Sunday, November 29, 2009

Now I Can Say I've Been Covered in Chocolate

Every family has their post-Thanksgiving tradition. Some people go shopping on Black Friday; others go get their Christmas tree. In the Haus von Schokolat, our annual ritual is to go to the Apollo Day Spa.
This year, while everyone else was getting massages, I was the guinea pig for the chocolate body polish. Yes indeedy, you heard me right. Chocolate.
When we first walked into the spa, No-Nuts was very skeptical. "What's that smell?" she asked. "I hope that's not your chocolate thing, because it smells like burnt pretzel." I thought it was more like burnt popcorn, but apparently it was a cranberry candle. In any case, it wasn't my chocolate scrub, thankfully.
Everyone was wondering what this was going to be like. They had visions of me sitting in a bathtub full of melted chocolate or slathered with it and wrapped up in a warm cocoon. Nope. Here's the deal: I laid down on my stomach and got all relaxed and then the woman doing my treatment (the owner) spread some exfoliating stuff on my back. I instantly smelled like brownie mix. It was wonderful. She said they use a neutral exfoliant base and then add cocoa powder and cocoa butter. She rubbed it into my skin, then put me into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes wiped it off with hot towels. Then I got to go soak in an old-fashioned tub filled with bubbles and rose petals. After that, I got all moisturized and had a bonus pomegranate face peel (my skin still feels incredible). (Add some green M&M's and champagne, and they could sell this package as an aphrodisiac special in February.)
They say cocoa is good for the skin, and I have to say, it made me feel like a new person. If you feel like trying it at home, here were some suggestions from my chocolate spa goddess: make a paste of FINE sea salt (that's key, to use fine versus coarse sea salt), cocoa, cocoa butter and some oil. If you want, (and you're not allergic!) you can use a fancy nut oil. I'm thinking some coconut and almond oil would be really cool: an Almond Joy exfoliant. She also said you can make it edible by using sugar instead of salt. Oooh la la. Does it get any more decadent than that?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Marshmallow Cocoa Martini: Make One for Santa!

Here's an early Christmas gift from me to you: my recipe for a Marshmallow Cocoa Martini! I was inspired by the Candy Corn Cordial from Halloween, so I decided to see what would happen if I infused some vodka with marshmallows. I took four large marshmallows and cut them into quarters (or you could use a handful of mini-marshmallows) and put them in a container with 3/4 cup vodka. I let it sit in the fridge for five days or so. (Caution any guests that might be poking around in your fridge, as this concoction looks amazingly like fresh mozzarella in water.)
Then I strained the vodka using a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter, just to get all the marshmallows and floaty stuff out.
The recipe for one Marshmallow Cocoa Martini:

1 shot Marshmallow vodka
1 shot Godiva Chocolate Liqueur or Bailey's
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

Shake it all up in a martini shaker, strain, and garnish with a marshmallow and chocolate syrup. Voila! A yummy chocolatey martini perfect for sipping in front of a fire.

(Sidenote: I tried to re-create the martini this week while we were at the von Schokolat's. I made it much too strong, however, as I didn't realize the shot glass I was using was a joke one. So a word to the wise: make sure you use a standard regulation-sized shot!)

Next experiment: Candy Cane Vodka! Ribbon Candy Vodka! Anyone want to be a taste tester? Come on over!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Santa, Why the Blank Stare?

I figured it was time to get into the Christmas spirit, since, you know, Thanksgiving is almost here. I wouldn't want to get behind the trends and all. I decided my Christmas cheer would take the form of a Russell Stover Coconut Cream Santa. I can't say as I've ever seen these before, but it may be just because my affection for coconut is a relatively new thing.
Here it is. One chocolate-covered "Santa." Methinks this is akin to a Fudgey the Whale cake-- they've got to use this mold for other holidays. It could be a mummy for Halloween or a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day. You can't really claim it's a rabbit, but maybe a chick for Easter. Maybe I'll buy a bunch of these and add some details for the annual Wombat Day celebration.**
What would you re-package this as?

**OMG. I just realized I forgot to celebrate Wombat Day this year! For some reason, I always think it's in February. Darn!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Acupuncturist Walks into the Candy Store

My friend Marisa recently went to Japan with her acupuncture class to study with The Master and learn the ancient Chinese secrets of the Order of the Great Tiger. Well, I don't know if the Master part is true, but she did go there to hone her needling skills and, in the process, found some fun Japanese candy for me. I've been just kind of staring at these beauties for a few weeks now, gathering excitement of the fun that awaits.
The first thing I busted into was, of course, the Choco Banana Pocky. It had the classic Pocky crunchy stick, dipped in an incredibly artificial-tasting banana coating and drizzled with chocolate. They were delicious.
The other things I'll be trying over the next few weeks. Apparently Marisa was on a banana kick, because, as you can see in the bottom of the photo, there is a banana candy bar. XL no less. The middle thing is a bunch of little packages of different candies and I have no idea what the thing on the right is. Up top, there are some candy blox. Very cute. I will keep you posted on the mysterious candies. In the meantime, the flu has hit the house of Yum, so please be patient. There really is a lot to report!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Create Your Own Candy Bar! (Or just eat mine, like Mr. Goodbar did)

A while ago, I got to thinking about what my fantasy candy bar would be. If I had any smarts at all, I would've taken this idea one step further and started a create-your-own candy bar business. But I seem to be missing the synapses that take my ideas to finished products. A mental deficiency, probably caused from drinking coffee at age 5.
Enter Chocri, a German company that allows you to pick your chocolate (milk, dark or white) and select your toppings-- everything from nuts and dried fruits to spices and cereals. In January, they'll be offering this service in the U.S.; in the meantime, they've been inviting some bloggers and journalists to try out their goods. What fun! And such decisions to make.
Some things were easy for me to rule out, like rosemary, hemp seeds, flower mix and basil. I have no interest in mixing these things with my chocolate. Others, however, presented quite a challenge. Should I do a really nutty bar with almonds, cashews, pine nuts and pecans? Or maybe a "fun" candy bar with gummy bears, colorful chocolate lentils and mini sugar bananas? It was tough coming up with some final products, but here's what I went with.
Pictured from left: "I Wish I Was Somewhere Tropical" (dark chocolate with coconut flakes, banana chips, pineapple and sea salt); "Candy Yum Yum Fruit Crunch" (milk chocolate with raisins, cranberries, cinnamon cornflakes and roasted almonds); and "The Whole Shebang" (milk chocolate with pretzels, cornflakes, candy lentils, rice crispies and ground coffee beans). I probably should've ordered a white chocolate bar just to cover all the bases, but since I really don't prefer white, I passed on it. Now I wish I had ordered one, because I loved all of these.
They were actually sitting on the "candy shelf" for a while, because we had all the Halloween candy to slog through. So the other night, when I finally decided it was time to break into one of the bars, I went into a panic. The Whole Shebang was open and it appeared as if the label had been nibbled on. I ran downstairs to tell Mr. Goodbar the unfortunate news that we once again had mice in the house.
"Uh, no," he said. "That was me. I opened that."
Oh. Well, he sure did a job on the label.
The milk chocolate was smooth and creamy and the combination of the pretzel and cornflake crunch with the chocolately lentils was perfect. The ground coffee beans gave it a really delicious, complex flavor, although I think the coffee would've been better with simpler ingredients, maybe plain cashews or a dried fruit.
The Candy Yum Yum Fruit Crunch was reminiscent of a Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar, back when they were actually good. The sweet almonds and tart fruit played off each other and the cinnamon cornflakes gave it a fun twist.
I thought I was being clever by putting banana chips in the Tropical bar. Mr. Goodbar hates bananas and I thought they would keep him away. Wrong. This morning I saw that he broke into the bar last night. The dark chocolate is wonderfully balanced-- not too sweet, not too bitter or tannic. The sea salt goes wonderfully with the chocolate and the fruits give it a nice texture combination.
I'm being 100 percent honest in my review when I say I. Love. Chocri. I love the concept and I love the product. My one bone of contention is the label. Since you get to name your own bar, it would be fun to have a fancier, more professional looking label, but the package itself is great, since you get to see what the bar looks like.
Let's get down to business now. The company won't start selling in the U.S. until January, which is too bad, because they'd make great Christmas gifts. The bars start at $8 and the toppings range from 10 cents to over $2. It looks like an average bar would cost somewhere around $10. Pricey, yes. These aren't the type of bars you'd order for your everyday consumption. However, I think a gift certificate for one or two bars would be a fun present or grab bag gift.
The Chocri website in the U.S. isn't up yet, but you can visit their blog for a preview: Check it out. What do you think you'd create?
You can check out some of the other bars that bloggers have created at Candy Addict and The Chocolate Review.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lemonheads and Licorice

Have you missed me? I've missed you. It's been non-stop action since Halloween. I'm happy to report that the last of the Halloween candy (as far as the Sugar Baby knows) was eaten today. The rest is stashed in a drawer for No-Nuts.
I got kind of sugared out after Halloween, but I think I've got my appetite back, so let's catch up, shall we? I was very excited to come across these Tropical Chewy Lemon-Head & Friends at the Christmas Tree Shop. You may recall that it was only recently when I tried the traditional Lemonhead & Friends and loved them. Good texture and perfect sour taste.
These, however, were a disappointment. The box says, "Two Flavors in Every Piece!" and they are: Kiwi-Strawberry, Peach-Mango, Berry-Banana, Cherry-Watermelon and Pink Lemonade-Lemonade. (That last one is a cheat, if you ask me.)
The Kiwi-Strawberry was way too sweet; it lacked a sour punch. The Berry-Banana was just weird and fake tasting. Cherry-Watermelon was actually pretty good. The initial taste was cherry and the finish was watermelon. I hate peach-flavored candies, and these were no exception. The best out of the lot were the redundant Pink Lemonade-Lemonade.
Next up, we have this oddity: Walgreens Candy Classics Australian Traditional Black Liquorice Smothered in real milk chocolate. Now that's a mouthful, eh? This is a thick stick of solid licorice. It has a nice aroma to it. The same spicy, piquant smell you get when you first open a bag of black licorice. But the thing is, chocolate just doesn't go well with licorice. I found the combination to be just plain odd. Kind of like when Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were together. They just don't do anything for each other.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shameless Commerce

It may only be November, but before you know it, Christmas will be here. Check out my new magnets at my Etsy store. At 2 for $3 or a set of 5 for $6, they make a great stocking stuffer.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Halloween Post-Mortem

Oh, the irony that is November. Here I am, with a house stocked full of candy and so much to write about and review, and yet I have so little time. I'm doing NaNoWriMo again, so I'm pretty much a walking zombie.
But here's a few tidbits of what's been going on at the House of Yum:

1) The Sugar Baby has this thing where, when he's eating a group of candies, say a handful of M&M's or a box of Dots, he holds onto the last piece and calls it "the secret candy."
2) Despite the fact that he has (had) about 20 pounds of delicious Halloween candy, he discovered a bowl of nasty old candy up in my painting studio. This is the candy that I use as still lifes for my art work. He became fixated with this candy and 1) ate a bunch of the old Necco Conversation Hearts even though I told him they were gross and old and not to do that and 2) decided he wanted to "Paint candy" like his mommy, only he didn't want to paint pictures of candy, he wanted to paint the actual candy. You know what they say: pick your battles. So I let him paint the Dum Dums and Red Hot Dollars with stinky tempera paint and then we did "candy prints" on paper. The results were less than dramatic, so they won't be shown here.

As far as I'm concerned, I felt like I needed to start working on some of the candy I got during the Great New York Candy Extravaganza, so I opened up the little chocolate square I got at Masthiashop. Here's what I'll say about it: if it was the only candy in the house, I'd eat it. But with the box of truffles from Father John just sitting on my desk, waiting to be devoured, I couldn't bring myself to waste the calories on the Masthia chocolate. I threw out half of it and instead had a dark chocolate orange truffle which was fantastic.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Candy Corn Cordials: The Perfect Pairing with Halloween Candy

My pal Marisa pretending that this is her first drink of the night
We did it! We actually made the Candy Corn Cordials after trick-or-treating. A couple of friends from the old chocolate store days came over and we reminisced about all the good times (stuffing fudge in the toilet, fighting over who got to wait on Nut Bark Man, watching the "new kid" shove cases of candy out the back door to his friends ...) while sipping our cordials.
I let the candy corn soak in vodka in the fridge for about five hours. The candy corn disintegrated, thus turning the vodka a lovely bright orange. I strained out the solids using a coffee filter, then added the Grand Marnier, lemon juice and egg whites. (I'd read a review that said the egg whites were essential for the frothy nature of the drink, but frankly they just grossed us out.) How did they taste? Actually really good, but nothing at all like candy corn. They tasted like an orange/lemon martini. I'm going to experiment with some ideas for Christmas. Chopped up candy canes seem like an obvious winner. Maybe, though, I'll try ribbon candy. Any other ideas?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween '09: What Dressing Like a Fly Agaric Mushroom Will Net You

It took me a whole day to recover, but I think it's safe to say that I survived Halloween '09. First stop: Father John's for the difficult decision of which full-size bar to take. (It just occurs to me that Father John looks a lot like Ricky Gervais.)
Actually, the Sugar Baby had no trouble deciding. He went straight for the Almond Joy, which was the same one he picked last year, despite the fact that he has no idea what it is.
I brought Father John a box of Chocorooms; I felt like he needed to experience the sheer bliss of these little delights. I hope he likes them as much as everyone else did.
But check out what he gave me: a box of melt-in-your-mouth truffles from Hauser Chocolatier in Bethel, CT. I mean, seriously, it gets no better than this.
We trick-or-treated around my parents' neighborhood for about an hour (Bazooka Betsy and Uncle Crabby joined us in the fun). I was surprised at how many people offered full-sized bars this year. At first the Sugar Baby was all hesitant to pick a piece of candy, but by the end of the night he was going for the one-two grab.
We've spent the past two days sorting through all the candy, lining them up, mixing and matching. So far he's loved everything he's had. But the most exciting piece to him was the Starlight Mint. "I got a peppermint!" he yelled. This most precious of candies remains uneaten. He simply looks at it.
More details to follow.