Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sequel Naturals - Vega Maca chocolate bar - Feb. 25, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

Sequel Naturals Ltd.
Vega - Organic Maca Chocolate bar
Good
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 107.5 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.09 for 1/2 bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods Market, Los Altos, CA

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Maca Theme Week.

This gluten-free dark chocolate bar was a blend of organic 70% cocoa and Vega maca.

Distributed by Sequel Naturals Ltd. (Burnaby, BC, Canada), the bar had a subtle chocolate aroma, was sleek and shiny, lightly sweetened, and had a pleasant maca butterscotch-maple flavor and a very faint coffee note. (There was no coffee in this bar).

A bit of added cocoa butter gave the bar a relatively smooth melt.

This Vega bar was also certified vegan, organic and Non-GMO.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lulu's Chocolate - Maca Buttercups - Feb. 24, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lulu's Chocolate
Maca Buttercups
Good
Weight: 1.3 oz. (37 g.) in 1 package of 2 cups
Calories: 192 calories in 2 cups
Cost: $5.59 for 1 package of 2 cups
Purchased from: Country Sun

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Maca Theme Week.

One of the best things about these Maca Buttercups from Lulu's Chocolate (Sedona, AZ) -- was the filling.

Maca powder was incorporated into a base of sprouted, ground almond butter, and judiciously sweetened with coconut palm sugar -- a great, lower glycemic sweetener. (It's pleasantly sweet, without the hard buzz of processed sugar.)

Covered in raw chocolate, these cups were vegan, soy-free, fair trade and gluten-free.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Earthsource Maca bite; Pacari bar - Feb. 23, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Earthsource Organics
Maca - Cacao and Maca, Bite Size
OK
Weight: .26 oz. (7.4 g.) / 35 oz. (9.9 g.) (estimate) in 1 piece
Calories: 39 calories (estimate) in 3/4 piece
Cost: $1.29 for 1 individually wrapped piece
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Maca Theme Week.

My first pick for the day was the individually-wrapped, bite-sized "Righteously Raw" Maca square from Earthsource Organics (San Diego, CA). Certified Organic and Non-GMO, this chocolate contained cocoa butter, maca powder, mesquite powder, vanilla bean powder and salt... but no cocoa solids, from what I could tell. Since I only "count" items that also contain cocoa solids for my Chocolate of the Day, I added a second chocolate, from Pacari Chocolate (Quito, Ecuador).

Pacari Chocolate
Raw Sea Salt and Nibs 70% Cacao bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) piece / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) total bar
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) for .5 oz. (14.1 g.) piece
Cost: N/A - sample
Purchased from: N/A - sample

Ecuadorian cacao can have wonderful floral flavor notes. I especially like Pacari Raw (and roasted) bars for this flavor. Pacari claims they are the first company to make chocolate from tree to bar, in Ecuador. (Most cacao is grown in one country and the fermented beans or liquor (mass) is shipped to another country for manufacturing.) Making chocolate "in country" offers more control over the process, and development/preservation of certain flavors.

Floral flavors are not for everyone, and also can be fairly volatile, i.e. easily lost as cacao is being processed, heated, and made into bars. Today's Raw Sea Salt and Nibs 70% Cacao bar was smooth and flavorful with lovely floral notes intact. This organic, kosher and gluten free bar was a World Chocolate Awards 2012 Silver winner.

Pacari offers a series of bars and chocolate items, made with raw, and some with roasted cacao (almost exclusively from Ecuador*). I would have written about the Pacari 70% Raw cacao bar with Maca -- for Maca theme week this week -- but I already featured this Maca bar last year.


*Pacari has/had one bar made with cacao beans from next door neighbor Peru, and the company incorporates Cuzco salt, Maca and other ingredients from the larger Andean region in their Andean flavors collection.






Sunday, February 22, 2015

ChocolaTree - Caramel Machiato - Feb. 22, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

ChocolaTree

Maca Maca
Good+
Weight: .7 oz. (19.8 g.) (estimate) for 2 pieces
Calories: 112 calories (estimate) in 2 pieces
Cost: $4.44 for 2 pieces
Purchased from: ChocolaTree, Sedona, AZ

Today was Day #1 of Chocolate and Maca Theme Week.

What is Maca?
Maca is a from a plant (Lepidium meyenii), from the Andes in Peru, that has been cultivated as a vegetable crop for thousands of years. It looks (and smells) a bit like a large butterscotch radish. It's also known as "Peruvian Ginseng," and is used medicinally. The slightly nutty, sweet flavor lends itself well to desserts and in combination with chocolates.

I've found enough chocolate items that contain maca lately that I'm devoting a theme week to it.

The ChocolaTree cafe and marketplace ("organic oasis") (Sedona, AZ) offered several chocolates on-site, including some that contained maca, honey, lucuma, mushrooms, and other "health foods." Most intriguing was the "The Chocolate Room" door that we passed on the way to the backyard patio. I knew I must be in the right place.

ChocolaTree's Maca Maca, a faceted dome-shaped chocolate -- was filled with golden creamy filling and the soft nutty texture and flavor of a macadamia nut (the other "maca" in Maca Maca). This sunny center was lightly sweetened with honey, and contained a hint of vanilla.

I also enjoyed sampling two other ChocolaTree chocolates: a Caramel Macchiato (with chocolate, honey, coffee and lucuma); and a "Treasure" chocolate that contained mushrooms. Perhaps I'll get the opportunity to go back and taste more of these chocolates in the future.

ChocolaTree chocolates are made using raw chocolate, and without processed sugar. From what I could see, all of the items in the cafe and chocolates were gluten free. Heaven for me.







Saturday, February 21, 2015

Devnaa - Milk Chocolate chai masala bar - Feb. 21, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Devnaa
Milk Chocolate infused with chai masala, ginger bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .625 oz. (17.5 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) total bar
Calories: 94 calories (estimate) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $26.70 (part of a 4-bar package)
Purchased from: NotOnTheHighStreet.com, online order

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and India Theme Week.

Chai tea beverages have become popular in the U.S., and chai spice blends have made their way into chocolates as well.

Devnaa (London) makes several different India-inspired chocolates (with cardamom, saffron and other lovely spices). They also offer a chai filled chocolate, and today's Milk Chocolate bar infused with chai masala* and a hint of ginger.

The flavors were wonderful. Melt a few pieces of this bar into your chai, or and give your hot/steamed milk some chocolate chai ginger snap flavor.

Chocolate Cups + Indian flavors
I wasn't quite ready to leave chocolate and India behind. Seven days was not enough for the Indian Sub-continent. Milk chocolate kheer will have to wait. I was able to fill a chocolate cup with some new flavors.

Chocolate cups are very easy to make and can be filled with fruit, liqueur, and/or creamy favorites (no-bake cheesecake, pudding, mousse, yogurt, ice cream, etc.). To make the cup shown at right, I melted Guittard Extra Dark chocolate chips in the microwave, spooned the melted chocolate into a silicon cupcake mold, and let cool. After carefully peeling off the silicon mold, I filled the chocolate cup with homemade coconut cream, and swirled in a bit of Sukhi's Mango Chutney.

Other fillings: Rose water or orange blossom flavored vanilla ice cream, drizzled with honey and topped with an edible flower is not bad either.

*The chai masala, a blend or mixture of chai spices, included cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove.)





Friday, February 20, 2015

Spicely - Cardamom Anise chocolates - Feb. 20, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Spicely Organic Chocolates
(Organic Spices, Inc.)
Cardamom Anise chocolates
Good
Weight: .25 oz. (7 g.) / 3 oz. (84 g.) in total tin/container
Calories: ??? calories in 1/2 serving
Cost: $11.99 (less $2.50 discount) for 1 tin/container
Purchased from: Spicely, online order

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and India Theme Week.

Cardamom is one of the most natural spices to flavor chocolate with, and so I was excited to try these Organic Cardamom Anise chocolates from Spicely Organic Chocolates/Organic Spices, Inc. (Fremont, CA).

These organic, 60% dark chocolate, disc-shaped rounds tasted a bit like star anise or five-spice powder. I couldn't really detect much cardamom flavor in them. But, the discs were a good size and shape for tasting.

I enjoyed these chocolates with gluten-free Zouq Indian snacks (Golden Lentils, and Curry Crunch flavors).

Spicely also offers other organic chocolates with popular Indian spices, such as their Organic Saffron White Chocolate, and their Turmeric Coriander 60% Dark chocolates.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Devnaa Dark bar; Cashew Butter, "Chaat" Cups - Feb. 19, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Devnaa
Dark Chocolate with almonds and honey bar
Good
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) total bar
Calories:
Cost:
Purchased from: NotOnTheHighStreet, online order (UK)

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and India Theme Week.

This Devnaa dark chocolate bar with honey
had a subtle spice flavor and small bits of almond.

I also decided to make some dark chocolate filled cups with Guittard chocolate.

Guittard
Extra Dark Chocolate Chips
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 11.5 oz. (326 g.) total bag/package
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) for 1 oz. (28.3) serving
Cost: $2.49 (estimate)
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Guittard (Burlingame, CA) sells their chocolate (in bars, blocks and chips) to chocolatiers, dessert chefs and home bakers of all sorts.

It's consistently good chocolate for making confections. I started by microwaving (melting) Guittard's Extra Dark (63% cacao) Chocolate Chips to make dark chocolate cups. I coated small, colorful, cupcake style silicon molds with melted chocolate and, once the chocolate hardened, filled these with Indian-inspired flavors.

Cashew butter chaat* cups
The first batch of dark cups were a variation on peanut butter cups. I filled these with cashew butter and crunchy Fiery Stick snacks from Zouq Foods International (Gardena, CA). These "chaat" cups were flavorful and creamy-crunchy with a touch of savory, spicy flavor, and not too much sugar.

Dark chocolate, coconut India cups
The next batch of dark chocolate cups were filled with a coconut milk, cream cheese, coriander and honey layer, and topped with chopped pieces of a savory, not sweet "India" bar from Slow Nation (Slow Food for Fast Lives) (San Francisco, CA), and flakes of freeze-dried mango.

*Chaat is an Indian term for types of snack food, often characterized by dishes with pieces of fried dough.





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