Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Weird World of the Sandwich Cookie

I'm all for the sandwich cookie - two cookies with a layer of something between them (peanut butter, cream, caramel - heck, the possibilities are almost endless!).  What a great idea! But, really, I think they should be called cookie sandwiches instead of sandwich cookies.

There are some sandwich cookies featuring our old friend shortbread.  This one is by Sweet's Bakery in El Salvador:

They are made by sandwiching caramel between two shortbread (they call them shortpastry) cookies:

I thought this was like the greatest idea EVAH!  But, actually, they are kind of bland.  I think they need better caramel.  Maybe some chocolate - I dunno - they need something.

I found these in A Southern Season and they are made by a baker based in North Carolina - Mistti.  The bakery specializes in Latino cookies and they look fabulous:

But these were kind of dry - especially the chocolate one - it was downright terrible.  The others were better and the addition of the chocolate helps a lot, but these just weren't as good as I thought they should be.  That could be a cultural preference.  I purchased several Mexican baked items and I thought they were bland and dry compared to their American counterparts.
Damn - they look sooooo good!!!  And they were NOT cheap - $7.00 for the four cookies.  Totally not worth it.  : (   Yet again, appearances are deceiving.

Let's look at some good ol' cheap sandwich cookies.  These are by Basil's Bavarian Bakery (parent company Biscomerica.  My buddy Gorden hooked me up after Candy Expo - sending a whole case of these!!!  Woohoo!!!).  These are peanut butter:

The problem here is the competition - the Nutter Butter.  The Nutter Butter is so good, no other peanut butter sandwich cookie stands a chance.

These are all perfectly good, cheap sandwich cookies:

Again, the competition is the Oreo - unbeatable in the category.  More chocolately, creamier filling.

I'd never seen strawberry sandwich cookies before:

These are okay - all the flavors are okay.  Nothing extraordinary, but good and, for some reason I keep eating them.  The peanut butter and the strawberry keep sucking me in!

This is a new limited edition Oreo:

I have to say - EWWW! to this.  The strawberry is too sickly sweet and overpowering - I don't like it, don't like it at all.  But if you really like that funky fake strawberry taste of some milkshakes they have captured it pretty well and you may really like these.  Glacck! 

But summer IS time for milkshakes and ice cream!  So soon we'll discuss Godiva's and Lindt's summer flavors - involving ice cream and yogurt.  Life is good!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Lessons from Online Dating

I got flowers today!  Finally I went on a date with a man with class!!  I was actually stunned and thought they must have been delivered to the wrong house.

More things to learn from online dating:

5. Don’t take things personally. Holy smokes, it’s just online dating! The fates of worlds do not hang in the balance! Sometimes you are going to get blown off or ignored—it happens to everyone. If you start taking everything personally, well, see #3. The same thing happens at work, at school, at the gym—you get slighted. Things don’t go your way. Much of the time—it has nothing to do with you. Maybe the clerk really didn’t see you. Maybe the online dater is actually married and blows everyone off when it comes time to actually meet in person. Maybe the person you friended on Facebook doesn’t like to friend work colleagues. Who knows? Why get upset? Why give other people so much power over you? Be cool; let it roll off your back. You know you have value and worth and that you rock the house! You do know that, don’t you?

6. Bring your a-game. If you are going to bother—with anything—give it your best. If you are going to attend the meeting, participate. Don’t sit in the corner and play with your Blackberry—everyone sees you and it screams, “I’m WAY too important for this waste of time.” I’m pretty sure you aren’t getting any texts from the President. In the middle of one disastrous date, the guy asked me if we could have a “real” second date. I’m thinking, “This was a real date and it’s the ONLY date we’ll ever have.” We all make mistakes, but you have to start by giving everything your best shot. This is your real life—the big show—everyday.

7. Self promote. Now you have to find the right balance here—too much and you’re arrogant, too little and you’re a loser. Do you really want to date “I’m just a nice guy and I’m not too picky, just don’t want to be alone” or “I’m a successful guy with a great life and I’m looking for someone extraordinary to share it with.” The first guy might think he’s being modest, but he comes across as a bit desperate. I’d rather be with the guy who sounds like he’s got something going on. You don’t have to be a braggart, but if you have special skills or talent or good ideas—let people know! Playing small doesn’t serve anyone—least of all you. Look for chances to shine.

8. Know thyself. If you’ve been late to work for the past ten years, you are simply not punctual. Get over it. Everyone on says they have a good sense of humor. I say if you’re so damn funny, why is your profile so hellishly boring? Everyone also thinks they look younger than they are. (Some do, most don’t.) Are you thinking you have skills or traits that you don’t? Is there a discrepancy between your self image and your true nature? Everyone also thinks they have a great attitude. Apparently we are all good-looking, funny as hell, never lie and are eternally optimistic. (And are all cruising down De Nile.)

9. Stop with the TMI! I am always soooo surprised by the things men tell me on FIRST dates. One told me his ex-wife physically abused him; another said he was still in love with a dead woman. Over share much? This information should be kept to yourself. People post things on FaceBook they should really keep private. You will be judged by your public declarations. Discretion still is the better part of valor. Reveal things when (and if) appropriate.

10. Be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. There is no one like you in this entire world – celebrate that! The right job opportunities, the right people, the right everything can only be attracted to the REAL you. So bring your twisted sense of humor, your socks and sandals, your goofy grin – the right person will adore you. The world needs more of YOU – more authenticity and less pretense. So bring you on – in all your glory!

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Name's Denise and I'm a Matchaholic

I have a confession to make.

I fell off the wagon.

I am back on

I know, I know.  But hear me out!  I was doing great, had been clean for weeks.  Then the July 4th weekend came.  It was long, it was boring, it was lonely.  My postman has changed routes, I now have a postwoman.  And the UPS man doesn't even ring the doorbell anymore - he just leaves my packages.  That's it - no men wander into my house.  Yeah, yeah - I should go out and do stuff.  Like what?  Cruise bars?  I don't think so.  Most of my friends are married or are dating, so that leaves me without a wing woman.  And I really don't want to find my next BF in a bar. 

And this may shock some of you, but there are not really many 40 something men roaming around solo.  If they go to the places I go (festivals, museums, chocolate shops) they go with a chick.  And no, I am not going to start hanging out at Hooters.

So - I am back on  Clearly insane.  But I am learning some things for all of us:

What Online Dating can Teach You about Success

I am a veteran Internet dater. I have studied countless profiles, looked at endless photographs, and gone on enough dates to qualify me for some type of sainthood. In this brave new world of electronic love, I was a pioneer. (Now I simply seem to be a fixture.) But I have learned some fascinating things about self promotion that can help everyone. (If you think you don’t need to sell yourself to others, that is your first mistake. We are always selling—to our bosses, our spouses, even to customer service people! And the most successful self-promoters win.) Some tips:

1.) Appearance matters. You will be judged by how you look, like it or not. Am I going to go out with the guy wearing sandals with socks in his photo? Please. I’m not taking these men on to raise. Are you hiring the candidate with the ZZ Top beard? Or the swastika tattoo? The first impression people form of you—online or off—will be based on your appearance.

2.) The details count. Can’t seem to spell or complete a sentence? Call me crazy, but I prefer to date the literate. I’m betting you’d prefer to hire and promote the literate. If you can’t write well, it’s going to hurt you—even in this technologically savvy world. Stupid and sloppy will always be stupid and sloppy.

3.) Bad attitudes are poison. I’m always surprised at the people who go on rants in their dating profiles about how they’ve been cheated on, lied to, and just done wrong. I read that and think, “Yay! I’ve been looking for an angry, bitter man!” People who have bad attitudes—and they manifest in many ways—always being the last one into work and the first to leave, bad body language in meetings, heavy sighing, eye rolling. No one wants to hire, work with or date the miserable (or the angry—I figure some of these guys are one bad date away from serial murder).

4.) Don’t lie. I can’t believe I even have to list this one, but apparently some people think they can get away with saying they graduated from Harvard when the closest they got was a bar in Boston. Men online think they can lie about their height, women think they can lie about their weight. Really? All that does is make the first meeting painful—for everyone. If you lie, you are a liar. Please—you did not misspeak when you thought you fought in Vietnam or were a Rhodes Scholar or were 6 feet tall. You lied. And you will be labeled as a liar forever. Just tell the truth.

More tomorrow!!!!  Aren't you just a little bit glad I'm back on?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chocolate Doesn't Always Make it Better

I've said it before and I'm going to say it again - just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it.

This line of chocolate covered cereal is made by Nassau Candy and is carried by Walmart.  And it's pretty damn bad.

First up is Cinnamon Crunch:

If you love cinnamon crunch cereal, you might like this.  But you might also find yourself asking, "Why?  My cinnamon crunch cereal is really good.  Slathering it in chocolate doesn't really make it better.  Why do it?"

Honey Toasted O's:

Ewwww- these taste completely stale.  Completely stale cereal coated in chocolate.  Gross.

Fruity O's (Fruit Loop knock-offs covered in chocolate):

This is just wrong.  Again the cereal seems kind of stale and the fruit flavor overpowers the chocolate.  And let's face it, it's not like this is a great fruit flavor.  Fruit Loops are best as a cereal and that's where they need to stop.  This is the Spawn of Satan.

And finally, Toasted Rice:

This is by far the least heinous of all the flavors and the only one that seemed fresh (all are well before their listed expiration dates).  This might actually be good mixed with raisins and peanuts or other ingredients.  As it is, it's kind of bland.

If you want to get one of these, this is the best one.  However, there are only about 10,000 better candy options.  I predict this line will not be around for long.

Not everything has to be coated in chocolate - something are best left just as they are.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shortbread Showdown!

You know you've lost your mind when you buy a copy of "Field Guide to Cookies."  I kid you not - I bought this book. I felt that I needed some expert guidance on what good shortbread was.  And I got some!  The Guide says that the color of shortbread should be "barely golden" which backs up my assessments of some of these as being overdone.  It goes on to say that texture is paramount and describes it as tender and crumbly.  I take that to mean "not rock hard and crumbly" as some of the lesser brands have been.  So I feel vindicated in my shortbread assessments.

I've started the reviews with plain shortbread - we are going to cover shortbread with fruit fillings, with chocolate, and with various flavorings.  But I think plain is a great place to start.  A baker might be able to trick me by covering bad shortbread with chocolate.  This is naked shortbread  - no place to hide.

Let's start with Maclean's (a Scottish company that I ran across at the Fancy Food show.  The sales reps were wearing kilts which I thought was pretty cool.  If only they had bagpipes!!  at least there was no haggis):

This is delicious - tender, crumbly, cooked to perfection.  Wow!  It literally melts in your mouth.  The only problem is finding it!  The box I found had been beaten to hell in T.J. "Ghetto" Maxx.  I practically had to crawl under some shelving to get it.  Hardly a fine way to acquire shortbread.

This is Willa's traditionally southern shortbread bites:

It's made in North Carolina - not the shortbread capital of the world.  But as I mentioned in the last shortbread post, we have some Scottish heritage here in NC.  Willa's is also very good - although less tender than Maclean's, a tad drier.

Archer Farms surprised me by being very good:

While it is overcooked a bit (see the edges) the texture is still very good.  I think it's better than Willa's, but not nearly as perfect as Maclean's.  It has a different flavor than the other shortbreads - I'm not sure why - the ingredients are similar.

Campbell's (a Scottish company) has a solid shortbread:

But, it's a bit overdone - the bottom especially is overcooked.  Hmmmm.....these are about as good as Willa's.  I actually like Archer Farms better.

This is from the Shortbread House of Edinburgh:

This one has a fabulous flavor, but as you can see in the picture, a little overdone and a little too crumbly, not tender enough.  Just a tad too dry.  But the flavor - YUM! 

And then there's Walkers - how fabulous are these tins?

This is what's inside:

Here are Walkers Shortbread Highlanders:

Walkers always seem to be cooked just right.  And the flavor is terrific.  And you can FIND them!!!  In an amazing variety.

These are the cookie equivalent of crack cocaine:

I don't know why, but I can't stop eating these!  They are thin, but have that amazing shortbread tenderness.  They are almost chewy they have so much butter.  Wow!!  (Steve, I think this makes you my dealer.)

I will admit I am biased because I adore the people at Walkers.  But I have to say that Maclean's might actually be my favorite.  (Steve, don't hate me!!)  Walker's is a close second.  In third place, I'd have to go for (shocking!) Archer Farms!! 

Don't get me wrong - all of these are great, but if I had to rank them, that's they way I'd call it. 

Good luck actually finding Maclean's - it's not the best if you can't get your hands on it!  Walkers is just about everywhere from Food Lion to World Market.  Keep your eyes peeled for those shortbread thins - wow!  And we have many more flavors to review, so you'll hear more from Walkers and others.

Can you hear the bagpipes?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grand Coconut Finale

This is it, ladies and gentlemen!  The grand finale of coconut!!  And I'm starting off with something I've reviewed before, but apparently you can't get anymore.  So I am totally torturing you.  Trader Joe's Almond in the Coconut:

You just can't beat these - like an Almond Joy, but better.  Great chocolate, loads of coconut and bits of almond throughout.  YUM!  I hate it when Trader Joe's makes something awesome, hooks us, then pulls it from the product line.  Bummer.

I'd never seen anything like these before:

They are made in Holland and are coconut and coco - very light:

Interesting to try, but not something I would seek out.  But again, I don't love coconut.  A light, different take on the coconut/chocolate combination.

This is it - Easter is finally gone!  These coconut nests are made by Long Grove Confectionery:

And they are great!  They have the right coconut to chocolate ratio.  Lots of coconut, mixed with chocolate - delish!!!  If you can find them, they blow those abominations Russell Stover made this year out of the candy aisle.   (Don't they k=just look great?)

The white chocolate didn't work for me at all - too sweet, and kinda weird tasting.  This is a definite no go.

These are by the Crown Candy Company based in my hometown of Macon, GA:

They are chocolate and caramel coconut tips:

And they are terrible.  They taste like sugar more than anything else.  The chocolate is that crappy chocolate and I don't know what the heck that "caramel" is.  These are just a waste of coconut.  Bleech. 

Abdallah offers this Haystack:

The chocolate is good, but it really overpowers the coconut.  And in a haystack, it just ain't supposed to be that way.  Not bad, but too heavy on the chocolate.

I've reviewed Sanders products before:

And they are always pretty awful.. Their coconut "delights" are no exception.  They not only have coconut, but also crisped rice - which I didn't think added anything.  Not good.

This is peanut brittle covered with dark chocolate and coconut:

I guess my question here is, "Why?"  Peanut brittle is so good, I don't think all this adds anything.  It's not enough coconut to really taste and as a topping, the texture is just kind of gross. 

If you MUST combine peanut butter with coconut, then there is really only one place to go:

Oh yes, the much maligned Chick-O-Stick - crunchy peanut butter and toasted coconut candy:

This is like a Butterfinger without the chocolate, rolled in coconut.  And I gotta tell ya, it works.  I haven't had one of these in years, and I really don't crave the Chick-O-Stick, but hey, it's pretty good.  I ate the whole thing and I pitched the coconut peanut brittle.  I think that speaks for itself.

Remember - it doesn't have to be expensive to be good!  And don't take anything for granted - Trader Joe's reminds us that something great may not be around forever. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed your island vacation!  You can thank Kris for our voyage - she the lover of coconut and dark chocolate.  Next we've got to get back to Scotland for the Shortbread Showdown!!