BzzAgent: Kroger/Ralph’s Supermarket Private Selection Gourmet Cookies

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As a baker and cooking enthusiast, I sometimes will seek out a day off. This means I resort to someone else filling in for me and in the cookie department, BzzAgent and Ralph’s Markets came to my rescue.

In my home the only cookie that usually gets made every other week is my double chocolate chip and chocolate chunk creation, so I am very particular about how a cookie needs to measure up and in came Ralph’s with a wide selection to choose from.

You have:

  • White Chocolate Macadamia Nut – White chocolate chunks meet crunchy macadamia nuts, in nice buttery dough.
  • Ultimate Chocolate Chunk – A large amount amount of rich chocolate chunks in every bite that will make you forget you had a chocolate craving in the first place.
  • Turtle Brownie – A brownie-like cookie, which is loaded with gooey caramel and pecans. You get two desserts in one with this baby!
  • White Chocolate Coconut Almond – White chocolate chunks with sweet coconut and almond slivers. It’s a tropical flavor to get you out of the everyday rut.

In this campaign, I had issues loading my digital coupon for the free product onto my card even though it was registered but after several attempts, Ralph’s finally rewarded me but only after I had visited the store. I head off to the store to hunt for 3 of the cookies I know I will be trying. I make it to my local Ralph’s bakery and unfortunately all that was available was the Ultimate Chocolate Chunk and the White Chocolate with Macadamia nuts varieties, but I buy what they have.

Ultimate Chocolate Chunk Taste Test:
I must admit my curiosity was piqued so I figured I’d try a Ultimate Chocolate Chunk cookie in the car. I may not have milk but I have water! The cookies look soft and gooey but when I opened the box, I could smell the sweetness from all the sugars, but not the chocolate. I see some chunks but they are chunks more described like misshapen chocolate chips, small in size and not even medium in size. I would say these look more like rejected chocolate chips that did not make the cut! I bite and find that the cookie crumbles but it’s because it’s hard……like over baked. Due to the cookie being high in sugar and not chocolate, you get a burned flavor from the fats so I left this ultimate experience to one bite. My Husband bailed on trying the cookie at all after he “saw my face”, so this cookie did not make a good first impression at all! So sad 😦 I had the cookie box on the counter and when anyone tried them, they quickly asked, “where did you buy these”? Let’s say it was not because they were liked and they were seeking to repurchase, but more to avoid getting these cookies themselves.

White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Taste Test:
I know we are in a drought in California but it seems that includes a shortage on White Chocolate and Macadamia nuts too. Again the package says chunks and the idea is sort of stretched because these are chips all the way…..nothing chunk or misshaped about them. These chocolate chips at least are not from the rejected chip factory like the Ultimate Chocolate chips cookies were. These are from the 2 chips-per-cookie ONLY factory! Yes, we counted and it took some effort with the mealy base the cookie had. The nuts were so chopped up that they seemed to add a “meal” effect versus just tasting and crunching. You get zero crunch and they are sort of soggy in nature. Never had a macadamia nut behave this way so we figured we got the “misbehaved” nuts in this cookie. Not worth the calories, we just put our white flag up and did not pass the 2 bites we had with these cookies.

Price Point: $3.99 for a box of 6 cookies

Cookies can usually be saved and even made into ice cream sandwiches when they go array. These could not! That is saying something because this was always my go-to idea when a cookie met heat for too long or just did not bake up as it should. Both cookies had one thing in common…..super dry and did not taste like the flavor listed on the box, just sweet. Maybe Ralph’s Bakery was having an “off day” but I also noticed the bakery was empty and not super stocked, or moving product as some store are at that hour. I was in the market at peak time but no one was buying the sweet goods from the store. I hope these improve because they sound delicious in description but just did not deliver in taste and texture.

If you would like to connect with the Private Selection Gourmet Cookies, please visit:

  • Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/PvtSelection
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/kroger

I received the above product free of charge from BzzAgent and Ralph’s Market (a Kroger Company).  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

Winners Announced for Tribes-a-Dozen & Almondina Cookies Giveaway

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Tribes-a-Dozen:

  • The winner is Kathy Hanley 🙂 I have sent an e-mail and Congratulations on the win!!!

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Almondina:

  • The winner is tcarolinep 🙂 I have sent an e-mail and Congratulations on your win!!!

 

 

Almondina: Delicious Cookie without the Guilt Review & Giveaway

Last week, I shared the Valentine’s Day Almondina ice cream hearts recipe and today I wanted to not only recap some of the flavors, but also have a giveaway 🙂  Yes, one lucky winner will receive the same assortment I did courtesy of the wonderful people at the Almondina brand.

You can visit here to get the Valentine’s Day Almondina recipe to make a treat that is delicious all-year-round-

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https://samplesandfreebiesgallery.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/almondina-cookies-no-bake-valentines-day-gelato-sorbet-and-ice-cream-heart-treats/

It was difficult to choose a favorite among all because they were all delicious.  This is the type of cookie that when I shop at Trader Joe’s, if they did not have my first selection…..it does not matter. I will pick-up the flavor they have in stock.  Yup, not passing it up!  I love to pair the thin cookie mostly with ice cream because it’s like having a treat after dinner but I don’t pay for it a day later at the scale!  It tastes good, maybe so good that you forget that each sweet cookie is just around 30 to 35 calories.  The selection is bountiful and you can choose from chocolate based cookies to just the Original.  No added fat, salt and a cholesterol free product…..so, your heart will thank you as much as your taste buds.

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AlmonDuo:

I love pistachio nuts, so this one really was the perfect little cookie for me.  Almondinas are thin, but do not mistake that for being dry because they are not.  They are crisp and light and the cookie is just studded with with perfect slivers of almonds and pistachios.  It’s a happy cookie that will make anyone smile!  Dip in chocolate ganache and you may even get the giggles 🙂

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Chocolate Cherry:

This cookie has a rich chocolate base that is deep in flavor.  You have a great combination of plump dried cherries that just complement the cocoa perfectly but also almonds.  I enjoy having this cookie with ice cream because in my eyes it’s almost a sundae with the fudge, nuts and even cherry on top!  Also, you can have your chocolate and enjoy it too with 4 cookies only at 132 calories.

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Cinnaroma:

I love cinnamon but tend to avoid it in products because manufacturers forgot the words, “a touch of Cinnamon”,  Almondina thankfully has not.  You taste the spice but you will find it compliments versus just engulfing your mouth with it.  Your taste buds still enjoy the almonds, and the raisins really make me think of a loaf of cinnamon bread when I have this cookie.  You also pick up the malted barley flour, giving this cookie a distinct flavor.

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GingerSpice:

This is what I call my “breakfast cookie” because I enjoy it with a pear based yogurt I like having in the morning.  The Almondina is like the cereal that never loses it’s crunch in milk but yogurt in it’s place.  I start my morning with this healthy parfait and you get to enjoy the diced Australian ginger they used that really gives it that gingery-snap taste.  Nice to have a cookie like this available year round!

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Almondina cookies come in several varieties and flavors, you are sure to find one (or three) you will love:

  • Original – America’s all natural favorite with almonds and raisins
  • Chocolate Cherry – We combined the world’s finest dark chocolate with plump cherries to produce an irresistible, decadent treat without guilt.
  • Choconut – Rich tasting crunchy chocolate, but low in calories
  • Cinnaroma® – The original biscuit for cinnamon lovers
  • Gingerspice – Trend setting, with chunks of Australian ginger
  • AlmonDuo® – Double-nut wonder with almonds and pistachios
  • AnniversaryT – Award winning delight with a touch of anise
  • BranTreats® – Made with oat bran and the finest cinnamon “Cookies For Breakfast”
  • Sesame – Irresistible, exotic, flavorful
  • Seasonal Pumpkin Spice – A seasonal attraction with a delightful touch of fall spices combined with the highest quality almonds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

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Try Almondina’s Newest Products:

  • Chocolate Dipped – the Original® dipped in the finest, pure, rich dark chocolate was previously offered only certain times of the year is now available year round
  • Delights – The Original® Almondina totally encased in Milk chocolate
  • Yogurt Dipped – Brantreats® dipped on one side with a layer of all natural yogurt

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Stop by and thank Almondina for sharing with us their Grandmother Dina’s cookie, a delight since 1929:

**Now for the Giveaway**

Very easy to participate and have a chance at becoming the winner of the same selection of goodies I received from Almondina.  All you have to do is-

  1. Like Almondina on Facebook
  2. Please Follow them on Twitter
  3. Then please leave a comment on this review……that is all 🙂

I will announce the winner on March 3rd!

I received the above product free of charge from Almondina. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Bob’s Red Mill: Crake! a Fusion Dessert made of a Cinnamon Roll and caKE all-in-one

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With all the fusion of desserts going on today, I thought I would enter into that playground and have a go at it.  I present to you what I call a Crake!  It’s actually pastry dough that I made using a blend of flours and a cake that engulfs each roll.  Being that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, we all need a hug and this moist buttermilk-based cake does just that to each roll.  So let’s get started creating and let me add, this has a sticky bun topping so I made sure to splurge!

We start by getting our starter going:

Starter-
3 ounces of Warm Water (105 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon of White Sugar
1/2 tablespoon of Yeast
1 ounce of Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour

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I have a proofing option with my oven that I set at 110 degrees.  No need to have one, so you can also place the starter to bloom in a dark warm corner in your kitchen.  I gently mix everything in a small bowl, but one with enough room for the rise. Then cover with plastic and give it about 15 minutes.

While that starter get’s….well started, I begin with the Sweet Dough Mix for the Rolls:

Dough-
3 ounces of Yogurt (or you can use 3 ounces of cream cheese, plus 1 tablespoon of milk)
2 ounces of Unsalted Butter (softened)
1 egg at room temperature
1 3/4 ounces of White Sugar
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
6 1/2 ounces of Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour
4 Ounces Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour

Between a 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of All Purpose Flour (separate from above measurements) will be needed while the dough kneads.

I cream the sugar and butter together with a mixer (stand or hand will do, use your whisk attachment).  I then add the Yogurt but in this case I went with the 3 ounces of cream cheese (with 1 tablespoon of milk).  Add the egg and vanilla.  I then add the starter and incorporate everything, being careful not to over mix.   In another bowl, I mix the salt and both flours with a whisk.  I add the mix to the wet ingredients, still with the whisk attachment on.  Things will look a little shaggy at this point; that’s okay. I then change over to the dough hook.  I find using a little butter on my dough hook makes it easier in preventing the dough from sticking to it.  I begin to knead and add All Purpose Flour as needed.  Sometimes I need a 1/4 cup and other times I need up to a 1/2 a cup, it all depends on the elasticity it builds.  I knead for about 10 minutes using the mixer.

After the dough is a nice texture, I place it in a buttered bowl and cover it with plastic. In it goes to the proofer for a hour to an hour and 20 minutes. You want the dough to grow almost double in size.

I then begin on the “sticky bun” topping that I call “The Glaze”:

Glaze-
4 tablespoons of Butter (salted)
3 tablespoons of Maple Syrup
1/2 a cup of Brown Sugar

I melt the above items down and I find my little “gravy” pan works great as it has a notch for pouring.  Stir frequently and don’t hurry it up by turning up the heat.  Use low heat until things melt and just begin to bubble.  You want no sugar crystals (grains), just a smooth glaze.

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While the glaze melts, I get 1/2 a cup of pecans and throw them on some parchment paper to toast.  This intensifies the flavor profile and also adds a nice texture to the glaze.  The glaze will actually almost create a butter nut toffee texture over the pecans, so it is really delicious and beautiful looking at the same time.  I use my toaster oven because my dough is proofing in my oven.  Just place them at 350 degrees and then watch them so they do not burn.  It may take 5 minutes or 10 to be done, so the time is never exact but keep an eye on them until the color changes (darkens slightly).

Nuts-
1/2 cup of toasted Pecans (or any nut of your choice)

I then get a glass pan that I will use to bake this entire concoction in.  I use a “lasagna” pan that is the size of 9 x 13 inches (3 quart).  This allows enough room for the rolls to rise and for the cake batter to fit.  I use cooking spray on the glass and then place parchment.  The spray allows my parchment paper to stick and stay put better so I don’t have to fuss with it.  I also find that it’s easier to first cut and shape the paper to your liking BEFORE spraying so you don’t then end up with baking spray on your hands too.  Yes, it has happened where I forget and then end up with slippery hands!

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Pour the glaze onto the paper and make sure to help it spread evenly.  Once it spreads out, add the Pecans.

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I get started in making the filling for the Rolls:
Roll Filling-
You can use the standard cinnamon roll filling of 1/2 tablespoons of melted Butter, 1 cup of Brown Sugar, 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon of ground Cinnamon, with a dash of Nutmeg.
Roll Filling Variations-
With Strawberries being in season and I am going for a Valentine’s Day dessert, I picked Strawberries.  You can go with any berry you wish like Blackberries or even a mix.  I used 6 ounces of fresh Strawberries that I sliced up and because they were already sweet, I used less than a teaspoon of White Sugar and just tossed them.  Take note the glaze is sweet and you don’t want an overly sweet filing too but do sugar the fruit by taste.
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By now the dough has “poofed” to my liking and close enough to being double the size so I get it out of the proofer and just flip it on to a floured surface.  Have a 1/2 cup of flour ready if needed when it comes to rolling the dough out.  I roll the dough out to about 14 inches (length wise).  I then spread the filling and in this case the fruit, and then I begin to roll like I would any cinnamon roll.
You want 8 rolls in total and this is my method:
Cut the ends off and then cut the roll in half.
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You now have 2 small rolls and you will cut each on in half again.
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You now have 4 pieces and you then simply cut each piece in half and you end up with 8 (close enough) equally sized rolls.
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Place the rolls in the pan that has the glaze and in it goes back in the oven to proof for about 30 to 45 minutes.  You want expansion but not so much that you won’t have room for cake batter.
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While the rolls proof, off we go to make the cake batter.  Start making the batter when you are about 10 minutes away from the rolls finish proofing:
Buttermilk Cake Batter-
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 cup of White Sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
1/3 cup of Unsalted Butter
1 Egg (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon of Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
3/4 cup of Buttermilk
Cream the sugar and butter together.  While that incorporates nicely, get the 3/4 cup of buttermilk and add the egg, vanilla, maple syrup to it until well blended.  Then in a separate bowl blend the dry ingredients, the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Once the butter and sugar are nice and creamy, add 1/2 of the “wet” buttermilk mixture and 1/2 of the “dry” flour mixture to the mixing bowl.  Make sure to not over mix as this results in a tough textured cake.  Scrape the sides and bottom, then add the rest of the wet and dry ingredients.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
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Take the rolls out of the proofer and then add the cake batter to the areas around each roll.  Make sure to not get cake batter on the top of the rolls since you do not want a soggy roll.  A couple of drips is okay but do not spread the cake batter on top of the rolls.  I used all my cake batter because the point here is for the cake to rise to the height of the rolls.  You do not want when you flip these over to collapse.
By now my bossy oven has beeped at me that it is ready for the Crake to go in.  I then bake it between 30 to 40 minutes.  If you see it start to over brown, just place foil on top and make sure to not over bake.  Take it out when the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine was ready at 37 minutes.
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I allow the pan to cool for 8 to 10 minutes and carefully place a dish that accommodates the size of the pan you used over the Crake.  I use a glass cutting board so that I just dirty one thing and I can just slice when needed.  Use oven mitts to keep a nice grip and also in case it’s too hot.  Flip and this is where you will thank the parchment paper….just carefully peel and I use a small spatula in case a pecan here or there tries to escape.
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Viola, you made a Crake!
I then heated up dinner and allowed the Crake to cool.  It won’t get soggy on the bottom as the glaze stays on top.  After dinner I cut into it and served it with a whipped topping made of Heavy Cream, Mascarpone Cheese, and Powdered Sugar.  You just whip until you get nice stiff peaks but don’t over-whip as you will make butter.  To let my guest know the pastry had a Strawberry filling, I added a cut Fresh Strawberry on top and also a whole one to a dollop of whipped cream I placed on the plate.  This allows anyone to get more topping in case I went light on it.  Enjoy!
You can do this any way you desire.  What I mean is this is a dessert that is really two-in-one.  Want to just make the glaze and the cake, you can.  Stop at the glaze and the rolls….go for it.  I write my recipes as I go on a note pad and the above was created on my first try, so if I can do it, so can you…..so make it any way you want 🙂
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I received some of the above products free of charge from Bob’s Red Mill, an employee-owned company.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.
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The Chobani tour of Greek Yogurt Bite & Flips will begin shortly………

Below is the last preview of what I received and I will be posting reviews, plus a cookie recipe soon……………

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Hagensborg Chocolates: Wild Boar Bars

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? Who doesn’t love exotic chocolates? Hagensborg Chocolates is based in Vancouver Canada and makes chocolates using European techniques. They have a cute little theme and story in their biography, which introduces you to “Snuffly” the pig, frogs that are princes, fairy godmothers and even a castle. There is even a piggy family with names! I personally like Rose because she has wings. Very whimsical and gives their products that little touch of love. Their products are accessible from the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, to Canada.

I had tried two of their truffle pigs and loved them! They were milk chocolate, which is not my first choice in the chocolate world but after having them, I was craving more so I knew I had discovered a good thing.

My parcel arrived with their newest creation, the Wild Boar bars. Like their other wonderful creations, the Wild Boars have a story. They travel the world and catch ingredients from each content and incorporate it into their magical bars. The boxes alone are eye-catching and once you open the box, you see little “chomp” bites along the bar made by these continental boars (this time, I couldn’t blame Hubby). No detail is not missed by Hagensborg Chocolates from the molds they used to make these bars, to the ingredients added. My parcel included two “passports”, Italy and Indonesia. So let’s begin…..

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Italy- Made from the milk chocolate family and described to include truffle salted almonds which are toasted. The almonds are sprinkled with olive oil, Ritrovo (rare black truffle) truffle and salt. The bar contains 85% organic ingredients and also 39% Cocoa.

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The taste test: After getting over how cute the bar is and reading all the information on the box, it is almost like a mini travel brochure so I appreciated the escape. Every ingredient is of the finest quality and they even list origins for each, like the almonds being from California. I find that when I break off a piece, it almost melts down when you bend it because the chocolate is so soft and velvety. I put a piece in my mouth and allow it to melt. The texture is smooth and even though salt is listed in the flavor ingredients, you get zero granules from it. No crystallization, just a perfect creamy creation! I love the flavor of the chocolate alone as I agree with their statements, it is of fine quality. I eat many “fleur de sel” products, so I am familiar with how they are paired with caramels to different degrees of Cocoa. I did find my first bite to be salty if you allow it to melt and dissolve in your mouth, but not so salty that I did not bite again. My second bite I chewed and it was a perfect balance of flavors. The almonds are not whole, so every bite allows you to get enjoy a small chunk. You do pick-up a slight earthy and grassy notes that may derive from the olive oil and truffle they added. I did not find the flavors overwhelming and they did compliment the bar well. I did enjoy the almonds but just wished I had a few more chunks with every bite.

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Indonesia- This is the one I was skeptical and unsure about and you will soon know why. You have 71% Cocoa in this bar, plus 85% Organic ingredients. This Boar bar is described as rich dark chocolate with cashews, spiced with garlic, chilies and lime. The cashews originate from Indonesia and the seasonings added are in dried form. I have had “spiced” chocolates but never one with garlic added to it or even lime. I was super curious.

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The taste test: You uncover the bar and the minute you cut it, you perfume your surroundings with a delicious chocolate smell. Any apprehension I had about the flavors floated away that instant. When something gives off such a delicious aroma, it can’t be ignored! I take off a corner and this chocolate is harder in texture as it created a snapping noise, not like the milk chocolate boar bar. I put a piece in my mouth and allow it to melt and I love, love, love their dark chocolate. Great quality and texture. Perfect amount of acid you get from the Cocoa but no bitter or wax like texture you get from cheaper brands. I can easily state this in the top three of dark chocolate makers I prefer to have and enjoy! You get almost get a coffee deepness that comes through, somewhat like a perfect espresso. Once again, very smooth and velvet in texture. The cashews are chopped and knowing the nut is buttery in nature, it just compliments the dark chocolate flavors. I never knew cashews went so well with dark and I hope to see this combination in the future. This bar had a good balance of nut and chocolates, so I was happy. The chilies come through but do not rest on your tongue where you would be overwhelmed, the flavor rests towards the back of your throat and I liked how it did not interfere with my enjoyment. Just a touch of spice flavor but no serious heat that burns. The garlic does not come through like it would imagine on garlic bread. You get the garlic flavor and it’s not roasted, more of like when it’s raw (untouched). I did find certain bites left a bitter taste if they were heavier on the garlic. The chocolate is so delicious that I did not care. I just kept eating and had to stop myself.

I recommend Hagensborg Chocolates and I do not view them as a gimmicky company, but one that seriously knows how to create chocolate. If I had a store near by that carried their chocolates, I fear what would happen to my waist line. Many “Chocolatiers” do not have a passion into their art and just think of how they can stretch a cocoa bean to yield the maximum profit. Hagensborg has taken the route of “What is the best way I can showcase this cocoa bean?”. I highly respect a company that does this and I was a fan before of the brand, but the boar line secured that position solidly. If you can add uncommon ingredients to chocolate and still be delicious, you seriously know what you are doing!

Please take a trip over to Hagensborg Chocolates and fall in love with their piglets and boars.
Webite- http://www.hagensborg.com/
Twitter- https://twitter.com/TrufflePigBar
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/HagensborgChocolates

I see the boar has traveled to other areas of the world and I hope to catch his new destinations soon and share them with you!

I received the above chocolates from Hagensborg for free. I have no obligation to provide a favorable/positive review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the products, which may differ from yours.

Love Food Review of their Monthly Subscription Box

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Love with Food is a monthly subscription program that not only packs a lot delicious samplings, but also a good bang for your buck.  I subscribed around the start of January for the February box.  It was a Spicy & Sweet theme and you get to see what I received!  You can sign up at http://www.lovewithfood.com/shop.  They even included a cute list of the 9 items they included, and 10 if you add the extra Nektar packet.  I paid a little over $2.00 to try the products because they had a promotion but even at normal price, they really deliver a box full of goodies and deliver it to your door on a monthly basis.  You can cancel at anytime and each box purchase, means a meal for the homeless!  This company not only delivers on top notch customer service but better their community!

 

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Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Piglet from Hagensborg Chocolates (http://www.hagensborg.com) (Twitter: @TrufflePigBar):
I had never heard of the company but just one chocolate embedded the piggy image forever in my head and taste buds.  The company uses a European method that just makes you go crazy.  I like peanut butter but I’m not a lover of it like my husband but we divided the piggy in half (I got the part with cute little tail) and I became a lover of PB!  The peanut butter filling was smooth but not dry and perfectly roasted.  I could taste the peanut and against the milk chocolate, it was better than any peanut butter cup I have ever had.  My only question was, “do they make it with dark chocolate?”  I looked on-line and seriously should have not because they have other flavors and I’m hooked.  I loved these piglets so much, I am hoping to pitch them in the future because Hagensborg Chocolates deserves an entire article on them!

 

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Naturally Flavored Cranberries from Funny Face (www.funnyfacecranberries.com) (Twitter: @FunnyFaceCran):
I usually purchase my dried cranberries at Trader Joe’s because Ocean Spray’s Crazins are just too soaked in sugar anymore that I have noticed they came out with a “less sugar” version.  Glad to know it was not just me.  I received the “Freckle Face Strawberry”.  I opened the package and you could just smell strawberries and it smelled like the real stuff, not just the perfume they seem to add to strawberry flavored foods that smell better than they taste.  The berries are large in size, plump but not a sticky mess.  Their color is vibrant but I noticed their cranberry had more fruit to it than the wrinkly ones I have been buying.  I noticed 50% less sugar, so I turned the package around and the ingredients are so simple.  You have Cranberries, Soluble Corn Fiber, Evaporated Cane Juice, Citric Acid, Safflower Oil, and Natural Flavors…..that is all!  You do taste the strawberries and these would make a great cookie, I’m thinking white chocolate with these cranberries or even a dark chocolate one!  You know they are good when you wish you got more of a good thing.

 

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Pico de Gallo Bean & Rice Chips from Beanfields (www.beanfieldssnacks.com) (Twitter: @BeanfieldsSnack):
I have walked by these bags at my local Sprout’s and I’m a huge fan of the brand “Food Should Taste Good” chips.  I wondered how they were and after having the PopChips nacho version, I was unsure because some were great and some flavors were not that hot!  You have long grain rice, navy and pinto beans that really create an awesome crunch.  I shy away from tomato based flavors because many are just over powdered with tomato powder that just tastes like dried condensed soup or worst, ketchup.  I opened the bag and noticed an herb like smell and picked up Bell Peppers.  Okay, this seems interesting now.  I put a triangle in my mouth and the spices with the chips were outrageous but in a good way!  Not over salty with a perfect balance of spice and again the ingredients are so simple.  You even have a natural smoke flavor that I could have sworn was a roasted pepper, but wait I see green bell pepper powder in the ingredient list.  They also have 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, plus they are corn free.  You have what goes into the actual Pico de Gallo and the black beans just add that extra “umph” that I never get from chips.  These babies are crispy and do not create mush in your mouth like many of these multigrained chips I see hit the market.  I will be buying these and not that they needed to be better, but Beanfield’s is also verified by the NON GMO project.  I wish I had found them sooner and they are a family owned company too!

 

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Original Nuts from Bobbysue’s Nuts (www.bobbysuesnuts.com)  (Twitter: @bobbysuesnuts):

The blend is dry roasted almonds, cashews and pecans that when you read their motto, “delicious nuts with a mission”, I raise my expectations.  The ingredients are the nuts I mentioned above, sugar, egg whites, water, salt and spices.  No corn syrup and they taste like someone made creme brulee nuts!  The coating is light so it preserves the natural crunch you get from nuts and sweetness was perfect and delicate.  I kept looking for honey or some form of caramel.  They had a very light cinnamon flavor that complemented the sugars well and I hope Bobbysue’s comes to a retailer near me soon but Amazon can fill that niche because I found them there.  Every nut dollar goes towards building a shelter for the homeless animals so they not only respect what they make for us humans, but they look out for the furry kind too.

 

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Tomato Basil Sipping Broth from Millie’s Savory Teas (www.milliessavoryteas.com) (Twitter: @SavoryTeas)
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I was excited so much that I missed that this sipping broth has green tea in the ingredients.  I like to taste items as-is without looking what is in them so I don’t go with an idea of what I should expect.  My first bite, I want it to be going into it with almost unknown expectations and the second one I take after, I see what has what.  I will say that when I put the tea bag in the cup, the smell was not appetizing.  The product advertises itself as a savory alternative to coffee or tea.  I think it missed being a savory good tasting broth and also a good tasting tea.  The green tea and basil were overpowering and after the second sip, which was smaller than my first, I had to skip in having more because I just could not.  The idea is sound to a degree and I even had it on a cold night but the blend was just off.  It was so off putting that if someone said it was medicinal, then maybe you can force yourself in having it if it made you feel better!

 

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Nektar Honey Crystals from Nektar Naturals (www.nektarnaturals.com) :

Powdered Honey…..you got me.  I saw powdered Maple Sugar the other day and wondered how it would be and then my mind began to think of ways to use it!  I received two packets and I’m a fan.  I mixed the Nektar with powdered sugar and used it to sprinkle my Lemon Bars and, “oh my”!  These little bees at Nektar have gold in their hands.  No sticky mess and the product dissolves well that I have been using the rest for my teas.  I even made a hot tea and later added ice and this should have reached my hands sooner!  Ingredients are granulated honey (natural honey and sugar).  Simple and I am thinking of making honey biscuits when I purchase this and even a ham glaze.  Yeah, I started thinking again and lets say my imagination can really get creative at times 🙂

 

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Milk Chocolate Caramel Truffle Piglet from Hagensborg Chocolates (http://www.hagensborg.com) (Twitter: @TrufflePigBar):
This little piggy can visit me again all it wants!  The caramel filling made this one my second favorite and wonder if this piglet makes anything bad.  With all natural ingredients and having one of the best milk chocolates out there, I so hope to see this piggy in my area again soon!

 

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Chocolate Madeleine from Donsuemor (www.donsuemor.com) (Twitter: @Donsuemor):
I dislike package cookies or any baked good because they always are dry and taste like the package they came in.  The ingredient’s list makes you wonder why the cookie does not glow so I usually bake myself at home.  I love Madeleine cookies because they are the in-between cookie and cake treat that I can enjoy in small portions and always so buttery.  This one came in chocolate and I liked already that the hue was deep color, so I expected a good amount of chocolate.  The shell shape always makes me smile so that alone on how this little cake was presented, it made me smile.  I had bananas so I decided to add some sugar to them and caramelize it with a torch, to create a nice brulee top.  I pop the cake out and notice it smells like real food and then came that chocolate wave.  I also noticed the edge crumbled so it was not a dry sea foam like I expected.  The company has been around since 1976, so you know they must be doing something right!  They are!  This is probably the only “packaged” cookie I will eat.  I will always try different brands and varieties but rarely finish a package but if I had these, it would be a dangerous territory for me because they tasted so good.  I looked on their website and they have scones and biscotti……I’m in love!  If you served this Madeleine to me, I would not be the wiser it came from a package.

 

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Jer’s Squares (www.jers.com)  (Twitter: @JersChocolates):
I saw Toffee Break and this is the first item I opened from the box.  I use to eat Heath bars until they stop tasting like they use to.  Jer’s uses Valencia peanut butter as the center, mixed with buttery rich toffee bits and covered in dark chocolate.  This bar is made for me!  It has everything my husband and I like but someone crammed it together and created AWESOMENESS!  I loved the crunch from the toffee but the buttery flavor is really there so it goes great with the peanut butter.  I already buy Valencia peanut butter but I want the PB that Jer’s has.  It does not taste like what I have in the fridge.  The dark chocolate cover is not waxy and has a great taste, no bitterness like you get with some dark chocolate coatings.  I want more!
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