Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Gift #4: American Heritage Chocolate

Here's something fun for the chocolate snob who thinks he's tried everything. MARS created a Historic Division through which they re-create old tyme-y chocolates. The American Heritage Chocolate line includes chocolate sticks, blocks and finely grated chocolate drink. The packaging is fun and is likely to impress the chocoholic in your life. The American Heritage Chocolate website says you can buy the products there, although I couldn't figure out exactly where. They do, however, list gift shops at historic sites that will ship the products.
Because the chocolate is made using 17th- and 18th-century recipes, there's definitely a heavy spice aspect to it. You're not just getting chocolate; you're also getting cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, annatto, red pepper, orange, salt and vanilla. It's a fun gift and would make a great stocking stuffer.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Gifts #2 & 3: Stocking Stuffers

I love the new Wonka Exceptionals products. It's like they take a typical candy and tweak it just a bit to make it different. Such is the case with their Peppermint Shortbread Chocolate Pieces. Each little piece is wrapped in foil like a present and the candy is milk chocolate with shortbread cookie and peppermint candy pieces. A new twist on peppermint bark.
I was very excited to see these limited edition Paul Frank Nestle Crunch bars. Who doesn't love a monkey with their chocolate? The package is actually a cardboard box/card. The only disappointing thing is that I expected the actual chocolate to have a monkey on it, but it was just a regular King Size Crunch. Still fun though. Love the packaging. The Paul Frank bars are only available at Target, by the way.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blast from the Snack Past

A reader sent in a fun blog post on "20 Discontinued Snacks We Wish Would Come Back." Check it out. I totally forgot about Boppers! I loved them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Gift #1: Lindt Ornament Boxes

There's no denying it. We're officially into "that" time of year when we buy gifts for everyone-- the teachers, the mailman, the garbageman, the coach, the hairdresser, the mean bus driver-- and we get squat the joy that comes from giving. And so we kick off the Candy Yum Yum Holiday Gift Guide, full of great ideas for all those people in your life whom you'd like to give a little treat to.
Idea #1: These cute Lindt ornament boxes. Hang the little ones on the tree and they're at-hand when your father's second cousin twice-removed shows up on Christmas Eve. The bigger ones are perfect for someone you'll actually see again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Full Moon Book Review!

Hello friends. It's time again for a looksee at some of the new fun books that are on the bookstore shelves just in time for Christmas. First up, "Intensely Chocolate: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for True Chocolate Lovers." Well, that about sums it up. This is a beautiful book with lots of great pictures (a must, in my opinion). Recipes include things like Cocoa Shortcakes with Semisweet Chocolate Whipped Cream, Creme-Fraiche-Bittersweet Chocolate Tartlets, and Intense Hot Chocolate. Okay, I can't look at this book anymore right now, because it's making me hungry. Onto the next one. "How to Build a Gingerbread House: A Step-by-Step Guide to Sweet Results" by Christina Banner. This is a really cute book that goes over everything you need to know to make your very own gingerbread house. What I particularly love about it is that it's not, "Place licorice here. Put M&M's here." She give you the basics and then you're free to create your own masterpiece. There's a section on candies that are good for roofs (Necco Wafers, shredded wheat, M&M's, vanilla wafers, gum, etc.); windows (Pez, graham crackers, wafer cookies); ground cover (coconut grass, brown sugar sand, Royal Icing), and more. And it's not just about Christmas gingerbread houses. There are ideas for a birthday house, Valentine's house, Easter Bunny house and even a sandcastle.
I will be honest and say this is a book that I will look at year after year, and live vicariously through, but I will be shocked if I ever attempt to make one of these. Not that it looks difficult. In fact, she explains everything so well that I *almost* contemplated making one. But the fact of the matter is, I just don't "do" three-dimensional creations. It's not my thing, as evidenced by the 3-D Design class I had to take in college. One of the first assignments (and supposedly easiest) was to create a monolith out of soapstone. The teacher held mine up, in all its hideous glory and said, "This, class, this you could find walking along the beach." He didn't mean it as a compliment.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gift Idea! Virtual Birthday Cake!

Need a unique Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Birthday/No-Reason-I-Just-Love-You gift? Look no further! I'm excited to announce that my cake paintings are now available in limited edition giclee prints. They're printed on Somerset Velvet paper (a lovely thick, textured paper) and are produced with Epson Ultrachrome professional archival inks. These are signed, unmatted and unframed (so you can choose your own level of fanciness).
To order, or if you have any questions, contact me at: candyyumyummail@yahoo.com.

"Bake Sale" Image size 9"x12"; print size 11" x 14"; Price: $25

"Birthday Cake" Image size 4 1/2"x5"; Print size 7"x 7"; Price: $16*
*25% of the profits from this print will go to the American Cancer Society

"You're Never Too Old for Cupcakes" Image size 9"x12"; print size 11" x 14"; Price: $25

Thursday, November 18, 2010

John & Kira's Chocolates: A Heavenly Gift

An attractive half-empty box because I couldn't control myself
I love that Father John and I have this Halloween tradition. The Sugar Baby grabs a full-sized Snickers out of the basket (which has mysteriously disappeared; I don't know where it could have gone) and I give Fr. John some of the latest candy that I've found. Then he hands me something super-fantastic, something that blows me out of the water and puts my puny candy to shame. I'll comfort myself by thinking he has divine intervention on his side.
In any case, this is what he gave me this year:
John & Kira's chocolates.
The box contained an assortment of beautifully glossy, thin squares. An accompanying taste guide tells you which piece is which flavor by the design on top. Of course, I didn't realize that until after I had my first piece.
For my second piece, I chose the Drew Elementary Garden Mint. The description: "fresh cream infused with just-picked garden mint from Urban School Garden programs."
Very cool. It turns out these chocolates are made with ingredients from small farms, fair-trade cooperatives and, like the mint, school gardens.
I expected to bite into this and get a big bang of mint, like every other mint chocolate out there. When you have a mint chocolate, you know it.
But this was different. My first thought was, "Oh, I took the wrong chocolate." But then I double-checked and yes, the # on top of the chocolate denoted the mint. So I took another nibble and aha! The mint was there, it was just--get this--subtle! It wasn't "MINT!!!!!" It was *mint*. The main flavor was dark chocolate, but lingering beneath the surface was the taste of real mint, like peppermint tea. Then I tried the raspberry, expecting it to be a big sour burst of fruit. Instead it was just a light, fresh berry taste. These chocolates are a great example of artificial vs. natural flavor. We're so used to artificial "BIG" flavor that it's surprising when we actually experience the real thing.
I used these chocolates as incentive to write my daily 1,667 words for NaNoWriMo. Of course, Mr. Goodbar sniffed them out and had to try them, too. I hate sharing my chocolate, but in the spirit of all this good will, I figured I should just bite my tongue and let him have a taste.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Natural Vines: A Healthy Twist on Licorice

All-natural candy has perhaps been the biggest trend in candy over the last few years and it's come a long way, baby. It used to be that you'd walk into a health food store and find some sort of date/fig/nut ball concoction that was trying to pass for "candy." Not any more, thankfully. With more and more people (read: concerned parents) looking to eliminate artificial colors and flavors out of their diets, candy makers have had to step up their game and get innovative. I've written about different products before (including the wildly successful Qbel bars, which I just saw for sale in Stop & Shop) and now there's another one to add to the list.
American Licorice Company, famous for Red Vines, has come out with a new product: Natural Vines. They come in black and strawberry and here's what you get:

Black Licorice twists: Molasses, wheat flour, sugar, brown rice syrup, cane syrup, caramel color, licorice extract, palm oil, natural anise flavor, salt.

Strawberry Licorice twists: Wheat flour, cane syrup, sugar, brown rice syrup, palm oil, malic acid, natural strawberry flavor, beet juice (a natural color), glycerin, licorice extract.

Pretty cool, huh? I received some samples from the company, but it was right before Halloween and I was inundated with candy. (As you might recall, I had candy stuffed into every nook and cranny in the house. Funny, most of it seems to have disappeared.) So I thought I'd have some fun and have the licorice experts-- my parents-- do the tasting.
They loved the packaging. Whoever designed it should get an award, because it truly is outstanding. As for the candy, they liked it, but said it didn't really taste like "licorice," which is surprising since, unlike many other licorices, these actually contain licorice extract.
Have you tried Natural Vines? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Praise of Yumsters

One of the biggest reasons I love writing this blog is because I get to "meet" so many interesting people. Look what loyal Yumster Philly created for a friend's birthday. Is that an awesome cupcake or what? I love the little mini cake on top. How about you? What fun things do you do? (It doesn't have to be candy related, although if it is, all the better!)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oh the Horror! Tricks, Not Treats, Dominate This Year's Halloween Haul

A new Halloween tradition has started around here. It's called, "I can't wait to get the pictures of Alexandra's trick-or-treat haul." As you might remember, last year Alex's son came home with a big bagful of candy and ... a chocolate Easter bunny. I thought she'd get a kick out of our candy cane and nasty expired candy this year, but oh no, she has us beat again. And in a big way. Example Number One: Candy from her older son's bag. Let's see, there's some nice full-size bars there, Oreos, lots of Butterfingers and M&M's. But then, let's take a closer look. To the far left is a holiday foam kit to make a skeleton. Well that's cool. Up top, there's an "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" toy that appears to be from a Wendy's kids' meal. Okay, a little weird, but within the boundaries of acceptability. There's a Capri Sun. Um, hello? A bag of juice mixed in with all sorts of candy and other wackiness? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Fortunately it didn't explode. And then we have the coupon for one free week of karate (lame) and, in a bold and daring move that makes Charlie Brown's trick-or-treat rocks look almost tempting, we have a postcard from a mortgage broker. It says something about locking in a "Spooktacular" rate on your mortgage. Maybe next year I'll hand out magazine subscription postcards if this is the way things are headed. But wait! Just when you think you've seen it all, let's move over to the younger boy's Halloween haul. He's the same age as the Sugar Baby, which is a terribly cute stage and, according to my research, is likely to get you more candy. So here we have lots of full-sized bars-- nice score! There's a Skippyjon Jones book. Well, nothing wrong with that, I suppose, and a Where's Waldo toy (another kids' meal, perhaps?) There's something to the right that looks like a baby teether and some various other little toys. But, ladies and gentlemen, the piece de resistance, or perhaps more accurately, the coup de grace, the Scooby Doo. Cute, right? A big plastic Scooby Doo toy-- who wouldn't want one? Well, no one would considering it's an EMPTY BUBBLE BATH BOTTLE! Yes, dear Yumsters, you read that right. A used toiletry item.
So let's consider the questions these two candy hauls bring up.
1) Where in the heck is Alexandra trick-or-treating? (I asked her and strangely enough, it was in her parents' neighborhood which is quite lovely and not at all the type of of place you'd expect to find anything worse than a roll of Necco wafers.)
2) Where are people getting this stuff? Do they save all their kids' meal toys and plastic crap all year just to give out at Halloween?
3) Do they think kids are going to be excited to find an empty bubble bath bottle in their bags?
4) How can *I* lock in a Spooktacular rate on my mortgage?
So dear Yumsters, you know I want to hear from you now. What special goodies did your kids get in their bags this year? Don't be shy. We want to know! And if anyone can beat the Scooby Doo bottle, I'll send you a special surprise.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

You're Never Too Old for Cupcakes!

A very belated birthday present for my Partner-in-Crime. Yes, her birthday was in August. Yes, I started this painting in July. Yes, she will get it for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Was the Trick-or-Treat Record Broken?

Want to know how Father John did this year in the Great Trick-or-Treat Count 2010? Click here for my update. (Spoiler alert: If they only came two-by-two.)

Luxe Milk: It's All Natural, Baby

The folks over at Ghirardelli apparently have been pretty busy. As you may recall, here at Candy Yum Yum we recently gave away four beautiful baskets of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, and now the company has released their new line of 100% All Natural Luxe Milk Chocolate. The four flavors are plain milk, almond, hazelnut and toffee.
To me, Ghirardelli has a distinct taste to it. I find that the dark chocolate is less fruity than some other dark chocolate brands, and the milk is more cocoa-y and less creamy. What do you think?
In the past, I've had issues with the size of the almond pieces in chocolate, but I was okay with these. The pieces, while still chopped up and not whole or even halved, seemed substantial enough to me, making for a satisfying little treat.
Now is a great time to try Ghirardelli if you haven't before, because for every package marked with a special pink ribbon, they'll donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. (All you have to do is enter your package code on their website.) The company is donating $50,000 and will donate up to another $50,000 from the package codes. That's pretty cool and a great way to treat yourself and feel good doing it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween 2010: WE WERE TRICKED!

Okay, first of all, Halloween on a Sunday: bad idea. There was just something wrong, something off about the whole evening.
Here's how it went down for us. In the afternoon, I took the Sugar Baby to the local farm where they were supposedly having some sort of Halloween celebration. "Bring a canned good for the local food bank!" it said in the paper. I went into my pantry and oddly, had nary a canned good, so I packed up the ten thousand individual packets of Annie's Cheddar Bunny crackers I had that the Sugar Baby won't eat. It was the best I could. We got to the farm and basically it was a "buy a raffle ticket to win a pumpkin" and "listen to loud, annoying spooky music" festival. Boo.
We started off trick-or-treating in my parents' neighborhood. It was oddly quiet. It seemed as if more people had their lights off than on. And, a new thing this year, quite a few houses actually left out buckets of candy. This was my dream when I was little. I'd heard of people doing it, but never experienced it. Well, this year, the Sugar Baby got plenty of opportunities to paw through bowls of candy.
After doing that circuit, we went to see Fr. John who was rocking Halloween. Then, onto our neighborhood. Again, fewer houses were giving out candy. What gives?
In any case, here's the haul: one full-sized Snickers and Skittles. Lots of mini Milky Ways, Snickers, Twizzlers, Sweettarts, etc. But enough of that. Let's look at the freaks.
Example one: a mini candy cane. You cannot fool me, Candy Cane person. I know this is leftover from last year's Christmas.
Example two: A Clark Teaberry Gum Ball. Where did this even come from? I've never seen these and who on earth would buy them. (I mean, I totally would, but that's just me.)
Example three: Butterfinger Snackerz. I couldn't wait to try these bad boys. They were strange. The first taste was really good. They're just like Butterfingers, except they're small squares and the center is hollow so they're not as dense. But then they got this weird butteriness to them that I wasn't sure I liked. Although to be fair, my teeth are not in great shape these days and I found crunching to be difficult.
And then, dear Yumsters, I give you our two tricks.
For tonight's after-dinner treat, the Sugar Baby chose the Cow Tail. "Good choice," I said. "You'll like that." I opened it for him and found that it was broken. I gave him the first piece, then the second, then I said, "Wait a minute. These aren't supposed to break. These are supposed to be chewy." I looked at the wrapper. It had expired in 2009! So gross.
I suggested the Sugar Baby take something similar, like perhaps that Chick-o-Stick. I unwrapped it, he took a bite and then this cloud came over his face. I knew that cloud. I had experienced it myself this summer when I bit into a cracker from 2000. I grabbed the Chick-o-Stick wrapper and wouldn't you know it? Expired in 2008. Someone's trying to poison us! Naturally I then put it in my mouth to see if it truly was bad. O.M.G. The Sugar Baby took it all with aplomb (and cleansed his taste buds with Dots), but I can still taste the bitter sawdust in my mouth. A pox upon those who distribute expired candy! Raisins and pennies are one thing, but bad candy is a whole 'nother ball game.