Cotton Candy Bar, Almond Bar and Vanilla Stick Slices and 6 pk Cotton Candy Bars, 6 pk Sour Pop Green Apple Bars and 12 pk NSA Mooo Bars.

Regular Mooo Bars are not included.

The frozen snack items listed below were distributed in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming via select stores and food service accounts.

Chocolate Chip Country Cookie (5.25 FL OZ)



Great Divide Bar (2.75 FL OZ)



Sour Pop Green Apple Bar (2.5 FL OZ)

Cotton Candy Bar (2.5 FL OZ)

SCOOPS (4.0 FL OZ);

Vanilla Stick Slices (4.0 FL OZ)

Almond Bar (2.75 FL OZ)



6 pk Cotton Candy Bars (6 - 2.5 FL OZ)

6 pk Sour Pop Green Apple Bars (6 - 2.5 FL OZ)

12 pk NSA Mooo Bars (12 - 2.0 FL OZ)
UPC 71899-21169
UPC 71899-21178
UPC 71899-21208
UPC 71899-21207
UPC 71899-00701
No UPC – SKU #964
UPC 71899-21138
UPC 71899-62257
UPC 71899-62258
UPC 71899-62305


The FDA reported that there were three deaths to date associated with the recalled products.

“We are devastated and know that Blue Bell has to be and can be better than this,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president. “Quality and safety have always been our top priorities. We are deeply saddened and concerned for all those who have been affected.”

The recall began as a result of a routine sampling program by the South Carolina Department of Health which revealed the finished product contained the bacteria. These products were immediately removed from all markets in February as a precaution pending final test results. The results were later verified by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. Blue Bell ceased all production and distribution of these products.

This recall in no way includes Blue Bell half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three gallon ice cream or the majority of take-home frozen snack novelties. (see next recall information)

Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CST or click here.

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Blue Bell Creameries Expands Recall of Products Produced in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Due to Possible Health Risk

Consumer Contact: 979-836-7977

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 7, 2015 — Brenham, TX — Blue Bell Creameries is expanding its recall of products that were produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to include Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints which tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and additional products manufactured on the same line.

These items have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

The products being recalled are distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

No illnesses have been confirmed to date.

On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily suspended operations at its Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to thoroughly inspect the facility due to a 3oz. institutional/food service chocolate cup that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes and was immediately withdrawn from all outlets. That product was only available to Blue Bell’s food service and institutional accounts and was recalled along with 3oz. vanilla and strawberry institutional/food service cups.

On April 4, 2015, out of an abundance of caution, Blue Bell began working with retail outlets to remove all products produced in Broken Arrow, Okla., from their service area. These products are identified with a code date ending in O, P, Q, R, S or T located on the bottom of the carton and they are a part of the voluntary market withdrawal.

On April 7, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notified Blue Bell that the Banana Pudding Ice Cream pint tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. This pint was produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant on February 12, 2015. Subsequently Blue Bell is recalling all products made on that one particular production line, from February 12, 2015 – March 27, 2015. These products were produced on that same line and have a code date ending in either S or T.

Recalled products produced in Oklahoma are identified by the code date on the bottom of the carton.

Ice Cream Pints: UPC # 071899-05101 5 Code Date

Ice Cream Banana Pudding pint 021217S

Ice Cream Butter Crunch pint 021917S

Ice Cream Mint Chocolate Chip pint 022017S

Ice Cream Cookies 'n Cream pint 030317S, 030617S

Ice Cream Homemade Vanilla pint 030417S

Ice Cream Dutch Chocolate pint 032317S

Ice Cream Moo-llennium Crunch pint 032417S, 032517S

Sherbet Pint: UPC # 0 71899-19990 8

Rainbow Sherbet pint 021717S, 021817S, 022317S, 030217S

Sherbet Quarts: UPC # 0 71899-18992 3

Orange Sherbet quart 032617S

Mixed Berry Sherbet quart 032717S

3 ounce Tab Lid Cup: Product # 136 *Institutional / food service cup only

Rainbow Sherbet 022417S, 022617S, 022717S

Gold Rim Half Gallon: UPC # 0 71899-03720 0

Ice Cream Homemade Vanilla half gallon 030917T, 031017T, 031117T, 031217T, 031717T, 031717T, 031817T

Brown Rim Half Gallon: UPC # 0 71899-83548 6

Ice Cream Pistachio Almond half gallon 031317T

Light Half Gallon: UPC # 0 71899-73501 4

Ice Cream Homemade Vanilla Light half gallon 031917T

Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CST or go to bluebell.com.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Leftovers Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today we return to Pascha Chocolate, one of the best allergen free chocolate brands out there today with a test involving their 55% baking chips. Starting next week is "World Allergy Week" so to honor those with allergies, including your chocolate priestess and everyone in her household, we're doing create a recipe with this last bag of baking chips that we received to test from Pascha Chocolate - 55% Organic Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate Chips. In forthcoming months we will continue to test chocolate from Pascha Chocolate but in the bars that they sent us. I'm calling this "leftovers" to reflect the fact that I'm using more ingredients I was sent by other companies as well in this recipe. Now that I've figured out how to use these products and I have so much leftover, I thought this was a good way to use them up (or at least more of them) and try out these chips.

I won't claim that the following treat is completely allergy free -- just within my own family I can see how wide spread food allergies are so someone somewhere will be allergic to one of these ingredients, perhaps even chocolate itself. These chocolate chips are made from organic sugar, organic cocoa mass, organic cocoa butter, and organic vanilla -- nothing else!

Leftovers Chocolate Chip Cookies
by: TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:
1 bag of 55% Organic Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate Chips from Pascha Chocolate

1 stick light butter, salted, brought to room temperature

1/2 cup all natural, no sugar added, applesauce

6 T liquid egg substitute

1 T vanilla extract

1/2 cup boiling water with 1 T baking soda dissolved in it

70 g raw cacao powder

1/2 cup Xylitol sweetener

1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar blend, firmly packed

208 g rice flour

1 T baking powder


Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F because of the lower heating times for the sugars and the flour.

2. Measure out all of your ingredients and set up an electric mixer; I use a standing one myself.

3. Mix together all of the wet ingredients until well blended. I recommend cutting up the butter into 1/2 T pieces.


4. Add in the raw cacao powder and mix on medium speed stopping to scrape the bowl at least twice. It takes a while the cocoa powder to be fully blended into the wet ingredients.


5. Add in the rice flour and treat it as you did step 4. This will blend faster but be sure to scrape the bowl or mix thoroughly.

6. Add in the chips and mix them in until they are spread fairly evenly around the dough.


7. Place spoonfuls of the dough on greased cookie sheet about two inches apart.

8. Bake for 11 minutes depending on your oven.

9. Take out of oven and remove from cookie sheet to cool on a paper covered table or countertop for at least 5 minutes

10. Eat! The inside should be fluffy and the chips should be melty even after they cool down.

There you go, our final recipe with Pascha 55% Chocolate Chips. What did you think? My testers -- all six of us -- loved these chips. They kept their shape and yet even eight hours after baking had a melty quality to them as soon as you bit into one or let one set in your mouth. They were a perfect balance of dark and sweet, too. One tester loved them so much that she picked them out of the cookies to eat solo! These definitely earn our Sacrament status!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Win INSTACANDI!


Just this past weekend we posted a video review of INSTACANDI for you all to consider. Today that same company is offering one of you a chance to try it yourself or a free gift to send to a loved one using a free coupon.

You need to be living in the USA to win this offer and to fill out the information below on the Rafflecoptor form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


To leave the comment, go back and watch our video at the first link above.

The winner will be picked on Sunday, April 12, 2015, so enter soon.

Our winner has been picked and notified! Congratulations to Shaunie!

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