Monthly Archives: January 2010

Chocolate Monday: Lindt Lindor Truffles

So I had a bad day. A really, really bad day. The kind of day that makes one contemplate giving up their job, selling all their possessions and becoming a tramp, riding the rails and eating beans out of a can. Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but it was the kind of day that made me cry, a lot.

One of my dear friends and co-workers, realizing my pain, came to school the next day with a pretty little plant and a bag of Lindt Lindor Truffles. She knows my chocolate philosophy: chocolate makes everything better. Not great, but at least better.

I see these truffles all the time. I’ve always been tempted to buy a handful when I’m checking out at Borders. They have about half a dozen flavors in single serving sizes in colorful bins by their registers. Loving chocolate as much as I do, I’m not really sure why I haven’t grabbed them before.

So, since I was in a pretty foul mood and feeling a bit sorry for myself, I cracked open the bag and dug in.

When I unwrapped the first truffle, I was a bit surprised. They were not pretty to look at. Now, I’m not saying all chocolate needs to be some sort of work of art, but I’m used to truffles that have some sort of swirl or flair that make them a bit more distinctive from other types of chocolates. Most eem to even have a signature of sorts based on their companies.

These, however, had wrapper marks like many mass produced candies. They almost looked like they’d melted to wrappers a bit. They weren’t super appetizing to look at, but neither is a Hershey bar, but when I need a chocolate fix, it’ll do.

It wasn’t only their appearance that made them different from most other truffles I’d eaten. These chocolate orbs were light, fairly hollow in the middle, which isn’t something I’m used to in a truffle. They also didn’t really a truffle texture in the middle–more like a regular ball of hollow chocolate, just a bit thicker.

There were three flavors in this package: milk, dark and white. The milk chocolate one reminds me of a Hershey bar, which is a fine chocolate taste, but not one I associte with truffle. Lindt does have a slightly flakey textrue, which also isn’t something I associate with a truffle.  To me, truffles should be solid and even a bit fudgy in texture. This one had a slightly sugary after taste, which made my teeth hurt just a little.

The dark chocolate piece isn’t as bitter as many dark chocolate pieces. It also doesn’t look like dark chocolate unless it is opened up right next to the milk. The difference in hue is so slight that I thought I was eating the milk chocolate piece and found it odd it had a slightly bitter after taste I’m not fond of. It was definitely less bitter than other dark chocolates I’ve tried, but believe it or not, the lack of bite to it actually made me care less about it. I can admire a dark chocolate that smacks me in the face and declares, “yes, I am dark chocolate, eat me and cringe a bit.” This one had no real attitude even to admire. It was just, well, blah.

The white was very creamy and my definite favorite. It had a very buttery taste and fell apart very easily in one bite. The flavor was strong, but reminded me a bit of one of my favorite candy bars from childhood: Hershey’s Alpine White bar, just sans the slightly crunchy nuts. It’s not that it’s bad chocolate, it just seemed very ordinary. True, these are standard flavors without any real flair, but I feel like why bother?

The back of bag says they’ve been making chocolates for 160 years and they are master Swiss chocolate makers. It does kind of melt in my mouth like the bag claims, but it also started melting on my fingers pretty quickly. While I appreciated the kind thought of my friend, I’ll admit I didn’t finish the bag (which isn’t really like me).

 Overall:

Taste: 3/10 (white chocolate does get a higher 5/10)

Appearance: 3/10 (wrappers do add a little pizzazz 5/10)

Value: 4/10 (not that expensive, but over-rated for what you get)

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So very sorry I didn’t stop

Today I inadvertently let a hit and run happen. Well, hit and run might be a bit strong. It was more like a bump and run. But still, it shouldn’t have happened.

See, I was in the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop. There are two exits that lead to my house, one that is really close to the intersection and one that is a bit farther away. I got in line behind a black pseudo sporty looking car–ya know, one of those kind of crappy cars that has been souped up to look sort of like the owner lives on the dangerous side and drag races. That car was behind a white Buick. It reminded me a bit of my old car, huge and meant for someone much older than me.

This is usually a pretty quick turn since the there are four lanes cars can technically turn in to and many people want the left turning lane. The white car must have decided to move forward, then thought better of it and stopped short of actually pulling out into traffic. The sporster obviously wasn’t paying attention and instead of breaking in turn, I heard the obvious thump of bumper on bumper.

Now, the white car was stopped and the black car couldn’t have gotten up above 5 mph, so when I looked up, I couldn’t see any damage (aside from what may have been a bumper smudge). I had my son in the car and it was lunch time, so rather than wait around for them to get out, see there was no problem and still wait my turn in line, I pulled out of line and headed for the other exit.

I know if you witness an accident, you should stick around, but there really couldn’t have been damage and my son had already been so patient by sitting at the coffee shop while I hung out with my friends for nearly two hours, so I wanted to get him home so he could run around a bit and burn off some energy before lunch and his nap. Yesterday he laid in bed for an hour and a half before he fell asleep, and in order to keep him from staying up all night, I had to get him up at his usual time, which meant a 45 minute nap rather than a two hour one.

Far to much grumpiness had ensued as a result, and I was not about to let that happen again.

At the other entrance, I was not only the only car waiting to turn, but there were no other cars coming, so I got to pull right out. As I pulled up to the intersection, I glanced over at the “accident” scene. I saw an elderly lady at the wheel. She was glancing over her shoulder looking rather confused. I looked further and saw her equally elderly husband out of his car just standing in the turning lane. Then I saw the black car I had been behind frantically backing up and speeding out of the parking lot toward the far exit (that empties on to another street).

It was at that moment I realized my hurry to get home caused that poor old couple to be victims of a hit and bump. I quickly scanned the back of their car for any damage and saw none (other than the possible bumper marks I mentioned earlier). Not that it mattered though. I felt so bad for the couple, who obviously expected the person who’d hit them to do the right thing and check on them not only to make sure their car was ok but that they were as well.

At this point I was now trapped in my lane and couldn’t get over to talk to them. A few seconds later the gentleman got back in his car and the couple tore off in the same direction the driver who’d hit them had (and she really did speed off, maybe in an attempt to catch up).

Still, I felt bad. When I left the line, I never thought for a second the other car would take off. I made the mistake of assuming that because I’m a good person who would NEVER hit someone and at least check to make sure everything was ok, that the person in front of me was as well. I mean who hits an old couple and doesn’t take a few minutes to check that they are ok? Heck, who hits anyone and doesn’t check on them?

I was left feeling I need to start memorizing the license plate numbers of the cars in front of me just in case I happen to be in the same situation again. It just burns me up that some people are such bad human beings with no respect or concern for their fellow man.

I hope that old couple did catch up. I hope grandma hit the gas and knocked right into that jerk. I hope grandpa grabbed the tire iron and went all medieval on his driver’s side door.

I at least hope he got a speeding ticket trying to get away.

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Chocolate Monday: Jennifer’s Kitchen

 Today at lunch, one of my friends brought in a coffee cake to share. Now, I know, your first thought is, wait a minute, this is chocolate Monday, why are you bringing up coffee cake? Well, it just so happens that this wasn’t just any coffee cake. It was a banana chocolate chip coffee cake with peanut butter streussal topping. So see, it does qualify.

I don’t usually go for coffee cakes. Not that I have anything against them, I just never really think of them. I enjoy a good cake of any sorts, although I usually prefer mine full of devil’s food and extra creamy chocolate frosting. But as it was free cake and this is my 29 and a half week of pregnancy, so I was all about it.

 Of course, that was before I looked at the flavor. Usually anything with chocolate in it makes my heart go pitter pat, but I have some banana hang ups. I love the actual fruit. In fact, I’ve had one every morning this week for breakfast. But banana flavored foods often leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. I won’t buy banana ice cream or shakes. I won’t eat banana candy (especially Runts). I don’t like that artificial banana flavor. Heck, I often don’t even like the real taste when it’s added to other recipes. I do, however, love banana bread, so I figured what the heck…gotta eat the free cake!

 This cake is from a company called Jennifer’s Kitchen, located in a Southern Indiana town called Evansville. I’d never heard of them before, but my friend got one as part of a birthday present. Apparently Jennifer Korb, the owner uses old family recipes to make her six varieties of coffee cakes. After I tasted the cake, I checked out her website and I’ll be honest, the one I got to taste is not the one I would have chosen for myself. The others, although sans chocolate, sound more up my alley. In addition to being a small town baker, Korb also donates a portion of every one of her sales RHINO (Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans). Kind of cool to see she’s got cake and compassion.

 But wow, by now you are probably wondering if I’m ever going to actually talk about the cake. Fear not dear readers, of course I am! The cake itself was quite moist. I’m always warry when I get packaged food in the mail, especially baked goods. I’ve had many turn out to be dry and flakey rather than moist and tasty. It’s hard to describe the taste of the cake. One of my co-workers said the banana and chocolate seemed to be having a bit of an argument in her mouth as to which flavor would win.

 Thankfully it wasn’t the banana. I only really tasted the banana strongly for the first bite or two. After that, the chocolate mellowed the taste. I was worried the peanut butter topping might also be a bit overwhelming, but the flavor was more subtle than expected. It tasted like a typical crumb topping with just a hint of peanut butter. And let’s face it, peanut butter and chocoalte, even with a bit of banana, is just a great combination. The chocolate chips were present, but not giant chunks. They also didn’t make it too rich to eat without a cup of milk. It did make it hard to buy as a breakfast food. I’m not sure even I could eat when first waking up. It definitely seemed like more of a dessert.

 Since I got to try it free, it wasn’t until I went on the website that I found the pricing. Each cake, which seemed to serve 8, is priced at $25.99. That’s about $3.25 a slice. That’s not counting the shipping, which I’m guess will put it closer to $4 per slice. Now, I liked the cake, but not quite enough to pay $4 for a slice of cake. It’s pretty tasty, but too steep for the banana chocolate peanut butter. I might be willing to spring for it for one of the other varieties, particularly the vanilla cream with coconut brown sugar topping.

 Overall:

 Taste: 7.5/10

Appearance: 8/10

 Value: 6/10

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Chocolate Monday: Cheryl and Co. Brownies

My brother-in-law has a real sweet tooth. He lives rather far away, so I didn’t have a chance to make him a homemade box of chocolates like I did for many of my family members. Instead, I remembered some mail order cookies I’d gotten when I donated money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They were from Cheryl and Co. and were pretty tasty. Since it was simple and sweet, I sent him a box for Christmas.

Now, while I was picking out his cookies, I couldn’t help but glance at something sweet for myself. Although I do like cookies, brownies are where my heart lies. And Cheryl and Co. has brownies. So, since shipping was free, I found myself a sampler and ordered them post haste. I did have a slightly hard time choosing between two of the samplers. One had the toffee crunch brownie, and toffee is a real weakness of mine. The other one replaced the toffee crunch with a fudge caramel. Since I also have a weakness for caramel, it was a debate. In the end, toffee won out.

My sampler arrived with a ten brownies in it. Well, some of them were brownies. Some were technically “bars.” Let me explain, I got traditional chocolatey brownies like cashew chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate fudge, fudge, toffee crunch and zebra. Then I also got some non-traditional (and non-brown) bars like the apricot, raspberry, blondie and oatmeal scotchie. I actually got two of the regular fudge variety.

The actual brownies came in a lovely red box, tied with a white ribbon. Inside the box they were individually wrapped plastic packages. Each one had the company label, name and ingredients on it. They also arrived within two days after being ordered, which made me really happy since I didn’t pay extra shipping to have them arrive so fast.

The first brownie I tried was the cashew chocolate chip. It wasn’t a typical brownie since the only chocolate in it was in the chocolate chips scattered throughout. This one fell apart really easily. The cashews weren’t crunchy like I expected. In fact, they were a little waxy, which might have taken away from the flavor if there hadn’t been so much going on in this brownie. It was honestly a littl overwhelming. I couldn’t get one solid flavor or taste from it, and I think that had a lot to do with all the chunky aspects of it.

The next nibble I took was of the zebra brownie. This brownie obviously took it’s name from it’s chocolate top layer and vanilla bottom layer. The “stripes” were made up of the chocolate chips entrenched in the vanilla layer. Like all of the brownies from Cheryl and Co., this one was a little gritty, not entirely moist like a fresh pan of brownies is. It did have a solid chocolate flavor, even in the vanilla layer (thanks to the chocolate chips). I took a taste of the bottom layer by itself, and while it was cake-like in texture, there wasn’t much of a taste to it. Just sort of sugary.

I should pause here for just  a second to explain my brownie philosophy. Iknow I’m a little biased. I don’t really like super chunky brownies. I like mine smoother and moister, so several of these brownies were not what I would choose.

The fudge brownie was more up my alley. It wasn’t quite the fudgy consistancy I was hoping for, but it was definitely chocolatey and very smooth in texture. It tasted more like what I bake at home. It was quite tasty, and so rich that it needed milk to wash it down with. The same was true for the chocolate, chocolate fudge brownie. The only difference here was that this one once again had chocolate chips in it, which I must admit, knocked it down a notch in my book.

I took a break from the actual brownies and tried the raspberry bar. This one was GREAT! It was sort of a cross between a crumble and a danish from Entemann’s. The bar was flatter than the brownies and had a river of raspberry filling running through it. There was a crispy, crumbly topping that reminded me of my homemade apple crisp. The raspberry wasn’t quite as tart as it could have been, but it was still quite tasty and without a doubt, my favorite “bar” in the box.

The oatmeal scotchie, another one of the “bars,” was also delicious! This was the first piece in the box that was really creamy and moist. There were butterscotch chips throughout, but they didn’t quite chunk up the brownie the way the chocolate ones did. This one also wasn’t in the least bit grainy. It was actually more flaky than anything, kind of  like a fresh pastry. YUM!

I only had one real brownie left, and I was really craving chocolate, so my next sampling was the toffee crunch. This one was definitely misnamed. It was also a HUGE disappointment to me. It was a chocolate brownie loaded up with chocolate chips, and that’s where I guess the crunch part of the name came from. The toffee itself was a soft toffee. Now, I realize some people really like soft toffee, but I’m not one. I like my toffee crisp. When I was in England I noticed several soft toffee candies and desserts and while I liked them just fine, that’s the extend I could say about them…they were fine. To make matters worse, there didn’t appear to be toffee throughout this brownie, but just in a little sliver on the top, which was not at all satisfying. I wanted an actual toffee crunch and I did not get it.

The last one I tried was the blondie*. Blondies are the original brownie alternative. They are made sans a chocolate base for those who want the texture of a brownie without the taste of one (lame). The first thing I noticed about this one was that it was full of walnuts. Walnuts, I should add, are the most boring nuts in the world. They have little, to no flavor. There only contribution seems to be crunch, and these were not at all crunchy. Much like the cashews, they were waxy and blah. This one was also a bit dry and very crumbly. Just like the zebra base, the actual “cake” part was bland and just didn’t get me excited at all.

Now, considering I’d paid just under $30 for a box of 10 (that’s nearly $3 per brownie), I have to admit I was quite disappointed. They weren’t bad; they just weren’t anything exciting. With the exception of the oatmeal scotchie and the raspberry bar, I can’t really imagine myself eating them again. Well, unless they were free. While I really did like the fudge brownie, it was so similar to what I make at home for about .30 cents each, that it just isn’t worth it to me.

Overall:

Taste:  5/10

Appearance: 7/10

Value: 3/10 

*I still have the apricot bar waiting for me. I’ll update when I try it.

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Chocolate Monday: Um….

Well, dear readers, I have sort of failed you this week. Not that I haven’t eaten plenty of chocolate this week. I have. I have actually been eating disgustingly copious amounts of peanut M & Ms. I’m on my second bag. The first time I got the large bag, but this last time, I got the the extra large, big, big bag. It’s about half empty now. So, yes, I have been eating chocolate.

The problem is that I’ve mostly been dabbling in chocolate. I bite from this company, another from that. I haven’t really given anything a good test drive. More like I’ve gotten in, sat in the seat, put my hands on the wheel and made “vrooming” noises. I’ve sampled from the lovely assorted box my parents got me from the Albanese Candy Company, sampled a few of my brownies from Cheryl and Co and even nibbled a few old stand bys like Rolos. But I don’t feel like I’ve had enough to write an honest review of anything. Except maybe peanut M&M’s.

And really, that wouldn’t be a fair review. I mean, they are peanut M&M’s…how many people haven’t tried them? And even if you haven’t, the reason I’ve been mowing down on these tiny gems of candy coated nutty cocoa may have less to do with my love for them (although I do love them) and more to do with being pregnant. I feel compelled to eat them, and not because they are my favorite candies. The baby commands me to pop them in my mouth every few hours.

In all actuality, I’m not even sure peanut M&M’s are my favorite of the M&M’s. I’ve always LOVED M&M’s, but I waver on my favorite variety. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with peanuts. Every time we went to the grocery store, I used to beg my mom to buy me a scoop or two from the giant barrel in the fruit and veggie aisle. Despite the numerous hands that may have combed through them, I couldn’t stop myself from sucking the salt off the shells, cracking them open and popping them in my mouth. So as a kid, the idea of pouring chocolate over them and adding a colorful candy coating, seemed like  a stroke of genius!

Don’t get me wrong, I was still happy to grab handfuls of the plain variety when I couldn’t get the nutty ones, but they were never what I craved. In high school or college, I remember Mars decided to debut a few new varities: crispy, peanut butter and almond. I never really took to crispy or peanut butter (which is surprising since I do LOVE peanut butter candies), but the almond variety made my mouth water. In fact, I nearly made myself sick more than once eating bags of them. For awhile they were all I would buy, when I could find them. It seems not many stores sell the individual size of the almond variety.

During my last pregnancy, I had a similar craving for M&M’s. That time it was the plain variety. I bought giant bags from Sam’s club and kept them on my kitchen counter during the last few months of my pregnancy. I would pass through, grab a handful, and eat ’em up. It was great!

I think this time my peanut addiction was inspired by my best friend Eee. At her New Years party, she had a basket of leftover candy to share. There was a handful or two of peanut M&M’s left over, so I devoured them. Once I got a taste for them, I couldn’t stop myself. I needed more. And so I’m eating them!

I hope that next Monday I will have a real blog for you. I’ve only got a few tasties in each collection to finish off and then I should have a few good blogs for you. One on brownies, one on cookies and one on candies coming up. Stay tuned.

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We interrupt this blog to be yelled at by an old jerk

So my best friend and I got a day out to see a movie. Even though the movie I wanted to see (An Education) was no longer playing at the “arts” theater, we decided to slum it a little and go see something popular: Sherlock Holmes. I was actually pleasantly surprised with it. It was fun and entertaining. But that’s not the point of this blog.

As we were getting in to the car, I heard an old man say something to the effect of, “What do you think of that change?” I couldn’t help hearing him as he was quite loud, but I figured he was old, and I’m rather used to old people talking quite loudly to one another. After all, he was with his wife. I figured they’d probably just gotten out of the movie and were discussing it. I mean there certainly were changes between the storyline of the books and the movie.

I didn’t realize he was talking to us. Neither did Eee at first. I was already getting in to the car when I heard her ask if he was talking to her. Turns out he was. However, I still thought he was trying to engage in a conversation about the movie. I thought it odd, but after living in Florida, surrounded by the elderly, I’ve learned they can be quite quirky. I mistook quirky for rude.

After only a moment, Eee was quicker on the uptake. It dawned on her that he was referencing her Obama bumper sticker. She told him she was proud to have supported Obama.

Now, I know my friend Eee can be a bit, well, confrontational at times, especially at the movies. She has this knack for picking seats in front of people who talk through the entire film, or who spend it getting up by grabbing the back of her chair, or kick her seat constantly. At the last movie we went to, we got stuck in front of a few middle aged women with their kids. Not only did they talk quite a bit, but  two of the kids kept getting up and down and up down. To add insult to injury, the youngest girl, who couldn’t have been more than six, fell asleep across the seats, but somehow managed to do it with her foot up against Eee’s chair. Her foot kept twitching. She showed amazing restraint (considering past movie experiences), but finally had to lightly touch the girl’s leg, wake her up and ask her to stop kicking.

This time she was 100% completely innocent of the attack that ensued. It went something like this:

Old guy (waving his hand disdainfully): “You don’t know what you are talking about. Obama’s ruining the country.”

Eee (absolutely dumbfounded): “I cannot believe you are yelling at a stranger. I would never yell at a stranger in a parking lot.”

Old guy (getting angrier): “If you weren’t so stupid”

Eee (holding in her temper and trying to be really polite): “You should be ashamed of yourself for yelling at a complete stranger.”

At this point, Eee got in the car. But not to be outdone by the little girl he obviously expected to take his verbal flaying, Old guy yelled out, “You and Obama can go to hell.”

Thankfully, Eee didn’t hear that part. She’d been holding back out of respect for her elder, but had she heard that, I think she might have been tempted to sink to his level. And his level was just icky.

Now, I’m not trying to start any sort of political debate here. I don’t happen to care which side a person voted for. No matter what a person’s beliefs are or how strongly they believe them, there is no excuse for treating another human being (especially a stranger) so shoddily. Rude behavior like that certainly isn’t going to convince anyone on the other side of the political fence their side is right. The only result an attack like that can have is anger and the only reason to do it is because someone is an absolutely ignorant asshole.

Poor Eee was trying to figure out why in the world this guy decided to pick on her, but using my Sherlockian deductive skills, I think I figured it out. First off, he was old, and for some reason, old people seem to believe that by virtue of being old, they get to say and do whatever they want with little to no consequence. The fuel to his fire of opinion entitlement was no doubt two youngish girls getting in a little, fairly environmentally friendly car. He probably figured we’d be weak, easy targets. Eee wasn’t supposed to “fight” back in any way. She was supposed to listen to his abuse and take it. When she did point out the inappropriateness of his behavior, he got mad that the uppity bitch had the nerve to defend herself. Had her boyfriend, my husband or any of our other male friends been with us, I somehow think his mouth would have stayed closed. He may have secretly wished hateful things on us, but I doubt he would have vocalized them.

Yelling at a stranger in the parking lot, is not only rude, it’s cowardice. Either engage people in a political debate in a respectful way, or keep your damn mouth shut. People don’t have to agree with you in order to deserve your respect. People can, in fact, whole heartedly disagree with you and still get your respect.

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