Saturday, December 31, 2016

Candy in a Beverage!

Normally the products that I get through the Crowdtap program to test and review are not chocolate. Sometimes I can use them in a fashion so I can share my review with you all here. But this time, the product was chocolatey and I wanted to share it with you all. I'm sure you've heard of Silk, a beverage product made from non-dairy ingredients for those of your either allergic to or intolerant of dairy but who still want to have something in your cereal or in your glasses for meals. Silk now have a wide range of products out there but their latest is called Nutchello, "a nut-based beverage" that combines different nuts with other ingredients to create a decadent drink. I received a coupon for a FREE 48 fl oz bottle of Nutchello; not other form of compensation was received in exchange for an honest review.

I found my bottle of Nutchello Rich Dark Chocolate + Walnuts on the bottom shelf with the other Silk products in the organics section of the dairy department in my local Kroger. I was lucky because it was the only chocolate bottle left; all the other bottles were Toasted Coconut and Cashews (yuck!). One cup (8 fl oz) of this variety has 90 calories made up of 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 150mg potassium, 16g total carbs, 1g dietary fiber, 14g sugar (ouch!), and 1g protein (disappointing!). The nut milk is made from filtered water, walnuts, and almonds and then there is cocoa added for the chocolatey component. The beverage is darker than most chocolate milk I've bought in the past. It has a strong walnut scent with a hint of cocoa. Let me confess that I am not a fan of the taste of Silk so I took a sip with a clenched stomach. I was surprised! It is smooth, slightly creamy, strong cocoa and walnut flavors with just a hint of sweet -- very surprising given the amount of sugar in each serving!

After several sips I realized that this really tastes a lot like a chocolate candy bar with walnuts or a chocolate brownie with walnuts. By that standard, this is healthier than candy bars but just as tasty. I was very surprised that I liked this drink. I'd love it if it had more protein or less sugar over all because they it could be direclty competing with the skim milk we normally have in our house.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Creamed by Food Recalls

Well, dang it! Food recalls to share with you all this Christmas 2016 day. Please remember that we only cover those related to chocolate so you will need to check with your local news outlets for other recalls. For example, lots of potato chips being recalled I noticed in my weekly FDA emails.

Dawn Foods Bakery Mix Recalls

Jackson, MI - Dawn Food Products is voluntarily recalling limited quantities of bakery mix products manufactured for Dawn by a third party and affected by a recall from Valley Milk Products of milk powder due to the possible presence of Salmonella.

Salmonella is an organism that 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 can be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.  In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in organisms getting into the bloodstream such as septicemia, arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

As a result, out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling affected items distributed by Dawn Foods, including the following items which could become available at retail locations. A full list of the affected products distributed by Dawn Foods has been provided to our wholesale customers:

Product # - 00727521 R&H Speedy Crème Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix 6 bags 4 lb 2 oz
Lot Numbers 61417130 61417131 61587135 61587136 61657130 62327131
62327132 62567101 62567102 62567103 62567104 62817131 62817132

Product # - 00257857 R&H Speedy Crème Instant Pudding and Pie Filling 6 bags 4 lb 2 oz
Lot Numbers 61657134 61657135 61657132 61657133 62567105 62567106
62567107 62567108 62817133 62817134

Manufacturing date ranges for these two products are 05-19-2016 through 10-05-2016. All impacted product should be returned to the place of purchase for proper credit.

Dawn takes food safety very seriously and as such, we are working with affected customers, vendors and the FDA in order to support a prompt response to help address this issue.
Foxy's Selected Ice Cream Products

Ventura, CA - Out of an abundance of caution, Altijira Murray Products LLC is undertaking a voluntary recall of selected, 16 oz. (pint size) packages of Foxy’s Thoughtful Ice Cream produced by a contract manufacturer because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The six recalled flavors, available only in pints, accounts for approximately 10% of the pint-packaged ice cream products carrying the Foxy’s brand label, equating to less than 4000 pints. All of the recalled products were manufactured and packaged in a facility owned by a contract manufacturer, Dr. Bob’s of Upland, LLC. No other products are being recalled & no illnesses have been reported.

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 may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found samples positive for Listeria monocytogenes in the contract manufacturer’s facility and in finished product of another company’s brand, leading the contract manufacturer to recall all ice cream products.

Because this recall affects only products manufactured specifically by the contract manufacturer facility, it is important that consumers carefully check the following flavor/code date combinations to be certain the correct products are removed.

The following flavors are being recalled. All of the recalled dates are March 17, 18, 19, and 20, 2017.

Rather Thoughtful Vanilla

Oregon Cherry Vanilla

California Pistachio
Rocky Road Less Travelled
Uncle Mike’s Double Chocolate
Salted Caramel and English Toffee
The recalled ice cream was distributed in stores in California and Pennsylvania and the North East. Recalled product was also available online.

The product comes in a 16-ounce (pint size) paper package marked with “Best By” lot numbers listed above and printed in black on the bottom of the carton.

Consumers who have purchased any of the six 16-ounce (pint size) packages of Foxy’s ice cream should not eat these products and are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company recall message at 805 232 4519 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm PST. Monday through Friday. Customers may also contact Altijira Murray Products by email at

Altijira Murray Products LLC is an extremely small business - just two people. Please leave a message on the Recall line and someone will call you back as soon as possible.

About Altijira Murray Products LLC.

We make amazing ice cream that’s just a little healthier for you. Ice Cream is not supposed to be healthy. It’s a treat, a reward, something sweet at the end of the day. We’re members of 1% For The Planet and use local, smaller manufacturers where possible to stimulate jobs and look after the environment. Our Foxy’s brand is a super premium ice cream with 20% less sugar and probiotics snuck in at the last minute – but don’t panic, you’d never know the difference.

H-E-B Issues Voluntary Recall On Bakery Products

San Antonio, TX - In cooperation with Dawn Food Products, Inc., H-E-B announced today that it has issued a voluntary recall for certain bakery products made with Valley Milk Products LLC’s High Heat Nonfat Dry Milk Powder. As part of a larger recall affecting several retailers, Valley Milk Products has recalled the affected product, which was supplied to H-E-B for use in bakery products. ( I could not find photos of any of the products, not even on their own website which I think is very odd.)

The product is being removed because there is potential it could be contaminated with Salmonella, 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 (e.g., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis. The issue was discovered through FDA routine sampling.

There have been no reports of illness to date in connection with bakery items purchased from H-E-B stores or items made with product supplied by Dawn Foods. All product has been removed from stores.

The recall affects product sold in H-E-B and Mi Tienda in-store bakeries in Texas and Mexico, including the following:

Customers who purchased the affected product can return the product to the store for a full refund. Customers with any questions or concerns may contact H-E-B Customer Service at 1-855-432-4438, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Desserts for National Card Playing Day

If you play card games you may have heard of a company called Looney Labs. Their most famous games are part of their Fluxx series of games but they also make other fun card games that we have in my house including Aquarius and Chrononauts. This past spring I was sent a new game from Looney Labs via the Vine Reviewer program that I am part of at, called Just Desserts Game.
We've been playing it for months and months now. December 28th is National Card Playing Day and tomorrow is Christmas. If you are looking for a great last minute gift idea, you need to check out this game. It would make a great stocking stuffer, too. Here's why!

The basic story behind the game is that you are a waiter in a very strange restaurant. It is strange on two levels. First it only serves dessert items. Second the items are made before orders are placed and that means you may have trouble giving customers what they want. The card has a total of 100 cards of two types -- "Just Desserts" or "Guest."

There are 24 guests cards are organized in six suits represented by colors and icons. Below you can see one card from each suit. You can have up to six guests out at one time but if they share the same suit then one must be discarded though it is not yet out of the game.

I counted 76 dessert cards which list various treats including ones I've only heard of in passing but have never tried myself.  Of these 76 cards, 24 desserts include chocolate represented by a chocolate square icon in the upper left hand corner of the card.  There are 12 "taste icons" possible but they only appear as 1-4 icons per card. Here is the chart of the taste icons:

Here are four of the 24 chocolate desserts you could serve:

Unlike the Fluxx games the directions here are stable and do not change though they do offer three variations if you want to make the game more challenging. The game is very simple to learn but that is deceiving. While most guests have a favorite dessert you may not have that particular treat when they come up to the "restaurant" so you have to offer other goodies that include their favored taste icons but not ingredients that guests lists as "hated" or "not allowed" with a line through that icon.

The game can be played with only two people or up to five players and since it is very much based on visual and not text, I believe it can be enjoyed by ages 8+ as the box suggests. We've had a lot of fun with it especially when you add in silly voices for the guests as you play. Check it out using our link below and you can help The Chocolate Cult through the Amazon Affiliate program. If you've played it, leave a comment and let us know if you think it is fun to play, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stocking Stuffer Freebies 2016

As you know, I share some of the Friday Freebies I get through my Kroger loyalty card from time to time here on The Chocolate Cult when those freebies have to do with chocolate in any form. Today I want to look at two possible treats you could give or get as an extra little gift depending on your holiday traditions. Both of these have more of a "Christmas" feel to them but they are more the mass culture version of the holiday versus the religious meaning for some people. These are the Snickers Tree and the Twix Santa.

We'll start with the Snickers Tree. Yeah, not a strong tree shape, more of a tree imprint but at least it isn't just the candy bar with a tree stamped on it. Basically it is the evaluate of eating 70% of the most commonly found size of Snickers but with only around 55 few calories. You have the milk chocolate candy coating, the peanut layer on the bottom and the caramel on the top.

The Twix Santa is oval in shape and is a single bar -- is it right or left? Did the imaginary rivalry come to an end to create this for the holidays? This is basically the milk chocolate coating, the cookie layer and caramel. Very similar to the Snickers when you stop and think about it -- just switch out the peanut layer for a thicker cookie layer and a less sweet more tangy caramel. This is almost a full ounce smaller than the most Twix bars, you only get 50 fewer calories, or a fourth less calories.

Neither of these were particularly well-crafted in terms of their shapes but they did taste just like the candy bars and they were free. That's something, right? Do you have someone in your life that you think would like one of these for the holidays? Have you picked up any yet? Leave a comment and let me know please.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Week of Chocolate Benefits Local Community

Sisters and Brothers, help me welcome Stephanie Shelton to our blog today. She is my contact person at LifeDesigns which developed a week long event in my town focused on chocolate. We're going to talk to her about that week, the Art of Chocolate that we've reviewed in past years, and LifeDesigns and her role in it.

Welcome, Stephanie to The Chocolate Cult.Stephanie, please tell us what exactly LifeDesigns is?

LIFEDesigns is a grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 organization started by a group of parents who all had children with disabilities back in 1982. At that time, the common thing to do when a child or person had a disability was to send the child to an institution after they had completed as much school as they could. This small group of devoted parents believed in something different. They believed that everyone deserves a home, a job, and access to the community they lived in. Our sole existence is to provide the support and opportunities that people with disabilities need to achieve their goals. We fight segregation, and model integration in everything we do. Our values are reflected in our services, focusing on community employment, networks of natural supports, and affordable accessible homes for everyone. Today LIFEDesigns provides supports to over 250 individuals, employs nearly 300 people, and provides 650 individual services across 7 counties each year.

What is your position at LifeDesigns?

I am the Chief Development Officer, and oversee agency fundraising, grant writing, volunteer managment (sic), marketing, public relations, and events.

Before you worked at LifeDesigns, were you involved in other organizations that help differently abled people?

I was not involved in any agency that worked with people in this way. In fact, I had very little understanding of this field or the specific work that is done in this field before I was introduced to LIFEDesigns. 

There are many different ways that organizations focused on helping members of a community seek to get donations and volunteers. Do you know how The Week of Chocolate was developed and why that chocolate theme was chosen?

This year will actually be the 20th anniversary of The Week of Chocolate community festival. I have been with LIFEDesigns for a little over 2 years. That being said, I have picked up on a little bit of the history of the events since being here. Some of the history has been lost with time. This is the story as I've heard it from a variety of people who remember: The person who actually had the idea of creating this series of chocolate events now works at Oliver Winery (one of our event long time supporters). At the time she worked for LIFEDesigns and was tasked with creating an idea for a fundraising event that would be popular, and broadly engage the community. The Week of Chocolate is what she presented to our Board of Directors at the time, and they loved the idea! Originally it was designed to be a series of events leading up to Valentines day, and chocolate seemed like an appropriate theme! It is also broadly appealing to audiences, and loads of fun! The specific events themselves have changed greatly over time. LIFEDesigns for instance has held Chocolate Fest, and the moved to the Art of Chocolate. Chocolate Fest grew to such a large event, it was a great way to gain publicity, but unfortunately took far too much effort to plan and organize for our limited staff resources. The Art of Chocolate now is a much smaller event, but offers a greater experience for the guests who do attend. Other non-profit organizations were invited to host their own events and raise money for their cause through the Week of Chocolate. 

Over the years, many agencies have participated: The Monroe County History Center, Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, Monroe County Humane Association, WonderLab Museum, Rhino's Youth Center, and The Bloomington Moose Lodge to name a few. Participating can be difficult for many smaller agencies, due to increased demands on staff members' time, and limited resources. For this reason, in 2014 LIFEDesigns introduced the opportunity to host events to for profit businesses as well as non-profit organizations. The only catch was that the for profit business was requested to partner with a non-profit and donate proceeds of their event to their non-profit partner. This encouraged a greater collaboration between local businesses and non-profits, and we hope in the future will create a stronger community.

The event during The Week of Chocolate that directly benefits LifeDesigns is called Art of Chocolate, correct? Would you tell us a bit about that event specifically?

The Art of Chocolate has changed over the years, quite substantially. It started out as a small networking event at the Art Museum, with tables presented by local chefs of their finest chocolate creations. Local beverage vendors would present samplings of locally crafted wine and beer. During these years, the event averaged around 150-200 guests. More recently, The Art of Chocolate has expanded to include a live auction and dinner in addition to the chocolate samplings! Earlier this year, The Art of Chocolate for the first time in it's history moved away from the Art Museum. It was certainly a wonderful venue for that event, but it simply did not accommodate that number of guests for dinner or a live auction. 

Where will the 2017 Art of Chocolate event be held this year?

Earlier this year, the event sold out at 200 seats, and seeing that we again needed to change venues for a larger space, we've decided to move the event to IMU's Alumni Hall and Solarium. This will also give guests an opportunity to stay at the hotel after the event if they wish. This year we'll be able to hold up to 320 guests, and have a really exciting event planned for our 20th anniversary of The Week of Chocolate! Every year, since I started working at LIFEDesigns and organizing the Week of Chocolate I've received the same question from multiple people "When are you going to bring back the chocolate people?". Well, this year in honor of our 20th anniversary, we are bringing back the chocolate painted people! The evening will begin with hors d'oeuvres, social time, and an online auction in the Solarium. Our theme (in addition to chocolate) this year for the Art of Chocolate will be Mardi Gras. We're very excited to encourage guests to wear their own masks or purchase one at the event to wear. There will be live music, and a New Orleans style throughout the event. For the next stage of the event, guests will move into Alumni Hall for dinner and the live auction. The live auction will feature a fun game of "Heads or Tails", basically a 50/50 raffle in which the winner receives half of whatever the pot is in "auction bucks" to spend in the live auction. Finally, after the dinner, guests will head back to Solarium for the chocolate dessert tasting. We don't want to spoil all of the special surprises and treats offered during the dinner and dessert tasting, but there will be music and dancing during the dessert tasting. Tickets are available for the event now online.

Last year, I know that some of the clients from LifeDesigns made some of the chocolates that were part of Art of Chocolate. Will that be the case this year and if so, may we have know what they are planning to make?

As mentioned earlier, our values and beliefs are reflected in everything we do...including our fundraising events. We would love for one or more of our customers to do that again, but none have shown interest for this year. At this stage in the planning process, it's unlikely that we'll be able to coordinate something like that this year. We would love to do it again if someone expresses interest in future years. Instead we plan to invite several customers to attend the event and enjoy themselves.

Had you participated in any of The Week of Chocolate events before you joined LifeDesigns?

I had not. In fact, honestly I had never even heard of The Week of Chocolate before. It is worth noting though, that I really wasn't involved in the Bloomington community in anyway before I came to LIFEDesigns. My husband and our family only had just moved to Bloomington in the year or two before I started with LIFEDesigns, and with 2 young children, we just didn't get out much!

While not the most important question this is definitely important to us here: Would you say that you are a fan of chocolate? If so, what is your favorite type -- white, milk, semi-sweet, or darker chocolate?

I'm absolutely a fan of chocolate. It may sound a little strange, but my favorite chocolate is actually a white chocolate. Peacetree Mountain Truffles (located in the Olive Leaf store front in Bloomington) actually makes some delicious wine truffles out of a white chocolate that is just my favorite! Here at LIFEDesigns, we have truly embraced chocolate! In fact, when we send out gifts to our supporters, we typically guessed it...Chocolate!

Finally is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Art of Chocolate or The Week of Chocolate?

Just one last thought. This event (The Art of Chocolate) is so unique, and so great because we all have so much fun planning it every year. We have a committee of around 15 people who are absolutely engaged both in LIFEDesigns' mission, and planning an event with so much Chocolate! We can't say or do enough to thank our amazing volunteer committee members and board members who help to make this event as fun and exciting as it it. We also can't thank our sponsors enough! The Bloomington Moose Lodge has done so much to make these events possible over the years. Also, Oliver Winery, Fine Print, Lamar, and more recently The Vault at Gallery Mortgage and the Bloomington Watercolor Society.

Though I've not personally been to every Week of Chocolate events, the feedback that I'm hearing is the same from the other event hosts. They absolutely LOVE planning their events. For many of them, it's the most fun they have all year! We actually had 3 non-profit organizations this year who REALLY wanted to host an event, but simply didn't have the capacity or resources to do it. We're working with them and hoping they are able to find businesses to partner with so they are able to host their events either in 2018 or beyond.

Thank you, Stephanie, for telling our readers about this community charity series of events.

Thank you so much for the opportunity of this interview! 

Sisters and Brothers, I know that many of you are not in the Bloomington, Indiana, area but for those who are, have you ever been to any of the Week of Chocolate events? Leave a comment and let us know.

If you our community has a similar event, please mention that in a comment, too; just no links please.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Multiple Chocolate Courses Delight at FARM

When you think of college towns you might not think fine food but here in Bloomington, Indiana, we have restaurants of all types including a farm to table delight called FARM. I have been to FARM for brunch, lunch, and dinner in the past but last week I was honored to be invited by our friend Sam Aulick from 240Sweet to one of the special meals at FARM, a French meal with a wonderful Buche de Noel to end it. However allergies prevented me from trying the full meal but Chef Daniel Orr came up with several chocolate dishes for me and my hubby to try so we could share it with you all today. This included delicious main courses, cocktails, and desserts. Get ready to be thrilled.

I went to FARM for this special meal on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, in the evening and getting photos outside was difficult. Inside I sat in the bar area and the lighting wasn't ideal. I was provide with a few photos as well but please bear with me for these photos. I may also share some of FARM that I have taken in the past just to give you a good idea of what the venue looks like. This first photo is of the outside of the restaurant around 7pm.

FARM at Night

Our first course were entrees prepared by Chef Bob Adkins. I had Ribs Mole while my spouse had Broiled Salmon. The ribs were falling off the bones and onto my plate as I ate them. The sauce had a crunchy texture at first, a nice sweetness and a light cocoa edge. This is not part of their online menu so I was particularly honored when I was served this. If you love ribs and if you love mole sauce, you need to try this out.

FARM Ribs Mole
The bartender, Doug Spadley, created two chocolate drinks for us. The first was a twist on a chocolate margarita with chili that started off tasting like a chocolatey eggnog but hit your mouth with a strong kick after about 30-40 seconds, each sip built on the previous one so it was an ever changing experience. The other drink was called a NAFTA because it had international ingredients but the highlights were whiskey, chocolate, and bacon. It was smooth, buttery scotch, with an edge of cocoa bitter that did not disrupt the smoothness. By the way, this was my first experience with whiskey and I really liked it.

Then we had two wonderful desserts, created by Pastry Chef Julia Kingery. The Buche de Noel with chicory creme Anglaise and Chantilly cream that came with the French male as well as chocolate truffles and lemon and coconut congolaise macaroons. Normally I am not a coconut fan that's why we have a Chocolate Coconut Acolyte afterall, but these were crisp and lemony, particularly good when I dipped them in the cream. The buche de noel was light and sweet, the chocolate hazelnut swirl balanced very well with the vanilla flavors.

Buche de Noel at FARM December 2016

My hubby had chocolate pave' and and got a bite -- it was wonderful, too!

While I didn't have the full French Meal, FARM is going to continue to offer it so I hope you will all check it out soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Milk Causing Problems In Baked and Baking Goods

Three chocolate related recalls to share as we continue through the holiday season. Please follow the links and protect yourself and those you love.
Poppies International, Inc. Battleboro, North Carolina Recalls Mini Eclairs and Chocolate Covered Cream Puffs Because of Potential Health Risks

Poppies International, Inc. of Battleboro, NC is issuing a voluntary recall of all products that were made with custard powder containing affected milk ingredients supplied by a secondary supplier, Valley Milk Products LLC, due to the possible presence of Salmonella.  Although no pathogenic bacteria have been found in any of our ingredients or in any of our products, we have decided to recall products produced using the affected ingredient from this supplier. No illnesses or adverse health effects resulting from these events have been reported to date.
Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

Any consumers who have purchased or received any of the products described below should immediately discontinue use of the product and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at or 252-442-4016, Attention: Heather Aycock, Quality Assurance, Monday through Friday between 9am-5pm EST. Customers can also contact the US Food and Drug Administration at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).

The products included in the recall were sold through retail stores and can be identified by the following lot numbers which can be found on the side of each tub by the lid. This recall is of a nationwide distribution, and includes the following products: Check the LINK for a long list!

These are products I have seen in my local Kroger under the name "Delizza" but not under the "Poppies" brand itself.

Linden Cookies Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and 3 Pack Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a brand of cookies I am unfamiliar with. 

Linden Cookies, Inc. in Congers New York is recalling fully baked Linden’s Chocolate Chip Cookies because they contain undeclared milk.  People who have an allergy to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.
The Linden’s Chocolate Chip Cookies were distributed to wholesalers in Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

The following Linden Chocolate Chip Cookies are affected:

The Sell by Dates are found on the front of the package. No other Linden Cookies or products were affected. The company has not received any confirmed reports of illnesses to date.

The recall was initiated after being notified by the bulk chocolate chip manufacturer that the raw ingredient contains undeclared milk.

Consumers who purchased the above listed cookies are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can call Lindens at 845-268-5050 Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm EST.

Linden Cookies Inc. is a small family owned business located in Congers, New York,. that has been baking delicious, nutritious cookies for 75 years.

Lenny & Larry’s, Inc. Conducts Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Chocolate Chip and Coconut Chocolate Chip Complete Cookie Recall Due To Possible Undeclared Milk in Dark Chocolate Chips

I've never heard of this brand before at all but I'm sure some of you have. 

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 12, 2016 – Lenny & Larry’s, Inc., announced today a nationwide voluntary recall of two flavors of Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie products -- Chocolate Chip and Coconut Chocolate Chip varieties – due to the possible presence of undeclared milk in the dark chocolate chips. Lenny & Larry’s, Inc. is taking this action out of an abundance of caution. People with a dairy allergy or sensitivity may run the risk of a serious or life threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The following product(s) are being recalled:

4 oz. Complete Cookie, Chocolate Chip
Best by Dates: 7-1-17 to 11-30-17
UPC Code: 7 87692-83461 7

4 oz. Complete Cookie, Coconut Chocolate Chip
Best by Dates Between: 9-18-17 to 11-15-17
UPC Code: 7 87692-83538 6

This recall is limited exclusively to the Chocolate Chip and Coconut Chocolate Chip Complete Cookie varieties and no other Lenny & Larry’s products are affected by this recall.

Consumers who have a dairy allergy should consider discarding these products. Affected product may be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can contact Lenny & Larry’s at 888–943–4212 from Monday thru Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm EST.

Lenny & Larry’s deeply cares about the health and safety of the people who consume our products and we apologize for any problems that this situation may cause. This voluntary recall is being conducted in consultation with FDA.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hannah Swensen's Christmas Caramel Murder

It is right after Thanksgiving and your thoughts have likely turned to the winter holidays fast approaching. Christmas books are a big genre and mysteries set at Christmas time are a big subgenre. Today I'm going to review Joanne Fluke's latest Hannah Swensen Mystery entitled Christmas Caramel Murder (A Hannah Swensen Mystery). I grew up reading and enjoying mystery novels. I started with the kids mysteries series then quickly turned to adult series. What I loved was my ability to follow the clues and discover the culprit with the detective no matter her age, career, race, or even sex. Mysteries still run the full gambit of target audience ages and also can fall into multiple subgenres like romances, paranormal, science fiction, and YA or children's literature. I have never read a Joanne Fluke novel before nor have I watched the Hallmark Channel's movies based on a few of them. Given that Fluke's books have been made into TV movies they must be fairly popular so I was looking forward to reading this book. I received an advanced reader's copy of this novel through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

The first thing to note is that lead character, Hannah Swensen, runs a bakery and thus this mystery novel also has a touch of cookbook in it. In this case, there are 12 recipes in the book with cute notes about how the characters make them. Normally I'd test out a recipe or two in a book if it included some but none of the dozen offered in this book really fit with my family or our annual holiday party. I simply do not have the ingredients on hand or there were allergens or in general dislikes for most of them.

The genres of Christmas fiction and mystery have dedicated fans and Joanne Fluke, a best-selling author, has dedicated fans, I'm sure. But I wasn't impressed by this book for several reasons. However, I need to make it clear that this is my first Joanne Fluke book so I do not know the characters or the setting; perhaps I'm missing something but I doubt it.

I found the mystery common but that is fine; there are limited numbers of realistic murder mysteries in the world, the motives for killing someone are not that many after all. I kept waiting for Hannah Swensen, the lady with "slaydar" to really do a good investigation but it never happened. Instead a supernatural aid was used to put her on the correct path and that just felt weak to me. I don't think this paranormal factor is common to these mysteries given the reactions of the characters and honestly I don't know why it would be necessary in this one.

I found the community not so much quaint as annoyingly gossipy. Sure, this is a big plus to these average-person-as-investigator books but there was just something particularly gossipy about the tone and interactions that turned me off. I needed to feel connected to the characters and honestly I just felt they were huge busybodies. Hannah was just not impressive as a detective either, certainly not on par with a Miss Marples, Miss Franny Fisher, or even Nancy Drew whose ability to investigate and logically figure out the crime is head and shoulders above Hannah's.

It felt like half the book was about food! There were wonderful descriptions of food of all types in this book and the 12 included recipes contained entertaining notes that made them fun to read. That same level of description was missing for many of the characters. I have no idea what color hair for example Hannah has! You don't need to describe everyone in great detail, particularly in a series, but at least give the new readers a hint of what characters look like.

Finally I just found the writing itself to be simplistic. Instead of showing how characters feel we are given repeated statements about their thoughts to the point of feeling like these statements were more to fill out the word count than to advance characters or plot. Yes, this book is on the short side, but far more attention needed to be placed on the murder, the investigations, and the use of those investigations by the authorities to make this a real mystery novel.

That said, I know that many folks just want a quick, fun read and I can understand that this book will fulfill that need. It just isn't a need I personally have.

If you love the Hannah Swensen Mystery series and don't yet have this book, click below to buy it and also to help support The Chocolate Cult. If you someone on your friends or family gift list loves these sorts of books, consider giving it to them. It isn't too expensive and it isn't too big so it would be easy to carry to a party or to their house to give it as a gift.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Watch Stars Wars with Chocolate!

Tomorrow, a new Star Wars movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, premiers. To celebrate I want to share three creations from Tempting Sweets that have a Star Wars theme. I'm not saying you should break any theater rules... but these might be nice to enjoy while you are watching the new movie or rewatching previous films in the series to get ready (I recommend IV). We'll exam these treats in order of ascending chocolateness.

Stormtrooper Heads are white with edible black paint to add features. Edible paints can be a challenge to find and tricky to you but they are perfectly safe to consume. Sometimes they can affect the flavors so we'll need to see how these are affected. I think they look pretty darned good, don't you? These have a strong vanilla and milky scent with an undercurrent of sweetness. As you may know, I'm not a big white chocolate fan but I try to keep an open mind. These have a creamy flavor to begin then build up to a sharp vanilla taste with each bite. As far as my taste buds can discern the black sections do not change the flavor at all. For those of you who really love white chocolate or vanilla, these are perfect for you.

Chewbaccisicle is basically milk chocolate on a stick. It looks like the dark part is not dark chocolate but edible paints that have been used. Something we saw above in the stormtrooper heads and we'll see below with the final treat. Chewie has a strong vanilla milk chocolate scent to him. Taking a bite off of his head, let me put the poor boy out of his misery immediately, it makes a sharp snap because of the thickness. The chocolate is creamy, a bit buttery actually, with a building up of vanilla with each chew. Allowing a bite to just melt on my tongue requires some patience because as with most molded chocolates, this would require more added ingredients to help it maintain the desired shape longer. As it melts, the vanilla come out very strongly but so does the sweetness but not that buttery creaminess so much even though the melted chocolate certainly coats my tongue. This would be a neat treat for almost any age as long as you feel safe with the stick. The stick, by the way, didn't interfere with my eating it at all plus it kept my fingers chocolate free!

Han Solo in Carbonite looks amazing, doesn't it? The sheen is shiny silvery metallic and the details from the mold really look like the scenes in The Return of the Jedi where we seen frozen Han when Leia is trying to rescue him... sorry to geek out you all! The small ones are adorable but the big is pretty big coming in at 77 grams or 2.77 ounces! It starts to melt immediately in my fingers singling that this is made from a fairly pure couverture. The scent indicates that this is a dark chocolate but the exact percentage I'm not sure, I'd guess between 55% and 65%. Surprisingly the bar does not make a sound when I take a bite. This has a creamy flavor with an edge of something perhaps floral, not the sharp vanilla I was expecting. It is still very sweet so I'm guessing close now to the semi-sweet or under 50% cacao content. It melts very quickly if I just let it set on my tongue and that brings out the sweetness of the chocolate. This is my favorite of these three which is not surprising since I'm a dark chocolate fan.

Did you love these? Where can you get them? Check out Tempting Sweets online to learn where they are selling their goodies next.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What is #chocolategives?

This interview is late but better late than never, right? On Saturday we revealed the six chocolate bars from Seattle Chocolates. Today we're going to talk to one of their representatives to learn more about the #chocolategives program.

Thank you, Ayla, for agreeing to speaking with us and our readers. Would you please tell our readers who you are and what your job is at Seattle Chocolates?

 I am the Marketing Manager at Seattle Chocolates. 

What attracted you to marketing as a career choice?

 I’ve always loved storytelling and bringing ideas to life so marketing seemed like a natural path for me.

When did you begin working with Seattle Chocolates? What attracted you to them as a company?

 I’ve been with Seattle Chocolates for a bit over a year. The philanthropic mission of the company, to donate 10 million servings to communities in America, was really inspiring to me, and the bright, fun packaging was certainly a draw. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work in a chocolate factory every day!  

Some of our readers might assume that if you work for any chocolate company that you must like chocolate but we try to never assume that so I have to ask. Do you personally like chocolate and if so, do you have a particular type of chocolate you prefer?

 I’m actually not a huge sweets person. Ice cream is really my only weakness, but if I am to eat chocolate, which sometimes happens for lunch, I generally go for milk chocolate.

Do you have a favorite among the product line from Seattle Chocolates?

The new Seattle Chocolates Peanut Buddy Crisp from our holiday line is fantastic! It’s similar to muddy buddy and makes for a great afternoon snack. I also tend to find myself snacking on the jcoco Agave Quinoa Sesame bar a bit too often.

Thank you for indulging us in those more personal questions, Ayla. Seattle Chocolates has a program called #chocolategives. Would you tell our readers about that program?

#chocolategives is our annual campaign to help raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity throughout the country during the neediest time of the year for food banks. We feel it is important to serve the communities in which we work so we’ve identified four geographic areas with significant need and where we have the distribution to support them.

For this year’s #chocolategives campaign we will donate a serving of food for every purchase of a Seattle Chocolates holiday bar or jcoco chocolate bar nationwide to food banks in Seattle, San Francisco, New York City or Boston from Nov 1 – Dec 31. Additionally, for every use of the hashtag #chocolategives on social media, we will make an additional donation. Our goal is to donate 500,000 servings by campaign end.

Is the #chocolategives program different from the seattle chocolates / jcoco that I see on your company website alongside the #chocolategives program?

Giving is built right into our jcoco brand, which donates a serving of food to our four food bank partners with every purchase year-round. The #chocolategives campaign is in addition to this, as November and December are the neediest time for food banks across the country.
There is a long list of food banks that Seattle Chocolates has donated to on your website. How were those food banks selected?

There are six different Holiday Bars that people can enjoy or choose from and help out the #chocolategives program. Is there a bar among the six that seems to be selling best?

All six flavors are doing really well, with three of them being brand new flavors, so I’d say it is all based on personal preference. As I said, the Peanut Buddy Crisp is my favorite, but the Toffee Sea Salt and Candy Cane Crunch are classic favorites!

I really like that the six flavors of Holiday Bars has its own photo. Where were those taken and how far in advance did Seattle Chocolates need to plan to be ready for the holiday season?

Our new “Comfort and Joy” holiday collection was inspired by the spirit of the holiday season – sharing time with others, gathering with family and friends, and helping those in need – which is why we selected six different images to help bring those feelings to life. Prep and planning for any season begins months in advance to ensure bars are available for all our customers.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers about Seattle Chocolates or these programs?

Helping us reach our goal of donating 500,000 servings by December 31st is as simple as giving a holiday gift or using the hashtag #chocolategives on Twitter or Instagram. It doesn’t take much to share a little joy with others, and we thank everyone who has helped us bring a bit more comfort to those in need this holiday season.

Thank you, Ayla, for speaking with us today.  Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, will you help out the hungry and get this tasty gift for someone you love? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cliff Bars and Waffle Mix Chocolate Recalls

Two recalls to share this evening with you all. One has to do with Salmonella (again, how many times is this going to happen before the government and companies start dealing with food in safer ways?) and non-food contamination. As always please click on the links for further information so you can protect yourself and your family.


Publix Recalls Publix Premium Pancake and Waffle Mixes Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 7, 2016 - LAKELAND, Fla – Publix Super Markets is issuing a voluntary recall for certain Publix Premium Pancake and Waffle Mixes after being informed by the supplier that milk powder used as an ingredient may contain Salmonella.

The mixes were sold at Publix stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina.  All lot codes of the following items are affected by this recall:

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps and most individuals recover without treatment. In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.  The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

"As part of our commitment to food safety, potentially impacted product has been removed from all store shelves,” said Maria Brous, Publix media and community relations director. "To date, there have been no reported cases of illness. Consumers who have purchased the product in question may return the product to their local store for a full refund. Publix customers with additional questions may call our Customer Care department at 1-800-242-1227 or visit our website at www.publix.comdisclaimer icon. Customers can also contact the US Food and Drug Administration at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).” 

Publix is privately owned and operated by its 186,000 employees, with 2015 sales of $32.4 billion. Currently Publix has 1,135 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. The company has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” for 19 consecutive years. In addition, Publix’s dedication to superior quality and customer service is recognized among the top in the grocery business. For more information, visit the company’s website, corporate.publix.comdisclaimer icon.


Voluntary Class II Recall of Chocolate Hazelnut Butter CLIF® Nut Butter Filled

Clif Bar & Company is initiating a voluntary Class II recall of one production run of Chocolate Hazelnut Butter CLIF® Nut Butter Filled energy bars due to the presence of small plastic pieces found in a limited number of bars sold in the U.S. Clif Bar has not received any reports of injuries as a result of the plastic; however, the company is initiating the voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution.

Only product meeting the following criteria is affected:

Individual bars of Chocolate Hazelnut Butter CLIF® Nut Butter Filled energy bars with “best by” dates of 10JUN17N4 or 11JUN17N4

12-count caddies of Chocolate Hazelnut Butter CLIF® Nut Butter Filled energy bars with “best by” dates of 10JUN17N4 or 11JUN17N4; and

UPC Codes:

a. Bar: 7-22252-26800-6

b. 12-count Caddy: 7-22252-36800-3 

c. Case: 00722252-56800-7

No other CLIF® Nut Butter Filled energy bar products, pack sizes, configurations, or flavors are affected.

The company is asking consumers to return product to the store where purchased to request an exchange or full refund. Affected product should then be discarded and not consumed.

Consumers with questions may contact 1-866-967-9776, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. PST, Monday-Friday.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Feed Others by Eating Chocolate

We have been honored on The Chocolate Cult to feature a lot of products from the Seattle Chocolates Company but today we're looking at something beyond their chocolate to their social work with a project called #chocolategives. On Wednesday we were supposed to interview Ayla Janukajtis, the company's marketing manager about her role in the business and this project that donates money to food banks across the USA. We never heard back from her but we're still going ahead with our Saturday Sacrament today by revealing the chocolate bars in full sensory glory. Their new Holiday Bar line includes six flavors wrapped in six different themed photo images. These are some unique flavor ideas so I'm thrilled to share the experience of trying them out with you today. Each bar is two servings to these are perfect to share with a loved ones; the four section design make it easy to break apart and share between people. Seattle Chocolates sent me one of each of the six flavors in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

We'll start with Hot Buttered Rum Bar is a milk chocolate truffle bar with rum spice and crunchy toffee. The photo on the wrapper shows two pairs of comfy socked feet in front of a fire. I like to think of the fire as indoors but it could be outdoors as well. One half of this bar is 190 calories. This bar is Kosher Dairy certified. In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil). The toffee is not made with almonds so those among you who are purists will be disappointed but for folks with tree nuts allergies this is a good thing. The tiny toffee pieces are visible to my eye when I bring open one of the four sections but hard to see with the camera, when I bit into one it was very sticky and chewy and provide a strong burst of buttery flavor. The scent is a creamy chocolate with a hint of vanilla but sadly not any rum fragrance. There is a rum flavor though that pops out as soon as I take a bite. The chocolate is very creamy and sweet, the rum doesn't overwhelm but is balanced with the milk chocolate. If anything the overall sweetness is a touch intense so if you like very sweet chocolate, this is the bar for you. There is no alcohol in this bar so in theory you could share it with an underaged person though I don't know how much they'd appreciate the flavor.

A snowman graces the wrapper of the Peanut Buddy Crisp Bar is milk chocolate truffle bar with peanut butter and crispy bites. This bar is Kosher Dairy certified and labeled Non-GMO if that is a concern for you. In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil), along with peanuts and wheat. On the back side of the bar you can see the "crispy bites." This has a strong roasted peanut scent to it that overpowers the milk chocolate completely.  Breaking the bars into four pieces makes a snap because of the crispy pieces inside and these same pieces crunch when I take a bite and with each successive chew. The pieces have less of a roasted peanut flavor than I expected so the milk chocolate starts to come out as it melts against my tongue. The crispy bites are not equally distributed throughout the bar so the amount of crunch and the flavor varies as you eat it, the less bites, the more intense the creamy chocolate but also a slightly salty flavor as well.

Perfectly entitled Holiday Cheer Eggnog Bar is milk chocolate with vanilla and nutmeg. The couple walking together on the wrapper might be sharing such a bar but we can't see their faces. I am not a big eggnog fan so I'm only trying one of the four sections from this bar. This bar is Kosher Dairy certified but this is also the only bar in this holiday collection that is not certified by the Rainforest Alliance but it is labeled Non-GMO if that matters to you. In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil). This has a fragrance balanced between milk chocolate, vanilla, and nutmeg. Inside you can see that there is a white chocolate layer, the only bar with a second type of chocolate in it. The white layer does not make the bar soft, it still makes a snap when I take a bite. At first I can taste the milk chocolate then a touch of creaminess, a burst of vanilla, then the kick from the nutmeg; all of these flavors blend together very well though the nutmeg is just a touch stronger so if you aren't a fan of that, you won't like this. My Milk Chocolate Acolyte who was helping me test these bars out really likes eggnog really loved this bar and wondered if there might be a way to add chocolate to eggnog as a drink, too.

The lighted tree on the Nutty Nougat Chew Bar is lit but still alive and outdoors, I think I see ice or snow on it as well. This bar is a milk chocolate truffle bar with honey almond nougat. This bar is Kosher Dairy certified. In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil), the added allergens for this bar are almonds and wheat. From the backside you can see the almonds inside the bar, they do not neatly fall into the four sections but they were still easy to break apart into those pieces.There is a light honey scent mixed in with the creamy cocoa fragrance. Biting into one of the sections makes a crunch and the pieces of almond continue to crunch with each chew because they are moderately sized. The initial flavor is creamy chocolate, a strong honey, and then then almond with a hint of salt. I notice that the bits of almond are not merely nuts because the honey taste is strong and the pieces are sticky in my teeth. It is a nice bar but I think the other flavors overwhelm the milk chocolate; I wonder how a darker chocolate would fare.

Candy Cane Crunch Bar is a dark chocolate truffle bar with candy cane and peppermints -- yes, those are two different things not the same, a lot of folks don't realize that, candy canes can be any flavor even if a lot of them around this time of year are peppermint or spearmint. The wrapper shows a car racing away with a lighted tree perched atop the roof. This bar is Rainforest Alliance and Kosher Dairy certified (it is also marked as Vegan on the label). In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil). The dark chocolate is more difficult to break into the four sections but I did it and when I did that peppermint scent was released but it didn't drown out the darker chocolate fragrance. I don't think you can see the pieces of candy canes because they are rather small but there are there. The pieces provide crunch but not really flavor, the peppermint blends very well, in fact, I think the mint enhances the darker chocolate as well as providing a cooling sensation in my mouth. I'm not sure how dark this is but given that there is also a bit of drying in my mouth I'm guessing it at least 70% and more likely higher. So far, this is my favorite bar but one more to reveal to you today.

Seattle is a port city so the lighted portscape on the next wrapper makes perfect sense for the Toffee Sea Salt Bar. This bar is a dark chocolate truffle bar packed full of crunchy toffee. This bar is Rainforest Alliance and Kosher Dairy certified (frankly it has no dairy so I'm not sure why it isn't also marked as Vegan). In terms of allergens it has milk, soya (lecithin), and coconut (oil). This pure dark chocolate fragrance when I take a whiff of it and when I break it into sections. You can see the toffee pieces in this photo but no hint of butter toffee scent at all. When I take a bite, the only crunch is in those toffee pieces which stick to my teeth and provide bursts of tangy buttery flavor and a bit of salt. The saltiness builds up with each chew but the butteriness and the dark chocolate blend very well. This doesn't taste as dark as the previous bar, it also doesn't dry out my mouth as much. I like this one, too, and it becomes my second favorite bar of this six pack.

Seattle Chocolates are a women owned business but they are also part of the Rainforest Alliance for some of the ingredients that they use such as cocoa butter and chocolate liquor; oddly not for every bard even though every bar does use cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. The stack you see in this photo is what the company sent to me but you can pick several options of gifts that are part of this collection if you visit their website and look for their Holiday Bars. Buying these bars all help with the #chocolategives project, too. Will they wrap up your purchases as they did for me? I don't know but several of the options come in cute boxes or bags anyway.

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