Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Easter Basket Primer

(The Easter Bunny paid an early visit to the von Schokolats' this weekend)

I thought I'd write up an Easter basket primer for those of you who may be creating your first-ever basket. There are three types of baskets for you to choose from: Old Skool, Contemporary and pre-packaged.

Let's start with the easy one: pre-packaged. These are the baskets that are sold at drug stores. They usually contain cheap candy and even cheaper toys. These are a travesty and should be banned from the earth forever. Under no circumstances should you ever buy one of these, unless you are Eastern Orthodox and your Easter happens to fall a week later than everyone else and they're the only things left on the shelves.

An Old Skool Easter basket must contain at least three of the following:
  • Plastic Easter grass that gets everywhere
  • Chocolate bunny (hollow is fine; bonus points if it's driving a race car or holding a carrot)
  • Big fat jelly beans-- a bag of mixed colors and a bag of black
  • Peeps
  • Those weird eggs that have a candy shell and mysterious marshmallowy-type center
  • Foil-wrapped chocolate eggs
  • Malted milk eggs
  • Panoramic sugar eggs
  • Paddle ball
  • Stuffed bunny
  • Play Doh, chalk or bubbles
  • A really good quality bunny, definitely solid
  • "Gourmet" jelly beans
  • Homemade marshmallows
  • Truffle eggs
  • DVDs
So ... what's going in your Easter basket?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Baroness' Birthday Bash!

This weekend we celebrated the Baroness' 40th birthday. (And, oh yeah, the Baron's 40th, too.) The wee Von Schokolats put together a birthday bash for their parents worthy of the most extreme sweets' lover. (Oh, that would be me, wouldn't it?)
I assembled my first-ever candy buffet; not too shabby if I do say so myself. There were red Twizzlers, purple Mike & Ike Jolly Joe's, yellow Lemonheads and various colors of M&M's, Cadbury Mini Eggs and jelly beans. And those pretty lollipops, too.
Of course, what's a party without a chocolate fountain? I brought two Trader Joe's Pound Plus Milk Chocolate bars up with me and we melted that shizz down to create a yummy dip for strawberries, pretzels, pineapple and yes, even potato chips. The Sugar Baby was quite funny. He pulled up a chair in front of the fountain and just watched its cascading beauty.Here's the thing though. Everyone was hanging out talking and eating, doing the usual party thing and there was one guy there who was just hysterical. He was totally cracking me up with his stories of questionable business trips and such. It was only AFTER he left that the von Schokolats thought to tell me that, oh yeah! He's a candy distributor. Say what?! I was so bummed. I could've asked him so many questions. What's the most popular candy? How about the least? What's new that you've tried? What does the Easter Bunny bring their kids?
Unbelievable. Such an opportunity wasted. Well, in any case, we'll be visiting them again another twenty or so times throughout the summer, so perhaps I'll get my chance then. In the meantime, just stare at that chocolate fountain. Such a thing of beauty.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Five Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

A fellow chocoholic sent me an e-mail last week with a recipe for a 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake:

4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. cocoa

1 egg

3 Tbsp. milk

3 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. chocolate chips (the recipe says optional, but come on... since when are chocolate chips optional?)
A small splash of vanilla extract
One microwave safe mug

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla and mix again. Put mug in microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little and tip out onto a plate. Eat! This can serve two if you're feeling slightly more virtuous.

Of course I had to try this with the Sugar Baby. He thought it was great fun and said it was delicious. I, on the other hand, found it a bit dry and definitely not chocolatey enough for my tastebuds. Of course, the dryness could be the result of my evil microwave, which is in cahoots with the rest of my kitchen. As I've said before, my appliances are out to get me because they're jealous of the unconditional love I feel for my old kitchen. So if you decide to give it a whirl (and why not? It's only 5 minutes!) let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Calling All Popcorn Lovers!

There are different types of people in the world. There's cat people and dog people. City slickers and country folk. And then there are the snack types: chocoholics, gum addicts, ice cream fanatics, and popcorn lovers.
I've never been much for popcorn. It usually just gives me a tummy ache. But when I was offered a sample of "Fistful of Fleur de Sel" popcorn from Too Haute Cowgirls, I thought I'd give it a try. Here's the description: caramel corn drenched in dark chocolate, topped with crushed handmade toffee and dusted with the finest hand-harvested fleur de sel (sea salt). Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Well, I'm happy to say that it is. The pieces of popcorn are big and fluffy and coated in rich chocolate. The whole House of Yum agreed that it was some good stuff.
I was also sent some samples of their other flavors: Mutton Bustin Milk Chocolate, Chili con Chocolate, Cowgirl Coffee, and The Good The Bad and the Peanut Butter. The Mutton Bustin was caramel corn drenched in milk chocolate, tossed with handmade peanut brittle and toasted nuts and finished with a drizzle of white chocolate. This was some pretty chunky stuff, with big cashews and large shards of brittle.
The packaging is fun; they have a whole Wild West cowgirl theme going on. They offer the popcorn in three different sizes: Small (3.5 ounces) for $5.95; Medium (6 ounces) for $9.95; and Large (12 ounces) for $18.95. Personally, I think the price point is a bit high, but I could definitely see buying these as a gift.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

See's Easter Candies: Go for the Truffles!

The See's Easter catalog arrived just in time the other day. I took a nap while the Sugar Baby sat in bed next to me and "read" it. Here's what I love about the See's catalog: it's very comforting as opposed to, say, the Vosges Haut Chocolat catalog which makes me feel like I'm standing in some funky New York bar all by myself wearing sweat pants. Does that make sense? I'm just not hip enough for bacon-flavored chocolate Easter eggs. I'm more of a purist. Anyhow.
I was offered some samples of their Easter offerings and here's what I have to report.

Assorted Decorated Eggs: these come in a package of six small eggs, two each of Vanilla Chip, Bordeaux (Brown Sugar buttercream) and Chocolate Butter. Each egg is about three decent bites big. I know this because Mr. Goodbar and I tried to evenly divide the eggs after the recent chocolate debacles in the House of Yum. These are the perfect size because they are most certainly rich. In fact, it was impossible to hold them for longer than a minute because they melted so quickly. My favorite was the Bordeaux. It reminded me of penuche fudge. I'm not sure which Mr. Goodbar preferred, but he obviously liked them all. At $5.40 for a box of six, these are a fun, affordable hostess gift (or perhaps a gift from the Easter Bunny).

The second thing I tried were Jelly Bird Eggs. These really intrigued me because they're unique: little jelly eggs coated in white nonpareils. The flavors (according to the catalog) are lime with orange peel, lemon with orange peel and raspberry preserves. Unfortunately, I'd never guess that by taste alone. I was expecting a big burst of citrus flavor, but instead it was more of a super sugary bland gumdrop. It's too bad, because they're so pretty.

The last thing I tried were their Springtime Truffles, little white chocolate squares with raspberry and lemon centers. I pulled these out from hiding when No-Nuts arrived back for spring break. That's when all hell broke loose. These truffles are big time yummy. The lemon is deliciously tart with flecks of real lemon zest and the raspberry ones are like biting into a chocolate-covered berry. There were five in the box, leaving the three of us to fight over the remaining two. They're still talking about the truffles even though they're long gone. I might have to order a few more boxes.

Check 'em out at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate for Kids! (If Your Kid is Suri or Maddox)

I was in the grocery store for the stars Whole Foods the other day because I had a few minutes to kill. While I was waiting for a cup of coffee (which, although organic and Free Trade, it tasted suspiciously like diner coffee), I noticed a list of activities the store was offering. The kids' sushi class sounded kind of fun, but what I really loved was the weekly "Value Tour" ("Free!") where a guide will take you through the store and show you the single apple value items the average Joe can afford. I mean, seriously, if you've got to take a tour of store to find out where the great bargains are, there's something a little wrong there.
I poked around the candy aisle to see what I could find, and I couldn't resist this bar of Organic Moo "Kids Chocolate" in the Milk Chocolate with Corn Flakes variety. Now you know how I feel about the Ritter Sport Cornflake bar; it is on my list of top three candy bars, so I was curious to see how this measured up.
First of all, let's address this "kids chocolate" thing. According to the package, the company's mission is to make quality organic chocolate with grains that kids will love. Fine. I can stand behind that. The bar is 2.7 ounces, which is bigger than your average candy bar (a Nestle Crunch weighing in at 1.55 ounces), but smaller than most higher-tier candy bars (the Ritter Sport is 3.5 ounces). The package says a serving is half a bar. So here's the deal: the bar cost $3.29. Yes, my friends. A "kids" candy bar for over $3. Who buys this stuff besides me? I'm all for organic and great quality, but Big Rock Candy Mountain will sink into the sea before I go paying that kind of money for a candy bar for the Sugar Baby.
The thing of it is, it wasn't really a great candy bar. It was okay chocolate with crispy corn flakes, but it couldn't hold a candle to the Ritter version. Next time I'll save my $3 (plus the $2 for crappy coffee) and wait for the Ritters to go on sale at Target for $2.50.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Best Milk Chocolate. Ever.

Mrs. Connection called me last week from Costco to find out if I wanted some strawberries because they were such a good price. Since the Sugar Baby's diet consists solely of fruit, chocolate, yogurt and expensive cheese which must be cut into little pumpkin shapes with a cookie cutter, I told her to go ahead and pick me up some.
Holy cannoli, these were the biggest strawberries I'd ever seen. I'm sure they were spliced together with genes from whales or something, because they were just enormous. Clearly these were not toss-into-a-smoothie strawberries. These berries were made for dipping. Since I had a party to go to that night, I figured chocolate-covered strawberries would be perfect. I happened to have on hand a block of Trader Joe's Pound Plus Imported From Belgium Milk Chocolate. (I had planned to use it at Christmas in the chocolate fountain, but, as you may recall, I was sick with what I was sure was N1H1; it turned out to be a sinus and ear infection.)
In any case, I melted a bunch of the chocolate down and dipped the berries and then proceeded to lick the spoon.
Let me just state for the record that I stopped in my tracks. The chocolate was phenomenal. I mean, I've had it before, but I never stopped to really notice just how good it is. In its warm, melty state, it seriously was as close to pure chocolate bliss as I could imagine. It's smooth and creamy without giving that throat burny-feeling you get from cheap chocolate.
Trader Joe's has these big slabs in dark chocolate, too, although I remember when they used to have an almond and a crisped rice version as well. I don't know what happened to those and I don't know who makes this chocolate, (if I did a little research I could probably find out, but American Idol is about to come on), but I have to say, this is definitely a contender of my favorite plain chocolate. Now it is gone and I never want to see it in my house again, for it appears to be my kryptonite.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wonka Bars: Now That's What I'm Talking About

Last week I reported on the new Wonka Jellies and Marvels. Today, it's all about the chocolate. "Wonka Bars" have been around since the '70s. They're milk chocolate with pieces of graham cracker. I always found this to be astoundingly disappointing, since the Wonka Bar (according to the book, anyway) was supposed to be Willy Wonka's ultimate creation. Somehow I'd expect it to be a little snazzier than just some second-rate chocolate with cookie dregs. Every now and then I'd buy one hoping that it was better than I remembered, but it never was. But good news folks. That lame bar is now a thing of the past and is being replaced by three new, much better bars.
First, the Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar, which is milk chocolate with toffee pieces, cookie pieces and peanuts. Much more exciting, don't you agree? I only got a small taste of this bar. Somehow I think Mr. Goodbar and the Sugar Baby made quick work of it while I wasn't looking. It was good. The chocolate was creamy and the crunchy bits were properly crunchy.Next, the Wonka Chocolate Waterfall bar is a blend of milk and white chocolate. This is a pretty sweet bar. If white chocolate is your thing, then this bar is for you. I found it a bit cloying.Lastly, there's the Domed Dark Chocolate Bar: a slab of dark chocolate with milk chocolate domes on top. Out of all three bars, I expected the least pizazz out of this one, but it turned out to be my favorite. The dark chocolate was exceedingly rich and not at all grainy. It was smooth and had a wonderful mouth-feel.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the new Wonka Exceptionals line. It seems to me like someone was really listening over at the Nestle R&D labs. They took what was a boring, unexceptional bar (The Wonka Bar) and instead created three new yummy, and even somewhat sophisticated, candy bars.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Delightful Yumster and a Shameless Mr. Goodbar

When I started this blog back in 2003, I had no idea where it was going. In fact, I didn't really think it would "go" anywhere. I had two readers-- my sister and, well okay, maybe it was just one reader, and I barely knew what a blog was. I started this as an outlet to write about my passion-- candy-- versus the stuff I normally write about for publication, and it just kept rolling along. I never expected, though, that I would "meet" so many cool people. I've found that candy lovers are some of the nicest, most giving people on the planet.
Take, for example, Kendra, a Yumster from Ontario. Not only does she read Candy Yum Yum faithfully, but she sent me this awesome box of chocolates from her local chocolatier, Reid Chocolates.

Okay, wait just a second. Here's a "real time" comment: I just went to open the box to look at the chocolates and make some comments and I see that the giant milk chocolate turtle is GONE. I cannot believe this. Mr. Goodbar has once again gotten into my stash and eaten the piece I was saving until last. Seriously, this is not acceptable. Apparently he learned nothing from the previous episode when he ate my espresso truffle. Please hold while I go address the situation...

Okay, I'm back. He didn't even try to deny it. Once again, he said he ate half and tried to save the other half for me, but it was so good he couldn't control himself. "Those are good chocolates," he said.
"But they're MY chocolates!" I said.
"Just because they come to the door with your name on them doesn't mean, well, okay, they are your chocolates, but I didn't know you liked turtles," he said. "I like nuts. I don't usually like caramel, but that was really good." Um, is this supposed to be making me feel better? Cause it's not.
Well, I suppose if anything it's a good plug for Reid Chocolates. And thank you Kendra for being such a devoted Yumster. At least you know your kindness has touched two souls.

Friday, March 12, 2010

For the Hostest with the Mostest

If I was of the age where my friends were getting married, I'd be totally rocking this as my go-to gift. Who wouldn't want a Lenox Peeps Salt and Pepper set? If they come out with flatware, I'm signing up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mr. Candy Update: Definitely Evil

The Sugar Baby's been talking about Mr. Candy again-- twice this week! The first time, we were sitting at a table where someone had carved their initials. "Uh oh," the Sugar Baby said. "I think Mr. Candy did that. I think he's in a time out."
The second time was today as we were walking through a parking lot. There was a slice of bread on the ground. "Look!" said the Sugar Baby. "I think that's Mr. Candy's! And there's his car!" Apparently Mr. Candy drives a green Toyota Camry. It's all coming together.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Wonka Fruit Marvels and Fruit Jellies: a professional review from unprofessional testers

This weekend I had a reunion with all my taste tester buddies. They're a wild bunch. I suppose I could blame our trained palates as a reason that we all like to get sauced enjoy fine foods and beverages, as well as each others' company. As luck would have it, I received a box of samples from Wonka earlier in the day, so I thought, hey, why not have the Buds (as we were called) do the taste testing? I put out a notepad for comments since I knew I'd be lucky if I even remembered being there.
I put out three products: Wonka Exceptionals Fruit Marvels in Clementine Orange and Pomegranate flavors, and Wonka Exceptionals Fruit Jellies in Grapefruit.
Here's what the notes say:

  • Pomegranate-- yummy!
  • Surprise! The Marvel is soft inside.
  • Orange: has a soft center. Pleasant surprise! Great!
  • Reminiscent of early winter citrus with a hint of cooked orange, candy orange and fresh orange. (Okay, I made that last one up. But it certainly would've come up had the wine not started flowing.)
Here is Taste Tester Ginger with a Pomegranate Marvel in her hand. She took it out of her mouth because she suddenly remembered she gave up candy for Lent. Taste Tester Dawnie told her she could finish it if she said ten Novenas.

So here's the deal: the Marvels are "Hard candies with soft centers, delicately sugar dusted." I have to say, these are a unique candy. I can't think of anything to compare them to, except they're kind of like those little strawberry candies that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. They're very tasty.
The Fruit Jellies are "Fantastically flavorful soft jellies dusted with sugar." In other words, top-shelf gumdrops in a cube shape.
I really like these products and here's why.
1) I like the packaging. This is how I always envisioned Wonka candies should look like, rather than the goofy Oompas packaging with the cartoon Willy Wonka. These definitely feel like something you could actually get at the Willy Wonka Factory Store, if he had one.
2) The flavors. They could've done plain old orange, but instead they did Clementine. I was thrilled to see they had grapefruit jellies, an under-utilized candy flavor. And of course, there's the sophistication factor of pomegranate and Goji berry. With flavors like these, Wonka/Nestle is obviously trying to appeal to candy lovers of a certain age.
3) They're made with natural ingredients. Yes, there's sugar and corn syrup and modified corn starch in these, so the whole "natural" label is kind of shifty. This ain't health food, folks. But the good news is, there's no artificial colors, which can be a big deal to some parents. The candies are colored with carmine and cochineal. It's probably best not to tell the kiddies that these colors come from ground-up beetles. (So if you're vegan, take note of that. No jellies or Marvels for you.)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lucky Day

A friend of mine (well, kind of; we've never met) posted this on Facebook:

"At age 40, finding $5 in the laundry shouldn't be a big deal. But I swear my first thought was 'I could totally buy a candy bar with this.' "

Yep. That would be my thought too.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Chocolate Covered Peeps

I went to Walgreen's last week in a driving rain storm to buy some pain patches for my back because, you know, I'm old. The only saving grace of this trip was that I knew I'd get to check out the Easter candy.
I think Easter offers the most variety of any of the candy holidays: Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's. I love seeing all the different bunny- and egg-shaped candies and of course, marshmallow is majorly predominant. I loves me some good marshmallow. So I was thrilled to buy a dark chocolate covered Peep. (They also come in milk chocolate.)
It sure is a pretty thing, all shiny and dark. I wasn't sure what to expect on the inside, but it turned out to be bright yellow (like a Peep) only without the sparkly sugar coating. Unfortunately, I thought these had just a slightly medicinal taste to them and the chocolate was pretty grainy. The fact that the majority of the Peep has sat on my desk uneaten for about five days says something. It says, if you want a Peep, buy a box of Peeps. If you want chocolate-covered marshmallow, go for the Russell Stover.
In other Peep news, I went to the mall today and now that the Sugar Baby is old enough to notice such things, I realized that there are candy machines and claw game machines everywhere. He found one particularly enticing: a machine full of big, clear bouncy balls with Peeps in the center. They were pretty cool, I must admit. I was almost tempted to give him the 50 cents to try it. But then I thought better of it. No need to start that bad habit yet.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Eat Your Vegetables! (I mean, Russian Chocolate)

My mother's neighbor went to Russia recently and returned bearing gifts. I have no idea what these two packages say, but I tried to hide them on the counter trying to keep them away from the Sugar Baby. Alas, he is part monkey and can scale any height if he suspects there is candy. When he saw these bars, he went bonkers.
"I want one of those!" he said.
"No you don't. Those are vegetable bars," I told him.
He gave me "the look." The smirky head-tilt that means, "I know you're lying to me again."
I couldn't contain myself. He had totally snagged me in my fib. Fine. I told him he could have half of one.
He went for the round chocolate/hazelnut one first. It had a crispy sort of wafer bottom, almost like a Kit Kat. In fact, the whole thing tasted kind of like a Kit Kat.
In the meantime, I tried to hide the other one, but tonight he asked for a vegetable bar for dessert. How could I say no? We split the other one, which said on the back (in the tiniest print I've ever seen and in about 12 different languages) that it was a caramel creme. It was a mousse-like filling, very sweet. He loved it.
If only it really was a vegetable bar.