Category Archives: chocolate

Chocolate Monday: Cookie dough brownies

cookie dough browniesI’m baaaaaaaccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

Thanks to the concussion I sustained in my recent car accident (not my fault, I was rear-ended while stopped), I had to take a bit of a hiatus from my blog. I tried to maintain my blog at first, but it turns out when my doctor tells me to limit my screen time, I should do a better job of listening.

I thought I was doing better. My headaches had mostly subsided, I no longer had to nap in the middle of every day and I wasn’t having as many strange emotional outbursts. I was on the mend, so I figured I’d better get caught up on all that grading I’d been neglecting.

Silly me! My headaches rushed back, I was exhausted and my emotions…CRAZY!

So, I did my best to cut out any screen I could, but now that I’m finally starting to feel mostly normal (only like two headaches last week), I’m gonna try this whole blogging thing again.

For my first chocolate blog back, I want to talk about a Pinterest recipe I tried out last week. I had to bake something to reward a few of my students for their reading achievements. I love baking and over the years I’ve built up quite a reputation at my school for my mad skillz in the kitchen. Sometimes I create my own recipes and sometimes I cheat a bit and use other people’s recipes. Not that it matters to my students (or my family). They love it either way.

I love Pinterest. I’m the person who saves all those amazing recipes and then actually makes them. I mean, not all of them. I have dozens of recipes on each of my different food boards (side dishes, main dishes, cookies/bars, desserts, breakfast, crock pot, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, popsicle/ice cream and candy) that I have not yet gotten around to try, but I make something off of Pinterest at least once a week. Usually 3 or 4 times.

I’ve had this recipe for cookie dough brownies saved on my cookies/bars board for quite some time. Last weekend was the perfect time to make them. I wanted something to really wow my students and these looked like they’d do the trick.

And boy did they! When I handed them out to the readers who’d reached their goal, they were ecstatic. More importantly, the rest of my students perked up and asked how many books they had to finish to get one. After I handed them out and my students raved about them, I saw a renewed enthusiasm for silent reading.

Although they took a little extra time and created double the dishes since I had to make brownie batter and cookie dough, they were worth it. The recipe calls for dark chocolate chips, but I knew the Penzy’s Dutch process cocoa powder I was using was going to be a bit stronger than the garden variety Hershey’s, and I don’t really like dark chocolate much, so I opted for semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I hoped would help keep these morsels from being too sweet. I think they did.

The brownies themselves are quite tasty. They aren’t overly dense, but they make a substantial bottom for the treat. They were moist and cooked to perfection. I don’t like when my brownies get crunchy. I am a center brownie girl. I usually dish out the edge brownies to my family members and students and save the amazingly delicious center ones for myself!  Thankfully even the edge brownies in this batch didn’t get crunchy.

The cookie dough topping was sweet and tasted pretty much like the delicious cookie batter I whip up for my regular chocolate chip cookies, but without the danger of raw eggs that I’ll admit I risk every time I make cookies.

Combined they are rich. I can only eat one and cannot imagine two in the same day, much less at the same sitting. My husband says he likes them, but that they are too rich for him–he’d rather have a brownie and a cookie than the two combined. Of course, he prefers his candy in the Skittle or gummy form, so I’m not sure his opinion counts for much in this case.

If you like to bake, I highly suggest giving these a try. They are a real crowd pleaser.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 9/10 (pretty cheap to make)

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Cups of Love

Godiva cups of loveMy last few Godiva experiences have not been stellar. However, years of dedicated love to them, and some damn fine chocolates along the way, are keeping me loyal. So, when I stopped in recently and saw their new Cups of Love chocolates, I knew I’d be giving them a try.

Since they are named for love, it’s no surprise that they are part of this year’s Valentine collection. They are cute to look at and since there are only four flavors, I bought one of each to try.

I’m a best for last kinda gal, so I decided to try the one that appealed the least to me first. Since dark chocolate is often my nemesis, I grabbed the Chocolate Cup of Love first. This one is a bit deceptive as it has a milk chocolate shell. I didn’t really read the description in the store, so it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the website that I realized it was going to be dark chocolate in the center. Considering Godiva’s (and the world’s) love for dark chocolate I knew at least one of them had to be pure darkness. Despite its very thin milk chocolate shell, this one is definitely a dark chocolate piece. It’s not overly bitter though, so I didn’t really mind it. The tiny, crispy cocoa bits on top give it a fun texture. While I wouldn’t want to eat more than this bite sized cup, I found it perfectly good and actually kind of enjoyed it.

My second piece was the Caramel-Cafe Cup of Love. Caramel is always one of my top sweet treats, but I detest coffee, so I was hoping the caramel would be enough to save this piece. The dark chocolate shell didn’t inspire confidence. It has a distinctly caramel coffee taste. On the rare occasions I am dying for caffeine and actually buy coffee drinks, they have to contain lots of sweet additives like chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. This piece reminded me quite a bit of the coffee drink I get once or twice a year at my favorite cafe. I actually rather liked it, which thrilled me.

I have not had a great run with Godiva’s pistachio flavored treats lately, but since it had no threat of coffee or dark chocolate in it, my next one was the Pistachio Chocolate Cup of Love. The white chocolate shell, even though it is thin, is initially pretty overwhelmingly sweet. The older I get, the more I don’t care much for the super sugary sweetness of white chocolate. The pistachio flavor was more reserved…a bit more of a hint than anything. The bite where I got the piece of the actual nut on top was the only one that rang true to the spirit of pistachio. This piece had a strange, slightly gritty texture to it that did not seem nutty. Gritty isn’t even the right word exactly. It felt like it was coating my mouth. The flavor was ok, but the after coating freaked me out a bit. In hindsight, I should have switched this one for the coffee caramel one.

My final piece was the Strawberry Cup of Love. I really had to swish my mouth out with water to get rid of the sweet coating before I could try it. I’m glad I saved this strawberry piece for last. To me it was the best piece. I like the more liquidy strawberry center. It was sweet without being too sweet. Honestly, my only real complaint is that I wish it had a bit more strawberry flavor and maybe a slightly tart hint. I love when strawberries are just a bit tart. I also love the combination of tart fruit and chocolate. This one was just mild and sweet.

The strawberry piece was the best of the bunch, but even it wasn’t anything to rave about. I definitely did not fall in love in love with this collection. It wasn’t as disappointing as some of the more recent collections, but I am starting to think I need to keep my love for the classics and forgo the newer chocolates.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 6/10

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Chocolate Monday: Green & Black’s almond bar

Green & Black almondOnce again, my local Kroger had a coupon for chocolate. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it makes me blissfully happy. This time around, it was for Green & Black’s almond bar.

I’ve never tried any chocolate from Green & Black’s before, so this was a fun new venture for me.

The wrapper is nothing spectacular to look at and neither is the bar itself. They are sort of calm, sedated pieces that I probably would have glanced right over had I not had the coupon. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for good packaging, especially if it includes pictures of the delicious fillings inside chocolate bars–specifically caramel or fruit. I love packaging for a cherry chocolate bar that has a bright ripe cherry on the front.

But, as George Michael reminded us, “sometimes the clothes do not make the man”–I may have just watched Pitch Perfect 3 this past week. And in this case, the “clothes” wrapper doesn’t speak for the chocolate itself.

The wrapper may be plain, but the chocolate is actually pretty good. The chocolate is nice and creamy without even a hint of bitterness to it. And, it is filled with giant almonds. We’re not talking about almond chips or sliced almonds, but full, big ol’ daddy almonds which add a satisfying crunch to the bar.

Green & Black almond close upIt’s not often that that I grab a chocolate bar with almonds because I generally like my chocolate a little more adventurous. Whenever I think of a chocolate bar with almonds, I get images of my grandmother eating her old standby: Hershey’s with almonds. And while they were fine when there was nothing else to munch on, I always wanted something with a bit more panache.

Green & Black’s bar is simple. It’s not fancy. There are no whistles or bells, but it’s still pretty tasty. And, it’s Fair Trade chocolate, which always makes me feel better about my impact on our world. While this bar is not something I’d buy every day, but when I need to get back to the basics, it’ll be worth another try.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Appearance: 5/10
Value: 6/10 (at $3.25 a bar it’s a bit more expensive than a Hershey, but it’s organic and Fair Trade)

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Chocolate Monday: Vanilla Rooibos Tea

I first found Vosges while exploring Armitage Street in Chicago. I wasn’t looking for a chocolate shop. My mission was to visit the local LUSH store to stock up on much needed hair and skin care products. However, as my best friend and I strolled down the street, we found not one, but two fantastic chocolate shops. Sadly the first one, Ethel M’s closed down only a few years after we found it. The company itself is still in business, but the Chicago store closed and they also stopped selling the majority of the truffles and filled treats I love. When I found them again in Vegas years later, they had less than half the stock of the Chicago store.

Luckily Vosges not only stayed on Armitage for our yearly visit, but they spread their stocks wider and wider so that even my local Kroger now sells a variety of their chocolate bars. My only real issue with Vosges is that their stock tends to be overwhelmingly dark chocolate and try as I might, I just don’t like dark chocolate as much as its lovely milk cousin. However, I have found that their 45% dark milk chocolate is very tasty.

I especially enjoy it in their Vanilla Rooibos Tea bar. This bar is a wonderful combination of dark milk chocolate, rooibos tea and tart cherries. Just about anything with cherries, especially with dried tart cherries, has my heart. I love cherries in just about any form they take. I especially love them in this bar.

The chocolate definitely has a dark hint to it. It is not smooth and creamy exactly. It has a tiny bit of bitterness to it that could be off putting if not for the the lovely tartness of the cherries. The cherries not only add a bright burst of sweet to help temper the bitterness of the chocolate, but they also add a great texture to the bar. That texture is enhanced by the slightly crunchy bits of tea. Although tea can add bitterness to some candies, either the chocolate masks it in this case or it simply isn’t here. The only bitterness I find is in the actual chocolate.

This is a delightful bit of dark chocolate and I not only like it, but seek it out.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 6/10
Value: 7/10 (at $8 a bar, it is pricey, so it’s definitely a treat)

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Chocolate Monday: Halo Top Light Ice Cream

halo openOk, let’s be honest, it’s not exactly ice cream. Not in a traditional, super creamy, super indulgent, super delicious sort of way. Then again, anyone who expects to get all that creamy, fatty goodness for only 250 calories per pint is obviously living in an alternate universe.

Although Halo Top has been out for a lot longer than I realized (2012), it’s only been in the last year or so that it has skyrocketed to popularity. According to Wikipedia, in July of 2016, it became the best selling ice cream in supermarkets, even beating out Ben & Jerry’s, which I’ll admit I found hard to believe. While I like Halo Top, if given the choice, I would reach for Ben & Jerry’s over it every single time.

Once you get passed the fact that Halo Top is not going to taste like its full fat cousins, it’s actually pretty good. Especially considering that an entire pint ranges from about 240-360 calories. Considering that the same calorie content for Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Daz or most other ice creams is only about 1/4 of a pint, it suddenly explains the appeal.

halo 3I’ve only tried five flavors of Halo Top so far and just like with real ice cream, I’ve had varying degrees of happiness with them. My absolute favorite flavor so far has been the oatmeal cookie one. It legitimately tastes like a frozen oatmeal cookie. It reminds me a bit of the now defunct Dreamery Ice Cream flavor I used to love called Grandma’s Cookie Jar. It had several different bits of cookie dough in it, but my favorite were the bits of oatmeal raisin cookie dough. This particular pint of Halo Top has only 280 calories. I love the sweet oatiness of it, however, I will admit that while the bits of oats mixed in the ice cream definitely give it an authenticity, I’m not a fan of the texture of them. They taste like uncooked oats. There may not be enough of them to make the ice cream chewy, but they do give it a fibrous texture that I wish it didn’t have. Still the taste and low calorie count are enough for me to overlook it.

The chocolate almond ice cream reminds me of a Wendy’s Frosty, especially if you let it get just a tad bit melty. It’s not as rich and creamy as a Frosty. The texture is also not quite right for one, but it has that same chocolatey flavor of one. Plus, only 320 calories for the entire pint, which is less than one large Frosty.

Birthday cake is good, but really, really sweet. It reminds me a bit more of birthday cake frosting than of the actual cake. When I first tried it, I only ate a few bites and thought I might give it to my kids to finish off. They are far less picky about anything sweet and are always just as happy with a Hershey bar as they are gourmet truffles, so whenever I come across a type of chocolate (or ice cream) I don’t like, I pawn it off on them and they are thrilled. Before I got to give it to them, I found myself craving something sweet, so I tried it again. This time I found it more palatable. Still, there is no way I could eat an entire pint of it the way I could the oatmeal cookie version. I ended up breaking this one (and chocolate almond) into thirds. If you are a fan of the overly sweet vanilla cake frosting grocery store bakeries put on top of their cakes (the type that is slightly grainy), this is probably a flavor that you’ll love.

Chocolate chip cookie dough had a lot more vanilla and a lot less bits of actual cookie dough in it, which was a bit of a let down. But again, considering the entire pint only has 360 calories in it, there would have to be less cookie dough. It actually tastes fairly similar to it’s fattier cousins, but it’s not as creamy and the sweetness it has tastes just a bit more artificial.

The only flavor I absolutely despised, and this is not a term I use lightly, was the mint chocolate chip. This was such a HUGE upset to me as mint chocolate chip ice cream is one of my absolute joys in life. I even love mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt. From my earliest experiences of York Peppermint patties, to my absolute adoration of Andes mints to my local Baskin Robbins, mint chocolate chip is always a go to for me. This one though…I got through three bites and had to stop. I put it away and hoped against hope that I would grow to like it as I had birthday cake. But alas, it was not to be. The mint in his was so overpowering that it felt like I was drinking straight peppermint oil. It actually reminded me of the peppermint oil one of my students used to use every day in class to help calm her down and keep her from having panic attacks. It did not seem like a mint that was meant to be eaten, but rather one that should be used as part of a soothing massage. I didn’t even give it to my kids because it was so artificial tasting and so gross.

Despite that bad experience, I know that since I have rededicated myself to eating healthier and exercising more, I will be back to grabbing pints of Halo Top to help satisfy my sweet tooth. There are still several varieties I’d like to try. My hope is that mint chocolate chip will be a fluke.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Appearance: 7/10

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Petit Fours

godiva petit foursWhen I was a kid, my mom used to get the Swiss Colony and Figi’s catalogs. I would spend hours pouring over the insanely delicious looking chocolate gifts. Of course I wanted to try each and every one. My mom rarely ordered from those catalogs, but every now and again someone would buy our family a gift from them and I would go more than a little gaga over crab flavored cheese dips or garlic summer sausage. My mom would practically start to drool over tiny little cakes called petit fours. I’m not sure if it was the cakes themselves, which came in tons of different varieties or just their adorable tiny nature that also drew me to them, but every year I would hope someone would send them to us.

As an adult I ordered petit fours from both Swiss Colony and Figi’s and while I found them perfectly fine, they were certainly nothing to write home about. To me they seemed far better in glossy catalog pages than in real life. I think it had to do with the mediocre layer of fairly cheap chocolate they were coated in.

However, when I stopped in my local Godiva to see what holiday treasures might be on sale today, I was delighted to find Godiva trying their hand at petit fours and figured I had to give them another chance. Although there were four varieties in the case, I only grabbed two: gingerbread and pistachio.

I decided to try the pistachio one first. Imagine my surprise when instead of finding layers of chocolate and cake, I bit in and found what appeared to be a square truffle! I thought there might be bits of pistachio cake with some chocolate or vanilla cream. But nope, it was basically a creamy pistachio flavored truffley center surrounded in some pretty thick chocolate. Not bad, but not a petit four. Also, not super pistachio flavored. More like hints of pistachio.

I was a bit more prepared for the gingerbread version. It definitely had a warm ginger spice to it. The flavor was far more predominant than its pistachio cousin. It was tempered by some seriously thick layers of chocolate though, which was a bit disappointing to me. I like Godiva’s chocolate, but if I wasn’t going to get some cake, I at least wanted the gingerbread center to be the star of this show and it was, but just barely. It reminded more of a lackluster version of their gingerbread truffle.

This is the third time this year that Godiva has really let me down with their new pieces. This is very disappointing since they used to be one of my favorite chocolate companies.

Overall:

Taste: 5/10
Appearance: 6/10
Value: 7/10 (only because they were half off after the holidays)

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Chocolate Monday: Theo’s Gingerbread Spice chocolate bar

Theo's gingerbread close upOn Friday I was out running errands with my kids. We had to stop by Fresh Thyme Market in order to pick up some Albanese gummi bears to send to my best friend in Georgia. One of the most miraculous things about Fresh Thyme is the fact that they sell a wide array of Albanese products. Not only do they have five or six of varieties of their gummy products in bulk, but they also have several of their chocolate covered yummies, including my dearest loves: their double dipped chocolate peanuts and raisins. They are simply delicious. Since I can’t get up North to either of the Albanese stores that often, when I found out Fresh Thyme carries their goodies in bulk, and at great prices, I started stopping by more regularly.

As we made our way into the store, intent only on purchasing some gummies to send to my BFF, I noticed a display with lots of fun holiday goodies. Part of that display contained Theo’s Gingerbread Spice chocolate bar. I’d never tried any of Theo’s chocolate, even though I see it every week in my local Kroger, so I figured this had to be a sign.

I love gingerbread! One of my fondest childhood memories is of my mom making gingerbread at Christmas time. Now, I’m not talking about gingerbread cookies, although I do love those as well. I’m talking about spicy, delicious, moist gingerbread. If you’ve never had it, find yourself a recipe and make it now. It is one of the best cakes out there, especially with a beautiful dollop of Cool Whip on top. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

One year as a tribute to my favorite Christmas classics, I made cake bite versions. While I thought my candy cane was pretty good, my egg nog even tastier and my chocolate fudge version darn near perfect, it was my gingerbread cake bite, dipped in sinful milk chocolate with a tiny white swirl on the top that made me smile the most.

So Theo’s combination of fair trade organic milk chocolate and the spices of gingerbread were a must have.

This is definitely a spicy bar! From the second the chocolate hit my tongue, my mouth was filled with the warmth of nutmeg and cinnamon. As the chocolate continued to melt, I got the tiniest hint of cloves. Thankfully they were not overpowering at all, just a subtle nod to the scent that often pervades the holidays. After my first bite was done, I felt like I still had cinnamon in the back of my throat and my tongue and cheeks tingled a little from the spices. It reminded me a bit of how I feel after I take a large gulp of a spiced chai tea latte.

The chocolate itself is not overly creamy. I think the spices temper it so that instead of getting a milky cocoa, it’s much more about the cinnamon and nutmeg. At one point I got a really clear after taste of nutmeg that was a bit overpowering, but thankfully it dissipated quickly. I like nutmeg, but it can very easily be too much.

This is a good bar, but not one that I can eat too much of at a time, which is definitely good for my waistline! The spice of it really does bring the holidays home for me. It tastes like Christmas.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Appearance: 9/10 for the wrapper and 6/10 for the actual chocolate
Value: 7/10

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