Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Christmas Orange

Did you ever get fruit in your stocking as a kid? I think my Mom (oops, I mean Santa) tried it once and we bitched and moaned so much she never did it again. Who the hell wants FRUIT in their stocking on Christmas? Might as well put coal in there. I want Reese's. Lots of Reese's. And don't take up space by putting batteries in there.

But if you are bound and determined to put an orange in there, there has been a good alternative (I reviewed it last year) - Terry's Chocolate Orange. I was stunned last year to see that you had to beat the thing to get it to "open" into slices, but I'm a veteran now. I didn't try something stupid like hitting it with a stapler. I just slammed these mothers right into a table. More holiday violence! What is wrong with me?

So what's new this year? Well, Terry's has a new variety and everybody and their brother is trying to get in on the action.

Terry's has toffee crunch:

The interior instruction wrapper:

Whack? I tried whacking it last year, I'm telling you, you have to slam them into a table. Here's what Terry's looks like before the slam:

And after:

As you'll see Terry's breaks apart the best. It also looks the best before you break it. Terry's (now owned by Kraft) has the process down.

When I first opened the box I was hit with the citrus smell of orange. I have to tell you, I was thinking this just might be toffee. Not orange toffee. And while I like it better than the non-toffee orange, it's still too orangy for me. But better than a real orange, mind you. Chocolate and toffee are involved.

Ferrara Pan (maker of the Atomic Fireball) has jumped into the chocolate game and they too have a toffee crunch orange:

Burst then enjoy? What the hell does "burst" mean? I like "whack and unwrap" better but I guess you can only steal so much. How about "Beat then Eat?" Or "Slam then Cram?"

Not as pretty as Terry's:

And much more carnage after the bursting. It's hard to really tell from the pics, but Terry's comes apart much better. This one was just toffee, no orange flavor. But the chocolate was waxy and the toffee in Terry's was better. I am totally unimpressed and while I hate the orange flavor, I choose Terry's over this.

Ferrara also has a Dark Orange:

Another "bursting" disaster. I still can't get some of these slices apart. But the dark chocolate/orange combo works better than the milk chocolate/orange combo. I often find that with fruit flavors, dark chocolate is a better pairing. The fruit is already sweet enough, it doesn't need milk chocolate. But this isn't the best dark chocolate in the world. However, it's better than the milk chocolate offering by Terry's only becuase of the better flavor combo.

And another contender - Florida Tropic! (I reviewed their Key Lime a month or so ago.) Their orange just says 70% cacao dark chocolate:

Well, maybe this works? Although if you've never had some of these do you know the hand is slamming? Or does it just look like it's just squeezing?

The lamest of all the "breaks" - they have no skill in the molding of this "orange." It is dark chocolate and no orange flavor. It's okay - it's not doing a whole lot for me. In fact, why bother? It's not fun to slam. It has no orange taste, no toffee, and you can get a lot better dark chocolate elsewhere. But if you insist on having a damn orange, so ahead. Wait! I think I'd rather have batteries.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Does Chocolate Make Things Better?

My dear readers, I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas!! I hope you ate loads of cookies and chocolate and other goodies. YAHOO!!

I was out today and actually purchased my first Valentine's Day candy. God help me. If you saw how much Christmas candy I still have you would drive me to the mental institution. I'm telling you - watch for me on an upcoming episode of Hoarders - the Crazy Candy Lady.

I have to show you these cookies just because they are my fav of the season and if there are any left you should buy them. Immediately.

Cute box. Cute cookies. If you like almond shortbread cookies - these are the best. Ever.

Are you still reading? Get in your car - go to Trader's Joe's! They can't last forever - go NOW! I'll still be here when you get back.

Today we have a serious issue to cover. Does chocolate make everything better?

I'm going to say, "YES!" and "no." Do you like how I made the no in lower case? It's a no, but a quiet no, a subtle no. This is Motivation by Chocolate, after all. Hang in there, munch on an almond snowman and watch my philosophy unfold.

In the case of gingerbread (yes, more gingerbread), the answer is HELL YES!!! Chocolate and gingerbread are a match made in heaven.

Bahlsen ( (check out also) is a German company that makes some great, great gingerbread. These guys are cute:

You know me, I love all the different designs. But what really makes them good is:

Oh yeah, baby! The layer of dark chocolate on back. YUM!! Soft, cakey and spicy offset by the dark chocolate - these gingerbread men are my new boyfriends. I love them.

Now, I typically prefer men to boys, but in this case:

The white chocolate works too. By Nikki's Cookies, this guy was nice and moist and the white chocolate was a much thicker layer than the dark chocolate on the Bahlsen men. But he was great too - not as spicy as the German cookies, but still good. The chocolate seems to help keep the gingerbread moist. It's a kickin' combo.

These cookies started my love affair with gingerbread. They still rock my world. I have these stashed everywhere because I can only find them around Christmas so I bought like a million. They are in my pantry, my cookie jar, my cupboards, even my silverware drawer. They are everywhere. They are sooooo good!!!

I know - you think - whatever. Here's the deal - they are like cakey spice cookies. They have a wonderful fruity, spicy flavor that is so fabulous with the dark chocolate I can't even explain it. I can only find them in World Market and A Southern Season. And you may not be able to find any because I have bought them all. Bwah, ha, ha! Just call me Moriarty (yes, I saw Sherlock Holmes last night).

This is Harry & David's Gingerbread Cookie Boy "coated in chocolate flavor" (which means mockolate). But I don't care - he's really good too! I'm telling you, this gingerbread and chocolate thing is very, very beautiful. Gingerbread needs a little help and chocolate is just the thing. Although H & D's GBB is a little dry. The German's are kicking our butt on this I'm afraid.

Look at that cute smile! And that swirl of hair! Awwww!

These beauties were made exclusively for Williams-Sonoma by Two Hearts Bakery in San Francisco. They were insanely expensive - the box of eight was $25:

And you have about a week to eat them before the marshmallow starts to get hard and yucky. They "do not recommend refrigerating or freezing them." I read that as "Don't refrigerate or freeze." And they are not big:

With a winter Oreo

with the H & D Gingerbread Boy. Damn.

Now according to Williams-Sonoma, these Gingerbread Boy S'mores are well worth $3+ each. Listen to this:

"Two Hearts Bakery in San Francisco creates these "boys" for us by hand, one batch at a time. Their graham crackers are baked with a touch of wildflower honey and Saigon cinnamon, then dipped in a silky blend of Guittard couveture milk and dark chocolates and piped with vanilla icing buttons. Sandwiched in between is a fresh, hand-cut marshmallow flavored with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans."

Well good God! Was Martha involved? Where are my maps? Did they drive these cookies through the Holy Land too? Where they blessed by the Pope?

Okay, I did notice that the chocolate on these babies was super delish. However, the wildflower honey, Saigon cinnamon, and those vanilla beans with four names went right by me. Didn't even notice. Liked the milk chocolate better than the dark. Glad I tried them, but you won't find them stashed in every nook and cranny of my kitchen. And I won't buy them again. A little too rich for me, both in taste and cost.

For $25 I can assemble an Archway army and go kick some Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean butt. Wow - first I decapitate Santa, now I'm assembling a gingerbread army. What will be next?

Here's the "no":

These are from Crate and Barrel - yep - they have Christmas Treats in their catalog. They are Rice Krispy treats covered in milk and white chocolate and sprinkles:

The white chocolate was the better of the two, but the chocolate didn't work here. Too much, too heavy. A drizzle of chocolate or chunks of chocolate are okay, but this was way too much. Rice Krispy treats are pretty damn good on their own. They don't need this much help from chocolate.

So sometimes, YES, chocolate makes things better. And sometimes, no, chocolate doesn't make things better. There is no single solution to every problem. What works for a vanilla bean may not work for a hazelnut. Some days even chocolate can't solve your problems. But as long as you know that things WILL get better, you'll be okay. Chocolate may not be able to solve all your problems, but you can. And if you don't think you can, call me - I'll bring my army.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Log

You know, when you have Wikipedia, why go anywhere else for information? I found this baby in World Market and I've always wanted to try one:

On Wikipedia there's a whole bunch of stuff about the Yule Log (which was actually a log that would be burned), but I thought that was kind of boring. The confection (yay!) is:

Bûche de Noël ("Yule log") is a traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec, Lebanon and several other Christian-populated francophone countries as well as in the UK. (And we can score one in World Market.) As the name indicates, the cake is generally prepared, presented, and garnished so as to look like a log ready for the fire.

The traditional bûche is made from a Génoise or other sponge cake, generally baked in a large, shallow Swiss roll pan, frosted, rolled to form a cylinder, and frosted again on the outside. The most common combination is a basic yellow sponge cake, frosted and filled with chocolate buttercream; however, many variations on the traditional recipe exist, possibly including chocolate cakes, ganache and espresso or otherwise-flavored frostings and fillings. Bûches are often served with a portion of one end of the cake cut off and set on top of the cake or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped off branch, and bark-like texture is often produced in the buttercream for further realism. These cakes are often decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, tree branches, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue.

Yeah, yeah - fancy, schmancy - started as a pagan tradition and my love of sweets is fairly pagan, but I think we can all agree that burning a log in a winter fire and/or eating a delicious cake is a good thing, so kumbaya!!

Now it does look like a log when unwrapped (kind of creepy):

But, it gets better:

Oh yeah, baby!!! This is like the world's biggest Swiss Cake Roll. And it is really, really good. The cake is not too rich, it's just right. The outer icing could be a little bit thicker, but overall - YUMMY!!!

It's made by DAN CAKE, the largest producer of family size Sponge Cakes and Swiss Rolls in Scandinavia. No wonder it's good! It's from the land of Swiss Rolls!

I also found these:

These are little cake balls covered with chocolate sprinkles. I thought they would be great! But - glaack! There was some kind of liquor involved. Yucko! Give me the huge Swiss Cake Roll any day! That Christmas Log is a beautiful thing.

Now these aren't Christmas things but I just found them, so let's look at them now:

I thought they were going to be candy bars, but they are cakes:

These are the Cadbury equivalent of Little Debbie's! They are baby Yule Logs! And you know what? They are too rich for me! I can't believe it!

Here's the deal. They have the same inside, but they are covered with a layer of that rich, creamy Cadbury chocolate - and it's too much! I can't believe it! Now, I bet there will be loads of people who love it. And it's a good thing. But it's just a little too rich for me.

If you didn't have a Christmas Log this year - try one next year - they are really good!

Also, after a Christmas Day of watching TV, I have some thoughts for you:

Isn't the kid who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story the best child actor EVER?

Do the people who buy the Chia Obama like Obama or dislike Obama?

How many people really have mesothelioma?

Whoever invented TIVO/DVR is a genius. Was it Al Gore? Martha Stewart?

Are leopard and zebra print really the "high fashion" Snuggies? Can high fashion and Snuggies really be used in the same sentence? Shouldn't there be a Shamwow Snuggie so if you spill something you can just roll around on it and it will be gone?

I hope you all had a fabulous holiday!! We're gonna stretch it out a little longer because I still have a bunch of Christmas candy, so keep those yule logs burning!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Peanut Butter

In honor of Christmas Eve, I am reviewing the holy combination of peanut butter and chocolate. And my favorite holiday representative is Hershey's Reese's (which has been running some great full page ads in USA Today - saying things like "And visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. Sugar plums? Seriously?" surrounded by Reese's bells). YUM!!

Let's start with the trees:

This great box was filled with 6 of the standard size trees. Love the Christmas tree cutout on top. Great new packaging. Here's the standard size dressed for the season:

The mini trees were in these assortments:

The first one we covered earlier when I reviewed the York Peppermint Snowflake. The second one has white chocolate trees in addition to the milk chocolate ones.

I like that the white tree wrapper has such a different look - nice touch.

And then there's the Big Daddy:

Family portrait in their Christmas best:

The whole group naked:

Okay, the artistry isn't so good. But, honestly, who cares? They are sooooo damn good they can get away with it. Man, I love these!! The minis are the perfect size to just pop in your mouth. All that peanut butter - ooooh weee! But I do have to say that I prefer the milk chocolate to the white chocolate trees. The white chocolate is too sweet, doesn't offset the peanut butter as well. Pass on these.

Don't forget the Reese's Bells:

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but there's too much chocolate. I guess it has to be thicker to hold the nice bell shape. I'll take the blob tree instead. Don't get me wrong, these are good, but the trees are GREAT!!

Palmer has some entries:

Okay, Palmer has the artistry going on!! Look at all those different colors of foil wrapping! Even when unwrapped you have different colored bows on the presents. Fancy!

However, these are not so good. Too much chocolate, too little peanut butter, and the chocolate isn't that good. Bells are better. But outstanding artistry.

There are also Palmer peanut butter Santas:

Okay the naked Santa seems to have lost his glasses and his list, and he looks pretty shocked that I'm shooting him in the nude, but he's pretty detailed. Good for Palmer! Should we cut up Claus? Is autopsying Santa on Christmas Eve appropriate?

Of course not! Let's do it!!

These guys are better than the presents - more peanut butter. Better than the trees? HA! Not possible. But strangely likeable. I can't stop eating them. I scare myself.

Speaking of peanut butter and Santa, check this out:

I love peanut butter. I love Snickers. I thought this would be great. (And isn't he the cutest Santa evah?) But cute won't fool me - he wasn't that good. Look how thin that layer of peanut butter is - I mean, why bother?

Even Palmer has more PB:

Now this guy brings it:

If you like Snickers, go with the nutcracker. Love the detail (loved it in their Santa too) and this guy is delish - loaded with peanuts and caramel and a thin layer of chocolate - YUM!! No peanut butter, but that's okay. Everybody can't be a Reese's tree. Variety is the spice of Christmas. Or maybe that's cinnamon. Who the hell knows?

Wait, let's ask Martha!

Martha says "Many spices work at the holidays - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. Wrap spice bottles in old maps for a lovely Christmas gift."

And here's something Martha would never do:

Decapitate Santa.

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.

Hope your Christmas is fun and just a little bit crazy.

Make sure you:
1.) Do something no one expects.
2.) Laugh - a lot.
3.) Look at some lights.
4.) Burn all your old maps.
and finally
5.) Eat some chocolate - life is short - live it!!!