Friday, November 30, 2007
I actually hadn't had gingerbread before. Gingerbread cookies, sure, but not actual gingerbread. It was really good! However, if I make this again, I'll omit the pears. They were good and made for a nice presentation, but I didn't find the texture terribly appealing the next day. I think it would be better to make plain gingerbread, then if you want, cook up some pears, apples, or even bananas to spoon over it.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Most chocolate lovers wouldn't call this dark chocolate. It contains milkfat, and the first ingredient is sugar. But I think this works. It's a convenience candy, so it's meant to appeal to the general public. Really dark chocolate can be a bit of a shock to people who are used to milk chocolate. I think this bar is a good introduction to dark chocolate.
Dove chocolate is always very smooth, and this is no exception. It melts excellently. It's sweet, but still has the deeper chocolate flavor that I expect from dark chocolate. There's better chocolate out there, but not much at 50 cents a bar.
Name: Dove Rich Dark Chocolate
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Well, color me disappointed.
Each package contains three cups housed in a plastic tray. The cups are smaller than a Reese's Cup. They are sturdy, due to the very thick layer of dark chocolate that surrounds the peanut butter. I'd say the proportion here is 66% chocolate and 33% peanut butter... heck, there might be even less peanut butter!
That lack of peanut butter is the downfall of this candy. The chocolate completely dominates the peanut butter... so much so that I can't say much about the peanut butter. I didn't taste it that much. It's smooth and needs salt. That's all I can say!
The chocolate is fine. It's slightly sweet and not at all bitter. It's fruity but lacks a chocolate punch. The thickness gives it a nice snap, but that's not what I'm looking for here.
With 60 calories to each cup, they're good if you're watching what you eat and can exercise portion control. Dark chocolate and peanut butter are the healthier candy ingredients, after all. Also, it's all organic, which is a plus.
If you are looking for a dark chocolate peanut butter cup, this may be it. If you are looking for a peanut butter cup with lots of chocolate and little peanut butter, this is probably it. But it's not what I was looking for or expecting. I'll wait for the limited edition dark chocolate Reese's that are supposed to be coming, thanks.
These get a 5, which is what I give products that aren't bad, but I don't care for. Sorry Newman. I'm still interested in your Peppermint Cups and Ginger Os!
Name: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Brand: Newman's Own
Monday, November 26, 2007
I did a little research and found that this is part of Hershey's "Goodness" product line. Here's the deal: It's healthy chocolate! Healthy milk chocolate! The wrapper boasts 40% less sugar than the leading milk chocolate bar (which I assume is the Hershey bar). It also has 7g of fiber, 4g of protein, and 25% of the DRV of calcium per serving. Those stats aren't bad. Each serving still has 215 calories however, so it's not exactly diet food. The extra fiber comes from added inulin fiber, and the extra calcium comes from calcium carbonate.
Don't get too excited just yet though. I, at least, have a big problem with this bar. It contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener, aka Splenda. I do NOT like artificial sweeteners in my food, especially in my candy. I want sugar in my candy! Natural sugar! Artificial sweeteners have a terrible aftertaste. But more importantly, they irritate my stomach. I can't even have sugar-gum anymore.
This bar also contains PGPR, which, according to Wikipedia, is an emulsifier made from the castor oil plant. Ew. It's a cheap substitute for the cocoa butter in chocolate. A lot of mainstream bars contain this now, but this bar retails for $2 and is supposed to be “Whole Bean!” It shouldn't contain PGPR.
So I almost chucked this out, but I was curious and decided to have a piece.
Well, it smells like a Hershey bar. It even tastes a bit like a Hershey bar, just milder. It starts with that classic Hershey's tang, then morphs into something that reminds me of chocolate milk mix. It's not bad. It's smooth and melts well. I didn't notice any aftertaste, but I only had 2-3 bites. It's what the wrapper claims: "sweet, smooth milk chocolate.”
So I'm not going to rate this. I can't rate it fairly. The ingredients totally turn me off. The taste is fine, and it could be nice for people trying to decrease their sugar intake.
But if I want less sugar and more fiber/protein, I'm not going to look for a candy bar. I'll go with a nice granola bar like Kashi, which doesn't contain unnatural sweeteners!
Name: Whole Bean Chocolate
Store: Big Lots
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thanksgiving was a blast, and I hope yours was too. There was turkey, ham, gumbo, mac and cheese, green beans with caramelized onions and mushrooms, and baked sweet potatoes (just plain, none of that marshmallow/syrup for me). Then there was cornbread, gingerbread, and turtle cake! So good.
When I was very young I refused to eat turtle cake because I thought it had something to do with real turtles. But no, it's just chocolate, caramel, and nuts. We make it every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a favorite and there usually isn't much left over.
I use a guideline, not a recipe, for turtle cake. It's very simple and there is plenty of room to play around. As a result, the instructions aren't very specific. But here's what I did this time:
1 box German chocolate cake mix (and the ingredients required by the box)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag caramels
1/3 c. evaporated milk
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to the temperature specified by the cake mix. Prepare the cake batter as per the instructions on the box. Pour half of the batter into a 9x13 in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (or nearly clean, don't overbake).
Meanwhile, melt the caramels, butter, and evaporated milk in a NONSTICK pot. Remove from heat when the caramels lose their shape.
Spread the caramel, chocolate chips, and pecans evenly over the baked layer of cake. Top with the remaining cake batter. Sprinkle pecans on top. Bake until the top layer looks set.
A few notes: (1) Using a nonstick pan and a silicone spatula to make the caramel sauce greatly reduces mess. (2) It doesn't matter which order you layer caramel, chocolate, and pecans; I do it differently every time. (3) There are no specific baking times because it depends too much on the oven and the amount of batter used for each layer. (4) I used too much batter for the first layer, which is why the candy layer is so high. But turtle cake is forgiving!
Some (obvious) variations: (1) You can use a jarred caramel sauce to make things easier. I just like to make my own. (2) You can switch up the type of chips and nuts. (3) You can use a different flavor of cake mix, or make your own cake batter. I've also made this using a brownie batter. I thought it was great, but my mom thought it was too chocolatety.
Too chocolatety? How can there be such a thing?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Here's a new addition to the blog: NOLA Special. NOLA stands for New Orleans, Louisiana. I've lived in the suburbs (well, the bayous..) of the city my entire life. And if/when I move away, the thing I'll miss most is the food. So here I'll be featuring regional goodies, probably about once a month.
Today's feature is Hubig's Pies. Specifically, their fried sweet potato hand-pie. I'm sure most of you know this, but sweet potato pie is very similar to pumpkin pie. Same spices, same color, different vegetable. Sweet potato pie is more Southern, I think.
I call these hand-pies, but most people call them fried pies. They are fried turnovers. Each pie is big enough for one or two servings, depending on how hungry you are. They come in flavors like apple, lemon, chocolate, pineapple, coconut, peach, and of course, sweet potato. Apple is the most popular flavor. I know this because every time I go to buy one, half of the display is devoted to apple! Also, I'm pretty sure that sweet potato is a seasonal flavor for the fall.
I wasn't a pie fan when I was younger. The only time we had it was for Thanksgiving, but I always went straight for the Turtle Cake. I eat pie now, but I'm still more of a cake/cookie/candy girl, so Hubig's Pies often fall off my radar. But it's pie season, and I've been craving pumpkin pie. I thought Hubig's might make one, so I went on the hunt. My quest ended with the acquisition of this sweet potato pie.
The package told me to “microwave 25 seconds for a delicious treat.” Who am I to argue? I popped half the pie (I saved the other half for my mom.) into the microwave and nuked it for a few seconds. When I opened the microwave the kitchen was filled with the aroma of pumpkin pie spice. Nice.
The crust is like a pie crust and donut hybrid. This makes sense of course, since it's a pie that's fried like a donut. It's soft, flaky, and covered in glaze. Yummy! The filling is runnier than regular pie filling; this is partly due to my heating it. However, it's not so runny that it is messy. You could easily eat this with one hand. Anyways, the filling has a great blend of spices and really satisfied my craving for pumpkin pie.
Hubig's Sweet Potato Pie, I have a confession to make: I love you. Really, I do. Who else offers me a single serving (or two) of delicious pie for 89 cents?
Monday, November 19, 2007
I put marshmallow in quotes because this bar doesn’t contain any actual marshmallow. Instead, it’s covered with what seems to be white chocolate. I suppose this is because marshmallows would go stale if you just slapped them on top of a bar. While the white confection adds marshmallow-like sweetness, the texture is totally lost.
In fact, I think the whole concept of Rocky Road is lost. Rocky Road is just chocolate, marshmallow, and nuts, isn't it? Without real marshmallow, can we really call this Rocky Road? The walnuts occasionally come in with a nice nutty flavor, but it's not enough.
The slab of chocolate itself is nice. It's rich and milky. But it overwhelms the other flavors, which are supposed to be the highlight of the bar.
I liked this bar just fine, but it didn't live up to it's name. Still, I'm interested in the other Fully Loaded bars, including the Dark Chocolate Turtle that's sitting in my candy chest!
Name: Fully Loaded Rocky Road
Brand: Hebert's Confections
Friday, November 16, 2007
Then Martha Stewart came to my rescue! I saw her recipe for Classic Sugar Cookies posted by yumsugar and wrote it down immediately. I knew it would be great! It’s just taken me a while to try it.
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon zest (I used one small lemon.)
1 c. butter, softened
1 tbsp. of lemon juice (I used half of a small lemon.)
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest. Add the butter to the sugar mixture and cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in lemon juice.
Drop rounded balls of dough onto a cookie sheet. Use a spatula to slightly flatten the dough, then sprinkle each round with sugar. Bake until golden brown (anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depended on the size of your cookies). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least two minutes, then move to cooling racks to cool completely.
My first batch stuck to the pan slightly (that's why some of the pictured cookies are cracked). I solved this problem by separating the cookies from the pan as soon as they were removed from the oven. Don’t try to remove them from the pan, because they are still too soft. Just slide the spatula underneath to separate the cookie from the pan. If you have silicone baking sheets or are using parchment paper, you probably won't have this problem.
These became crispy after they cooled, but if you stick them in the microwave for a few seconds they become soft and chewy again. You can have the best of both worlds! I thought these cookies were great, especially with a cup of tea.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
“Would you like to buy some candy?”
Because I'm a sucker for candy and cute little kids, I bought a box. The kids at my local elementary school have been selling World's Finest Chocolate since I went there -- probably even longer. According to their website, the company has been doing fund-raisers since 1949.
I've always thought that you could only get World's Finest products through fund-raisers, but I've recently seen the brand in retail locations. The website says they began their retail line in 2003 though, so I'm a little behind.
Continental Almonds are milk chocolate covered almonds. The almonds are fresh and crunchy. They are consistent in size, and I would say they are fairly large, but I don't know how big almonds get! They are covered in a thick layer of milk chocolate. The chocolate is milky and has a good melt. I like to let the chocolate melt and then crunch down on the almond. Yum!
I really like these and buy them every year. I wouldn't call it the world's finest chocolate, but it is pretty darn good. It was a treat when I was a kid though, so I may be biased.
Name: Continental Almonds
Brand: World's Finest Chocolate
Store: Cute Fund-raising Kindergartener
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
There are three varieties of cookies in the box. Choca Doodle Doos are Chocolate Chip Oatmeal, Hunka Chunka Chocolate are Double Chocolate Chip, and Doohickeys are Oatmeal Raisin. I had four bags of Choca Doodle Doos and three bags of the the other two, for a total of 10 one ounce packages. There were 5-6 mini cookies in each bag.
All three varieties had the same, rather odd texture. Usually cookies are either moist and dense or dry and crumbly, but I found that these were dry and dense. I suppose it's just the texture of the oatmeal. I don't have oatmeal cookies often, so I'm not used to it. But don't let the description of dry turn you off; they don't have a bad mouth-feel. They aren't moist, but they are nice, thick, and chewy.
Choca Doodle Doos
These are the chocolate chip oatmeal. The actual cookie has a good flavor. The oatmeal has a nice nutty taste. I'm really not tasting the chocolate though. There aren't enough chocolate chips to compete with the cookie. I'd normally give these a 5 for lack of chocolate, but the wholesome advantage bumps it up to a 6.
Hunka Chunka Chocolate
These are the double chocolate chip, and trust me, they aren't skimping on flavor here! They have a strong chocolate taste, almost like a brownie. The thick texture also reminds me of a brownie. I usually find packaged chocolate cookies disappointing, but these served my chocolate craving. I'd have them again.
These are the oatmeal raisin. Again, they aren't skimping on flavor. They smell and taste strongly of spices, but not overwhelmingly so. There are also some salty notes, which I like with my oatmeal. There aren't a whole lot of raisins here though. I think the problem with all the varieties is that the cookies are two small to hold an adequate amount of chips/raisins. But I don't think raisins add much to cookies, so I still really enjoyed these. They were my favorite of the lot.
I would buy these again. The cookies are tasty and I like the healthy ingredients angle. I'm also really interested in some of the companies other cookies, which include flavors like Pumpkin Ginger and Key Lime. Yum! I hope I see those in the store soon.
If you have children, I'd suggest giving these a try. The bright packaging and fun names may help them forget that these are oatmeal cookies. And if not, more for you!
Name: Cookies For Kids Multi-Pack
Brand: Immaculate Baking Co.
Price: $4.99 for a package of 10
Monday, November 12, 2007
Choxie is Target's brand of premium chocolate. I think the catchphrase when the brand arrived a couple years ago was 'Chocolate with moxie.” ...yeah. I've tried a couple things from Choxie before, and I think it's good but overpriced. It has attractive packaging and interesting flavor combinations going for it.
I've never had chocolate covered espresso beans before, so I have nothing to compare these to. They are packaged in a round tin. The thick layer of chocolate and crunchy bean make for a nice texture. The coffee flavor is intense. These are best eating by just popping them into your mouth and munching down. If you don't get the coffee and chocolate at the same time, the bean is rather bitter.
If you don't love coffee, you probably won't like these. I couldn't eat several in a row. The tin lasted about a week; I kept it in my bag for that quick chocolate/coffee fix. I don't think I'd buy these again, but I wouldn't turn them down.
Name: Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans
Friday, November 9, 2007
I've been making these cookies for a long time. They are my brother's favorite. The recipe comes from the back of the Reese's Peanut Butter Chip bag, but I'm sure that it can also be found at Hershey's Kitchens. It's always worked for me, so I've never bothered to tweak it, but I may try in the future.
2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.
I do recommend that you time these. I usually don't pay attention to baking times; I just use my own judgment. But it can be difficult to tell when these are done because of their dark color.
I tossed some chocolate chips in mine because we had an open bag, but I don't think they added much.
These are 'safe' cookies. Everyone likes peanut butter and chocolate. My dad and brother are picky eaters (My mom and I will eat anything.) but they both love these.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Goo Goo Cluster comes in the original, Supreme, and Peanut Butter version. I've tried the original and Supreme before, but this is my first Peanut Butter. I picked it up at a discount store even though it was due to expire in a month. I kind of regret that now, because it would probably get a better review if it were fresh. But I've got to take what I can get.
A Goo Goo Cluster is peanuts, marshmallow, and caramel covered in milk chocolate. The Goo Goo Peanut Butter is just peanut butter and peanuts covered with milk chocolate. It's not very attractive -- it's just a plop of ingredients -- but it has it's charm.
The peanuts obviously weren't fresh. They weren't crunchy, but they were awfully salty. The whole thing was too salty for me. The chocolate didn't add enough sweetness on it's own. I think they should have added (or rather, kept) either the caramel or marshmallow from the original Goo Goo. This would have added more sweetness and kept it more true to the original. It's just too much peanut butter.
While this bar has definite problems, I know it would have been better had it been fresh. I'll consider giving it a second chance if I find a fresh one.
Name: Goo Goo Peanut Butter
Brand: Standard Candy Company
Store: Big Lots
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Larabars are raw fruit and nut bars. They are unprocessed, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and have no sugar added. Now, tell me that's not healthy! There are several flavors, including (but not limited to) Pecan Pie, Ginger Snap, Cashew Cookie, and Key Lime Pie. Today I bring the Apple Pie flavor to you.
The best thing is that each flavor has 6 ingredients or less. The Apple Pie bar contains dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. I love it when I can recognize all of the ingredients in a product!
The bars average around 200 calories each. The Apple Pie contains 180 calories. It has 10 grams of fat, which seems like a lot, but keep in mind that 9 of those grams are healthy unsaturated fat from the nuts. The bar also packs 4 grams each of fiber and protein. It also counts as one serving of fruit on the food pyramid. Nice.
But I don't eat Larabars just because they are healthy. No, I eat Larabars because they taste good.
I'm not going to pretend that Larabars are attractive. In fact, they look rather unappetizing. The dates hold the other fruit and nuts together in the form of a brick. The nuts are pretty finely chopped, but you do get a chunk of almond occasionally.
I'm not an apple pie expert; I've only had it on a couple occasions. But I think the taste is pretty darn authentic. While there are no crust notes, the bar tastes like apple pie filling/baked cinnamon apples. There's no other way I can describe it. It's good.
The bars are moist and very filling. I'm not recommending them as a meal replacement, but they do keep me full for more than a couple of hours, which is great when I have five classes in a row. This makes the expense worth it for me: a box if 16 costs about $20. When you consider the average cost of health/energy bars, this really isn't that bad.
With so many bad-tasting, not-all-that-healthy health food bars out there, it's nice to see a product that uses the simplest ingredients to give us something tasty and healthy.
Name: Apple Pie Larabar
Store: Amazon.com / Drugstore.com
Price: About $20 for 16 bars
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I'd never had a spicy chocolate bar before, so this was a first. It's described as "extra fine dark chocolate with chilli." It's 55% cocoa solids, which I think of as classic dark chocolate. It certainly smells of chili, and when you snap it in half you can see the little reddish bits.
Like the other Frey bars, this is on the thin side. It is a 100g tablet with 2.5 servings per bar and 210 calories per serving.
Lets first talk about my expectations for this bar. I didn't expect any heat or burn. I expected that the chili would lend more complexity to the chocolate. What I got was the total opposite. The initial taste was your standard, slightly sweet dark chocolate. A few seconds later, the heat started. It wasn't really spicy, just hot; the kind that leaves a burn in your throat.
Now, I'm used to spicy/hot foods, so this was a fun surprise for me, but if you don't like heat, stay away! I only ate two of the ten pieces, and I'll probably share the rest. It's a fun novelty, and I'm glad I tried it, but it's not something that I really like. The chili just didn't add enough to the chocolate; it was more like a special effect.
However, these could be good for practical jokes..
Name: Hot Chilli Pepper
Monday, November 5, 2007
These candies are dark and shiny. The shape is irregular; they aren't perfect spheres, but they are still pretty. The box is pretty cute too, and contains about four servings of candy.
Now, let me say that I LOVE malted milk balls. My top 3 candy choices are always changing, but malted milk balls are a constant. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be that popular with others. It's rare to see a single serving bag of Whoppers down even the most well-stocked candy aisle. So I get excited when I see a malt product, and I'm not overly picky with them.
That being said, I was incredibly disappointed my these. I didn't even finish the box, and that's saying a lot.
My problem was with the chocolate. It had a fruity quality which came off as medicinal to me, like cherry cough syrup. The flavor completely overwhelmed the malt in the center; I could hardly taste it. Even worse, and rather odd, was the that the chocolate didn't melt well. I had to bite or scrape off the chocolate with my teeth. It is real chocolate, not 'mockolate,' so I'm not sure what the problem there was.
I can say that these were fresh. I never encountered one of those hard-sticky centers that can occur. Each was nice and crunchy. I can only tell you this because I spent time dissecting the candies (yes, I'm still playing with my food). I only ate a couple; the rest ended up in the trash because I really disliked the chocolate, and no one else in the house wanted them either.
I wonder if dark chocolate is too overwhelming for malted milk balls, or if it's just this brand? Or just me?
Name: Dark Chocolate Maltballs
Brand: Harry and David
Friday, November 2, 2007
Today's recipe is for peanut butter fudge, one of my absolute favorite treats. Here is the good news: it's ridiculously easy. The bad news? You may be tempted to eat it all in one weekend if you are a peanut butter lover like me.
This fudge is made in the microwave. Now, I'm usually very suspicious of microwave fudge; I've never met a good chocolate fudge from the microwave. But this peanut butter fudge is just as good as any! So, the recipe:
1 c. butter
1 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar
1. Line a pan with wax paper. If you want your fudge to be thin, use a 9x13in pan. For thicker fudge use a 9x9in pan. Or whatever size you have; it really doesn't matter.
2. Microwave butter and peanut butter for two minutes.
3. Stir, then microwave for two more minutes.
4. Remove from microwave, then add vanilla and powdered sugar.
5. Stir the mixture until it becomes dull.
6. Spread into the pan.
7. Cover the surface of the fudge with another piece of wax paper and refrigerate until firm.
I told you it was easy! The hardest part is lining the pan with wax paper. I love giving this as a gift around holiday time. Candy will stay fresher longer than cookies and other baked goods, so it will last them longer!
I've never tried this, but you may be able to mix goodies into the fudge. Next time, I might try it with M&Ms minis. I'll let you know the results.
Until then, enjoy the peanut butter goodness!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
We've got plenty of candy left over. Our loot included Kit-Kat, Take5, Heath, Reese's Pieces, Rolos, Milk Duds, Nestle Crunch, Babe Ruth, and Butterfinger. Not the most kid-friendly hand-outs, but it's all stuff that my family likes! I wish I could have passed out home-made goodies, but most parents would think I'm trying to poison their kids. It's so sad!
I know I'm cheating a bit with this post. There's no review, just a reminder to head to the store and pick up the discounted Halloween candy!