Monday, September 26, 2016

Brach's and Blue Bell Recalls

Well, drat! After two weeks without more chocolate related recalls we have two new ones -- one for Brach's, a brand I grew up with, and one for Blue Bell which was plagued by recalls just last summer.

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Ferrara Candy Company has initiated a voluntary recall of Brach’s® 5 ounce Almond Supremes with a best by date of 4/22/2017 after discovering that some Brach’s® Almond Supremes packages may include Brach’s® Bridge Mix, a product that contains peanuts and wheat. No other Ferrara Candy Company products are affected.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. If you are a consumer and have purchased one of the affected products, please return the unopened product to your retailer for a full refund or replacement. If your package has been opened, you may still return the empty package to your local retailer for a full refund or replacement.

The affected product was distributed throughout retail stores in Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Recalled items include:

Item Description Item UPC Code Date:
39733 Brach’s® Almond Supremes, 5oz 11300 397336G23CC33102

After discovering the issue, Ferrara Candy immediately investigated and determined that the packaging error was caused by an incorrect roll of packaging film being accidentally loaded in one of its manufacturing facilities. Ferrara Candy has moved quickly to locate the potentially affected product and has currently retrieved over half of it. To date, only six bags of Brach’s® Almond Supremes have been found to include Brach’s® Bridge Mix, and to date no illnesses have been reported in connection with this issue.

Consumers looking for additional information on the recall are encouraged to speak with one of Ferrara Candy Company’s representatives regarding this issue by calling the Company during normal business hours, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT, at 800-323-1768.

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Blue Bell Ice Cream is voluntarily recalling select products produced in its Sylacauga, Alabama, plant because they were made with a chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient supplied by a third party supplier Aspen Hills, Inc., due to the potential for it to contain Listeria monocytogenes.

Listeria monocytogenes 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.

This recall covers the following products.

Blue Bell Ice Cream Half Gallons: Code Dates

Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 082618226

Blue Bell Cookie Two Step 080418222, 081818224

Blue Bell Ice Cream Pints: Code Dates

Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 081518242, 082418242

The products can be identified by the code date found on the bottom of the carton. The products produced with the chocolate chip cookie dough pieces were distributed in the following ten states Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

No illnesses have been reported to date. Blue Bell identified a potential problem through intensified internal testing and notified Aspen Hills. Aspen Hills then issued a voluntary recall of the products supplied to Blue Bell. Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution. This recall is being conducted in cooperation with the FDA.

Consumers should not eat the recalled products and are encouraged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

We continue to work closely with our regulatory agencies, and we remain committed to ensuring we are producing safe products for our consumers to enjoy. For more information, consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. CST.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Darker Brownie Brittle Snack

You might recall our Brownie Brittle party. No? You can check it out here. But since that party, Sheila G. has introduced new varieties and lines of those delicious brownie in cracker form. Earlier this week, we introduced you to Sheila G. herself and today is the first of four feature articles looking at these new flavors and the new organic line of Brownie Brittle. Now we're going to look at just one of the four samples of her product that her company sent us. We'll cover the three organic varieties in later posts but let's begin with something I hope will become a favorite of mine: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt. The Sheila G's Brownie Brittle company sent us samples of their four newer flavors in exchange for us testing them out and writing honestly about our experience with the product them here on The Chocolate Cult; no other form of compensation was received.

Let's start by looking at the product itself. This was a perfect addition to my hubby's birthday party since the bags are a deep purple color (purple is his favorite color, too). While his theme was video party and most of the snacks were junkie, putting this out allowed me to offer some folks a more sophisticated snack choice. There are 5 servings in a 5 ounce bag, each with 120 calories that is made up mostly of carbs in the form of sugar; 14 grams of sugar to be precise. For a sea salt product these have surprisingly little sodium, just 100 mg a serving. By the way it is a lie that sea salt products are innately healthier for you, it depends entirely on how much you use of it just like with any ingredient! In terms of ingredients from the cacao tree, the brittle is made with cocoa processed with alkali and the chips in them are made with unsweetened chocolate and cocoa butter. There are many other ingredients as well in this product including potential allergens like wheat, eggs, soy, and milk. One extra thing I really like about this company is that they are a "Proud supporter of cookies for kids' cancer" and that is a charity we've supported for the past five years on The Chocolate Cult through their The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap in December.

We tried the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownie Brittle two ways -- plain and with a sweet dip. These are a good size, if you can find an unbroken piece (not much luck for us in these bags). You could make small frosting sandwiches as I did when I was a child or even mini s'mores. The chocolate chips are visible in each piece but I don't see sea salt crystals which I think is a very good thing since that can be overdone and then saltiness becomes the main flavor. These are very crunchy with each bite and chew. The first flavor is sweetness that becomes tinged with cocoa until you hit a chip then there is a burst of darker chocolate before it all fades into a good balance of chocolate, sweetness, and flour with just a slight hint of salt. This lower salt flavor is great when you eat them alone but I was expecting it to be much stronger so with the sweet dip it was a bit too sweet. To learn about that dip and our previous experience with Brownie Brittle, check out this post, don't worry it will open in a new tab so you can come back here and keep reading.

I really love these treats but I'm looking forward to the organic varieties will tackle next and I bet a lot of you are as well. Is the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownie Brittle Sacrament worthy? Almost, I'm hoping the organics ones will definitely meet our high standards. Brownie Brittle is getting out into stores but you can also buy it online. I have not seen all of their varieties in our local stores in Indiana. Have you? Leave a comment and let me know not only where you've seen Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownie Brittle but if you have tried it yourself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sheila G Brings the Edge to Brownie Snacking

Sheila G. Mains
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, please join me in welcoming Sheila G. Mains, the founder of Brownie Brittle, to our blog. We've covered her wonderful products some time ago with a party we hosted to introduce you all to the brand. Now we're going to be featuring new variations of this delicious snack. Now let's learn more about the woman behind the brand. Thank you, Sheila, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Let's start with a basic but important question. How did you get into baking? Did you start as a child or was this an adult pursuit?

My love of baking was handed down by my mother and grandmother who were phenomenal bakers.  My fondest childhood memories took place in the kitchen of our Upstate NY home, watching those two amazing women work their magic as I took in all the wonderful aromas.

Why did you decide to turn a love of and skills in baking into a career?

I had spent over twenty years in the corporate world, until one Friday in November, 1992 when I was told that was going to be my last day.  I knew the company was in trouble financially, but I had always thought that as Exec VP, I would be going down with the ship.  I was devastated.  I had worked hard, putting in more hours than I should have and I knew I could never do that again for someone else.  As I sat in the unemployment line the following Monday I began to think and plan.  My first thought was, no matter what - I’m going to do what I love. And that was baking.  I had this amazing brownie recipe handed down from my mother and grandmother that everyone loved and I decided that I would give it three months to see just how good that recipe really was.  That was 24 years ago.

A lot of chocolate entrepreneurs try to do everything and often with limited success. You focused on brownies and then on the Brownie Brittle. Why did you decide to make the core of your business brownies and brownie brittle versus a wide and varied range of products?

I focused just on Brownies because it was a product that I was so passionate about.  And the more I worked on it, the more I thought about flavor variations like cookie dough brownies, and macaroon brownies - the ideas would just flow.  And with that I began to think of other product launches where I could use brownie batter, or even blondie batter.  That’s what my new cookbook, “Butter & Chocolate" is all about.  Before long people were calling me “The Brownie Lady” or “The Brownie Queen” - and it just stuck.   I loved the idea of being really good at just one thing!

Would you tell us a bit about your brownie business before the transition to Brownie Brittle? Do you still sell brownies to restaurants and theme parks? (if so, which ones?)

My brownie business started out as tins and platters for gifting.  It was a great idea, but the holidays were a crazy time.  There weren’t enough days in December, and then phones didn’t ring in January.  So I started taking brownie samples to local restaurants and cafes and the orders began to flow.  My big break came when I had a call from Disney inviting me to come up to Orlando and do a presentation in front of 12 Executive Chefs.  That was the turning point in my little brownie business!  Becoming the primary brownie vendor for Walt Disney World not only provided a steady source of income, it also gave the brand credibility.  It wasn’t long before our brownies became the base for a brownie sundaes for several restaurants and restaurant chains.  All was going well until the 2008 housing crisis.  People weren’t saving their money to go to Disney, they were trying to save their homes.  Dining out was not an option and when it was, no one was ordering a $5 brownie sundae.  I had to find something that would sell in grocery and I also knew that brownies, being a “me too” item was not the answer.  Too many times I had heard  “we already have a brownie.”  And that’s when Brownie Brittle was born!  No one could say we already have a Brownie Brittle.  As for the brownies, we recently discontinued our brownie production so we could focus entirely on Brownie Brittle - but we’re proud of the fact that we had a wonderful, 22 year relationship with Walt Disney World.

How long as Brownie Brittle been around?

Brownie Brittle hit stores shelves in April, 2011.

There are many ways to operate a business and when we think chocolate we often think of the small shop owner. You've turned Brownie Brittle into a product that those of us in the eastern of the USA can find in stores such as Kroger, Sam's Club, Target, and several others. What was the biggest challenge you overcame to get your products into all of these chains?

The retail buyers had to say “yes” of course - and in almost every case they loved the product, and I think they were also excited about having something on their shelves that was totally new and different.  So that part was easy.  The challenge was - and still is - about building brand awareness.  I used to say “the good news is, we’ve created a product that no one has ever heard of before - and the bad news is, we’ve created a product that no one has ever heard of before.”  When people tried it, they liked it and they bought it.  AND, they love to share it with friends.  So, getting those bags ON the shelf was one thing, getting them to move OFF the shelf is another.  We've had to do a lot of sampling, but we’ve learned that its the best investment we can make for our brand. 

Brownie Brittle has expanded into an Organic line as well as some new flavors such as dark chocolate sea salt and peanut butter chip. Do you have plans for further flavor expansion or new product forms?

Yes - stay tuned!  We are passionate about keeping this brand fresh and exciting and have some very interesting new products in the pipeline.


This might seem like an odd question, but have you gotten tired of brownies personally? Do you still enjoy brownies and those crusty edges as much as you did before you went into business?

There was a time when I was not only the CEO, the CFO, and the CMO - but also head of operations.  And that meant being on the floor everyday overseeing production, and that’s when a little bit of my passion for baking and brownies began to fade.  I was living on brownie scraps and I think I may have overdosed!  Now Doug Scott , our VP of Operations and Ken Willis our QA specialist have taken over that roll and I’m back to loving the R&D side of the business.  I love to open a bag of Brownie Brittle, savor the aroma and dig in!  An each time we launch a new flavor, I’m become addicted all over again.

Do you like other chocolate products beside brownies? If so, what are some of your favorites?

I’m loving this new chocolate bark that we just launched called Thindulgent.  It’s made with a high quality, melt in your mouth chocolate to which we’ve added some amazing toppings like salted caramel cashew, 

You have a book coming out as well which perhaps we'll get to read and write about in the future here on The Chocolate Cult, but for now, tell us a bit about the book and how you found the experience of writing compares to baking.

The cookbook is titled Butter & Chocolate.  There are some recipes using Brownie Brittle, but most of the recipes are variations based upon two of my favorite brownie recipes and one buttery rich blondie recipe.  For instance, you’ll be able to use the same brownie batter to make brownie truffles, brownie bites, or even brownie waffles.  The idea is to learn one basic recipe and get creative!  It was quite a project -  and a true labor of love.  I also learned that baking for a living is one thing, but putting it all down in a cookbook is something else entirely.  Having to carefully explain each step, with details on bake times and test for doneness was so outside my world of baking with just my gut instincts.

Of all of the varieties of Brownie Brittle now available, do you have a favorite? How do you enjoy eating them most? Alone or as part of a recipe?

The newest flavor is always my favorite, and that would be Dark Chocolate Sea Salt!  I love to get creative using brownie brittle in recipes, but for me, there is nothing like opening a bag and savoring each and every bite on its own.

Thank you, Sheila G., for talking with us today.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lake Champlain Chocolates Go Organic

September 22nd is Organic Food Day so let's look at an organic variety from one of the bigger names in chocolate in the USA, Lake Champlain. These three organic bars from Lake Champlain are more than plain chocolate, they have added ingredients that we'll look at in depth for each variety. Each bar is 2-3 servings so you can easily share these if you want to, you might not want to. I got these three bars free from Lake Champlain Chocolates through a Foodieblogroll program; I was not otherwise compensated for this review.

The organic bars vary in terms of amount of cocoa content and the added flavor ingredients but all three are certified organic by QAL, Fair for Life Fair Trade certified by IMO, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic certified. We'll look at each of these bars one at time and I'll highlight what is the most different for each one. Note that when I say X% cocoa I am not mistyping, this is what the labels all say themselves. The nutritional details vary quite a bit but I'm going to focus on calories and serving sizes which I found very interesting. Read the labels yourself before buying if you have concerns about specific nutritional information.

We'll start with the salted caramel bar that is 60% fair trade ingredients and has 57% cocoa content. This is the largest bar at 3.25 oz but don't be fooled by the nutritional information on the back. This bar is three servings at 160 calories each so the entire bar is 480 calories. The biggest challenge to this nutritional information is the fact that the bar is etched and designed as 8 individual squares... 8 doesn't divide easily by 3, folks! This has a roasted cocoa scent to it but not a caramel tang nor sweetness and no salt fragrance. the individual squares required a bit of effort to break apart. Two of the squares were a bit sticky on the top so I plan to test those two and expect some caramel inside the dome shaped square. Yes, I was right, there is a pool of soft, slightly sweet caramel right under the dome which cracks open easily when I take a bite while the bottom makes a loud snap because it is much thicker. The caramel and a light hint of salt gives the chocolate a very smooth quality but then I don't think of 57% as all that dark though milk chocolate lovers might worry about that. Don't worry, unless you only love white chocolate, you may like this.

The spicy aztec bar also has 57% cocoa and 93% of the ingredients are fair trade. This is a 3 oz bar and the nutritional label says it has 230 calories per serving with 2 servings per bar for a total of 460 calories, that's 20 calories less than the first bar in the feature. The most surprising aspect of this bar is not the spices but the presence of pumpkin seeds... of all of the discussions of Aztec chocolate, I've not heard that they added seeds to it. Pumpkin was very popular for Aztec and all Mesoamerican cultures but that doesn't mean they had to put it in their chocolate or that they didn't. Given that they consumed chocolate as a hot spicy drink, it seems unlikely but back to the bar. The spicy scent and the dark chocolate is released when I break the bar into individual squares. The pumpkin seeds look to range from large to small pieces and aren't as numerous as in the almonds and sea salt bar we'll look at next, you can take a bite and get no pumpkin at all. Taking a bite makes a loud snap and the seeds are crunchy when I encounter one. At first there is a smooth slightly dark chocolate but very quickly the cayenne pepper and cinnamon build up with each chew and within half a square I've broken into a bit of a spice sweat! The pumpkin seeds didn't really add much in terms of flavor but were a change in texture. I liked it but it was very easy for me to only each one square before I needed a lot of water.

The highest cacao content bar is the almonds and sea salt which comes in at 72% cocoa and 90% fair trade ingredients. This is also a 3 oz bar with two servings but this time with 240 calories per for a total of 480 calories just like the first bar. I break the bar into pieces and more of the dark chocolate fragrance escapes with a hint of salt riding the edge. I can see the pieces of almonds within a dark, nearly black bar. The bars makes a loud snap which I break it apart but it breaks easily. Taking a bite makes a loud snap and there is an audible crunch whenever I encounter an almond piece. I want to say that the chocolate is bitter or smooth and that the almonds are roasted or not but I can't because the first and strongest taste is salt, salt, and more salt; I needed a lot of water and to rinse my mouth out after this just one square. This is deeply disappointing for a dark chocolate lover like me. Cut the sea salt amount at least in half please!

These are only 3 of the 24 organic chocolate bars you can find on Lake Champlain Chocolates' website. Perhaps in the future we'll be able to test and write about other flavors they offer. Until then, check out these bars while you're planning for your winter holidays. If you have had any of these bars, leave us and the brand a comment below to let us know what you thought.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chocolate Gingerbread Rice Crispy Treats

On Sunday it will be National Rice Crispy Treat Day so to help you prepare here is a treat that I made last winter. I don't know if you will be able to find all the ingredients but give it a try. You won't regret it!

Chocolate Gingerbread Rice Crispy Treats
By TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:
6 C cocoa crisp rice cereal
4 T light butter
2 8 oz bags of Kraft Jet-Puffed Gingerbread Mallows

Directions:

1. Butter or spray a large pan and set it aside.

2. Put a large sauce pan on low heat and melt the light butter.

3. Measure out the cereal and set aside.

4. Add the marshmallows to the melted butter and stir them until everything is melted and smooth.

5. Slowly add in the cereal and stir until all the cereal is coated with the melted marshmallows and butter.

6. Spoon into the prepared pan and then smooth out.

7. Set aside to firm up for about an hour then cut into 24 pieces. Each piece should have 115 calories if you used the same ingredients and cut this into the same number of pieces.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bone Appetit Aids Animals with Chocolate

The Brown County Human Society Chocolate Walk is just two months away! Do you have your tickets? Better get them soon. Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, help me welcome Susan Rice from Bone Appetit to our blog today. She was kind enough to answer some questions about The Brown County Humane Society's Chocolate Walk that we help promote every year. Susan's answers are in italics below.

Susan, would you tell us what Bone Appetit is and your role in the business?

Bone Appetit began business in Nashville in 1997 as one of the first stores in the U.S. to specialize in premium, human-grade, all-natural dog treats.  I have been its owner since the beginning.  We offer over twenty flavors of bulk dog treats, including grain free.  Our ‘gourmet’ hand-iced, bakery treats are always a customer favorite for special dog occasions and Holidays.  We also carry cat treats (including grain free), the most durable dog toys currently on the market, leashes, collars and harnesses by Lupine (guaranteed for any reason even if chewed!), and a fun selection of dog themed mugs, t-shirts, magnets, and door mats.

Do you yourself had a pet? If so, did you happen to get it through the Brown County Humane Society?

My husband and I currently have a 9 year old yellow lab named Colby.  We adopted her four years ago (as well as all of our labs over the past years) from lab rescue groups in Indiana - Love of Labs Indiana (LOLIN.org) and Central Indiana Lab Rescue (CILRA.org).  I am in awe of the job that these organizations, including the Brown County Humane Society, do to save animals and find forever homes for them!  We encourage adoption, and do what we can to support the BCHS and other Indiana rescue groups.

The Chocolate Walk benefits pets that they help find new homes so it seems like a great fit for Bone Appetit. How did you first get involved as one of the stops on the walk?

It is a great fit, and we jumped at the chance to participate as soon as we were notified by BCHS of this great fundraiser.  What could be better?  Saving animals and chocolate!

By my calculations, the Chocolate Walk started in 2008. How many years has Bone Appetit been involved?

We were part of the very first Chocolate Walk as host for a chocolatier.  We have participated every year since, more recently providing our own ‘treats’ as a  (sort of) ‘chocolatier’.  Can’t believe it has been eight years!!

Many businesses seem to try out the Chocolate Walk for a year or two then stop being a stop. What keeps you involved? Isn't it a lot of work to prepare for the event and then staff it?

If you want to talk about a lot of work to prepare, we need to mention the BCHS Chocolate Walk volunteers who start in January of every year to make this event happen!!  They’re the real heros! Just hosting a chocolatier doesn’t require that much work because volunteers who staff the table and hand-out the chocolate treats are provided by BCHS.  

About four years ago, we started providing dog treats containing carob (doggie safe chocolate). That’s a bit more of an investment and more work to package everything, but it is well worth the efforts.  It gives us an opportunity to introduce our treats to lots of dog owners.  Our sales on the day of Chocolate Walk have gone up every year, and we hear over and over from people who didn’t know about our store until Chocolate Walk.  And what a fun crowd! 

Do you make the treats you give out at your shop for the Chocolate Walk? If not, how do you get them? If you do make them, who does all of that work and how long does it take?

The treats we provide at Chocolate Walk are softer textured Peanut Butter & Carob Chip.  They are one of our popular standard flavors, made for us in Illinois by a supplier that is USDA inspected and part of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  They have provided us with all-natural bulk treats for nearly twenty years. 

Becca Sparks-Lowry and I make several of our hand-iced bakery selections, but our demand is such that we can’t provide the quantities we need.  We use a number of suppliers for our bakery treats, all of them in the U.S.

If there was one thing you could change about The Chocolate Walk, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything about the Chocolate Walk.  It brings 1200+ people to Nashville in early November – not typically a boom time in town.  Attendees are traversing the entire town, north to south, east to west, to pick-up their chocolate samples, so it exposes people to parts of Nashville they may not have ever seen.  Our sales are way up on that day, and I’m sure we have repeat business from those who find us for the first time at Chocolate Walk.  The people who attend Chocolate Walk are a fun group, and we enjoy talking with them.  The weather has cooperated EVERY year, which is amazing for November.  And, most importantly, we are helping BCHS to help the animals who need us. 

S'mores Mini Dog Treats
Do you like chocolate? Do you have a preference for white, milk, or dark chocolate?

Although I do eat (and love) white chocolate, I am allergic to chocolate, so I join the dogs in eating carob as my ‘chocolate’ of choice.  For those who don’t know, carob is a chocolate substitute that is made from a South American evergreen.  It looks like, cooks like, tastes like chocolate, and has many vitamins and minerals. It’s used in human health foods, and, is dog safe. 

FInally, is there anything you'd like our readers to know about your business that we haven't asked about?

In addition to our store in Nashville, we ship a lot of treats! Customers who buy something to take home to their dog soon discover their dog is very impressed!  So, they order more on our website www.barkingood.com .  We also have another location with similar offerings on Main Street in Brownsburg, Indiana.

We provide some really nice discounts (wholesale pricing) on bulk purchases for non-profit organizations who are interested in re-selling our treats as a fundraiser.

There are many things I like about having a store like Bone Appetit, but I have to say that our customers are at the top of that list.  They love and care for their pets, and they are great to us.  Thanks for this opportunity to promote the Chocolate Walk and Bone Appetit.  And buy your ticket early! They sell out every year.

Thank you, Susan, and thank you to Bone Appetit. Check them out when you go on The Chocolate Walk. Remember to get your tickets soon. And if you want to walk with The Chocolate Cult, leave a comment and let me know. If you have a question for Susan about her store, please a comment as well for her to see.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Back to School Snacks for Whole Family

After all that summer fun school might seem a drag, not just for kids but for parents, too. I was sent a snack product that I think you might all enjoy as you are heading back to classes. Sahale Snack bars. Currently Sahale has four varieties of their snack bars -- two with white chocolate and two with dark chocolate. I was sent two varieties (one white and one dark chocolate) via the Crowdtap program and today I want to look at them. One of the them included coffee so I had help testing that one but the other one, I wanted all to myself. In our first photo you can see the entire Sahale package I was sent to test out but I've written about two of these already so I won't repeat that information today. I received no other compensation for this review.

Let's start with the Salted Caramel Apple Pecan bar that I kept to myself. If you have tree nut allergies, stay away because this has cashews, pecans, and almonds; it also has milk and soy if those are concerns for you. As you can see see the bar is set in layers. with the dark chocolate (made with chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla) on the bottom and drizzled over the top.  This is indeed enough chocolate to infuse the entire bar with it. The first flavor is the chocolate with a salty tang, the nuts blend fairly well but I believe the almonds are a touch stronger. From the first bite and with each chew the is a loud crunch and snap ye the bar is soft and easy to bite into and eat. The bar has a very tangy, salty scent and this is where the chocolate is the weakest. Each bar is 1.4 oz and measures 3 X 1.25 X 5/8th inches in shape. It clocks in at 200 calories. I did like it a lot but I think I'd have to try a few more of their chocolate varieties to be certain if this would be their best chocolate variety.

The other bar was the Almond Vanilla Latte made with white chocolate. I had a few friends try this bar out. It is the same size, shape, and calories as the previous bar. In terms of allergens this has almonds, cashews, milk, and soy. The white chocolate is really white chocolate made from sugar, cocoa butter, milk, and vanilla -- all organic ingredients. It has coffee extract as well as roasted ground coffee but the label does not give more specifics about the beans. Collectively the group that tried this bar thought that it had a good balance between the flavors and the textures; some testers thought the coffee flavor could have been stronger. In this case the white chocolate is what made the latte part of the name work because the base of white chocolate and the drizzle together infused the entire bar with the creaminess and vanilla.

Sahale has two other bars with chocolate as well now and if they'd send them to me, we be sure to test them out and then declare their best bar. Until then I'm curious as to what the rest of you who have tried any of the four varieties of Sahale snack bars think about them. What was your favorite? One of the two white chocolate or one of the two dark chocolate bars?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Recalls Involving Plastic and Salmonella

Well, we had a good two weeks run with no chocolate related recalls but sadly there are more to share with you and they involve some of the great products we've featured in the past and some well-known brands. I'll separate the recalls by ----- marks and provide limits back to the FDA announcement page for each one. My commentary is in italics.

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Entenmann’s Recalls

HORSHAM, PA – Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. has initiated a voluntary recall of Entenmann’s Little Bites Fudge Brownies (5 pack), Chocolate Chip Muffins (5 pack and 10 pack boxes) and Variety Pack (20 pack) due to the presence of small pieces of plastic caused by a manufacturing failure at a contract manufacturer’s bakery in Illinois. The product being recalled has “Best By” dates, UPC codes and was distributed in the states identified below. In each case, the code number “3098” is printed next to the Best By date on the outside of the box. (I haven't had these personally but we are big fans of their donuts in my house.)

Entenmann’s Little Bites Fudge Brownies – 5 pack (Net Weight 9.75 oz.); Best By Date: October 8, 2016/3098; UPC Code 7203001342

Entenmann’s Little Bites Chocolate Chip Muffins – 5 pack (Net Weight 8.25 oz.);Best By Date: October 8, 2016/3098: UPC Code 7203001353


Entenmann’s Little Bites Chocolate Chip Muffins – 10 pack (Net Weight 1 lb. 0.5 oz.); Best By Date: October 8, 2016/3098; UPC Code 7203002111 (could not find an image of these)

Entenmann’s Little Bites Variety – 20 pack (Fudge Brownies, Chocolate Chip Muffins and Blueberry Muffins – Net Weight 2 lb. 2.5 oz.); Best By Date: September 24, 2016/ 3098; UPC Code 7203001799 (could not find a decent image)

The product was distributed to retail stores in the last two weeks.

The company announced the recall after receiving consumer reports of plastic in product. One injury was reported. FDA has been notified on this voluntary recall.

All recalled products are being removed from store shelves. No other Entenmann’s products are affected.


Consumers who have purchased the recalled product should dispose of it or they can return the product to its place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-984-0989 at any time 24 hours a day.

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Asher's Chocolates/Lewistown, Inc. Recalls

This one is sad for me because we have featured a few of Asher's Chocolates creations and they were always wonderful. But this happens and I'm hopeful that they will be cleaning their facilities so they can put out quality chocolate again.

Asher’s Chocolates/Lewistown, Inc., an affiliated partner of Chester A. Asher Inc. (“Asher’s”) is initiating a voluntary recall of multiple chocolates, chocolate bars, cellophane wrapped chocolates, and individually wrapped chocolates, etc. under the Asher’s brand due to possible Salmonella contamination of items produced in their Lewistown, PA facility distributed nationwide.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.


Asher’s Brand Products under this voluntary recall are too numerous for us to list here so please look at the link in this recall header but we'll include a few sample photos.

The recalled items can be identified by the production code printed on the side of the label. No other production codes are affected by this recall.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem. No products manufactured by C.A. Asher Inc./Asher’s Chocolate Co. of Souderton PA are involved in this recall.

The recalled candy products were distributed nationwide in retail stores.

The potential for contamination was noted after a single sample from routine testing by the company revealed the presence of Salmonella in a group of products. “The safety and wellbeing of our customers is our primary concern, and we are taking this incident very seriously. In our 124 years of business, we have never previously detected Salmonella in our testing. We are working and cooperating fully with the U. S. Food & Drug Administration on this voluntary recall,” said Jeff Asher, President and CEO. “We apologize to our retail customers and consumers and sincerely regret any inconvenience.”


Consumers who may have purchased any product are urged not to consume it. Consumers should contact Customer Service to arrange for return of product and a refund. Customer Service can be contacted by email at customerservice@lewistownashers.com or by calling 888-288-3880 between 9AM and 5PM Eastern Time, Monday - Friday.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Are You Ready for World Chocolate Day?

Wherever you are, one way you must to celebrate World Chocolate Day (September 7th) is to find chocolate that was not made in your country. I'm posting this a few days ahead of the fun food holiday so you can find some. I found some from an Australian company called Arnott's when I had a Kroger Freebie for buy one get one free of these TimTam cookies. A couple of months later, the same freebie offer happened again so I ended up trying both varieties for free. I got the two varieties (Original and Caramel) that our local Kroger has but there are five different varieties of TimTam out there. We'll look at the two varieties I was able to find today, but first, a bit of background for the "TimTam" brand. The bakery was founded by William Arnot in Newcastle, NSW, back in 1865 The TimTam biscuit was named after an American racehorse that Ross Arnott saw win a race in 1958 but it was inspired by Penguin biscuit in the UK and "improved upon" by Ian Norris, the Arnott Director of Food Technology.

Original TimTam is basically layers of chocolate wafers, filling, and coating. While these include cocoa butter and chocolate liquor but these only come in at numbers 5 and 6 on the ingredient list below sugar, wheat flour, vegetable oils (including palm, by the way), and milk powder. Oddly there are 11 cookies in this package... I triple checked my count, there are 11 cookies in a pack. Two of these equals a serving of 190 calories and weigh 1.3 oz (37 grams) for a total of 7 ounces in a package.. I don't always put in the weight of the items we review but you'll see why I've done this in the next paragraph. These have a light brown color and when you examine them you see two wafers with a filling. These are not thin wafers but really more like cookies, they are crunchy! The chocolate is very sweet but it does have a chocolatey flavor just not as much as I'd hoped.

Caramel TimTam is very similar to the original -- layers of chocolate cookies, filling, caramel, and coating. In this case, the cocoa butter and chocolate liquor are numbers 12 and 13 on the ingredients list. Only 9 cookies in this package compared to the originals 11 cookies. The packages were the same price so you are correct that you are getting fewer cookies. This isn't unusual because it does require more ingredients to add in the caramel. However, two Caramel TimTams weigh 1.4 oz or 39 grams so they are slightly larger but overall you are getting less because all these cookies only weighs6.2 ounces total. These cookies are as crunchy but that crunch is mitigated by the stickiness of the carmel. These are much sweeter with a buttery tang from the caramel. The chocolate is lighter in flavor with a stronger creamy essence. The color is even lighter. I definitely like the Original variety better.

Which country's chocolate will you try on September 7th? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Got Herpes? Be Wary of Chocolate!

I met a woman (Lee) at a convention this summer who let me know about a real threat to chocolate lovers. Having herpes!

I had no idea of this connection but I looked into it and today, as unromantic, as unappetizing, as it may be, you need to be aware of this healthcare concern. Why now? September is National Consent Month. Part of CONSENT is being honest with your partner, all of your partners, all of the time.

Now it is true that you can get herpes without sexual contact but it is a very common STD, too.

Let's start with some basic herpes facts.

There are two types of herpes virus.

HSV-1 -- is the type that creates "cold sores" and "fever blisters" around your mouth. It is spread by direct contact with objects that have touched an infected person's sores or by kissing. Once in your body, it will remain in your body so children do get it from caregivers who may share utensils or personal products such as lip balm with them. Yes, you can get genital herpes if an infected person has oral sex with you!

HSV-2 -- is genital herpes and you get it from sexual contact.

Shared by Lee for your information
How does this connect to chocolate?

I noticed that none of the medical sites I consulted talked about food, pros or cons, but a lot of websites that focused on herpes did talk about food. All of these promoted some foods (high in lysine) and warned against others (acidic and high in arginine). Chocolate is one of the foods/drinks of those all these sites agree you should avoid. But what if you've loved chocolate and then you unfortunately have a partner that's doesn't tell you he/she has herpes and BAM you get? Some chocolate lovers believe that using lysine supplements could allow you to enjoy small amounts of chocolate. Not all of the time but for celebrations perhaps.

The good news is that the percentages of adults infected with HSV-2 is slowly decreasing but it varies widely by race, ethnicity, biological sex, and gender. Overall, the current rate is 17-20% of all adults.

HSV-1 is also slowly decreasing but it is much higher at around 54% for adults 14-49 years old but it varies by age, with younger people with a lower rate. However lower is still around 1/3 of all younger people.

I hope if you love chocolate you'll take these connections between chocolate and herpes to heart and tell your partner if you have been infected whether or not you have an outbreak. Then take every precaution. Not only do you want to protect your health, to protect your lover, but damnit, protect your ability to enjoy chocolate!

Online Sources Consulted:

Herpes Simplex: Healthline

JustHerpes.com

Mayo Clinic

American Sexual Health Association

Herpes.org

CDC Website

NEJM Journal Watch

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