New Orleans Famous Praline Company: Classic Pralines #Review #PralineInLove

New Orleans Famous Praline - Box of 8 Original Pralinettes

We have always loved anything that is “New Orleans” related from the food to the decor, we have enjoyed it. There is a reason why New Orleans Square at Disneyland was our favorite place to hang out when we had the park’s passports. I make everything at home trying to mimic and bring back that piece of memory from making Beignets, Gumbo, to even Red Beans and Rice with Andouille at home. Most things I can make and hit the mark but the one thing I can’t imitate, is those pralines! You can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to review them.

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The New Orleans Famous Praline Company has been sharing their delicious clusters with us since 1996. Calling them a candy is just too simple. Candy to me is a piece of gum drop, to a sour patch straw. It’s just not enough of a justifiable name to what really is a treat all of it’s own. This is a delicacy that you make it right or wrong, no middle ground here. The N.O.F.P Company (as I call them), offers you 3 different types of Pralines to choose from:

  • The Original “Classic” Praline
  • The Creamy Praline and
  • The Chocolate Praline

Three things done right means you can get away with a short selection but do not discount them!

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Verdict:

I received the box and let me tell you when I opened it, it smelled like the store at Disneyland. That store that stocks all the items you can’t find anywhere that originate from New Orleans. My goodness, did I spend my pay check at that store! It was such a joyful scent of sweetness and butter, with a hint of nuts. New Orleans Famous Praline Company packs a gorgeous little box that even serves as a souvenir itself because it’s that adorable. The box’s image is a drawing of a the shoreline. You see the city and the ships, plus the colors give it that vintage feel; very much like the century old recipe the company uses to produce these beauties. The company only uses real quality ingredients that is why these differ from the rest. Each praline is lovingly sealed in it’s own wrapper, so you have guaranteed freshness and let me get started on how they taste. You have the pecans that are chopped into pieces and floating in a buttery and sugary filling that almost resembles the inside of a pecan pie. The confection is crumbly but not dry or hard, it literally melts in your mouth. Not grainy at all but smooth and it has that classical cluster texture where it’s creamy but not gooey. Just perfectly blended and the proper thickness too. Enjoyable to the last bite and I first devoured this praline as is, but then crumbled some on ice cream (Southern Pecan of course) and it just made that bowl of ice cream pure happiness! These are a must and especially from a company that takes care and pride in what they produce. I hope in the future to taste their other creations, the creamy and the chocolate pralines!

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Connect with New Orleans Famous Praline Company at:

 

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from New Orleans Famous Praline 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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HouseParty: Bertolli® Imported Cask Aged Balsamic Vinegar Paired with Caramelized Onion #Review #BertolliSauceParty

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I usually make our sauces from scratch and especially when the heirloom tomatoes start hitting the markets, with the quality and season being at it’s peak. I enjoy incorporating everything from a bell pepper medley to a combination of different onions. I make several jars worth and then have the freedom to create different meals and additions like ground lamb to pork. Then time gets in the way and especially during the “bottom months” where holidays start coming and I’m trying to make every comfort food we have been waiting to enjoy and sometimes you get that simple request of spaghetti and meatballs. I open the fridge and then memory strikes…..I used our last jar I made last time and now have none! So, I always purchase emergency back-ups and this means a jar or two of previously made sauces. I already feel bad when I let time get the best of me, but I don’t want to add by feeling bad about what I am serving at dinner time. So, I pick wisely and have found a few brands that I can depend on.

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Bertolli makes everything from sauces, olive oils, vinegars to frozen meals. They are a company that has been around family tables for over 150 years. Their sauces range from organic, white bases to their newer variety called Riserva. The Riserva brand is a rename of the Imported line “Gold Label”, you previously saw with the colored “old-style” font. Even the flavors are identical, so thankfully Bertolli did not discontinue the “Gold Label” line. I was able to pick-up a glass jar of the bottles, with the older version label, at my local Von’s.

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What I look for when purchasing a jarred sauce is simple ingredients like I would use when making it from scratch and also variety. I want something away from the norm, so I look for blends with wines or vegetables that we don’t commonly consume. I want also a sauce that does not need to be “fixed” to be enjoyed. I’m not going to dedicate 20 minutes to get a sauce to taste right when I could allot the same time to one made from scratch. So, the first thing I do is take a label apart when it comes to ingredients and thankfully the sauces by Bertolli contain what the label in the front states. The Balsamic vinegar is there as is the caramelized onions. Tomatoes in all forms from puree, diced and even in juice form are listed. To intensify the tangy notes, grape must was added and mostly you have real ingredients in this sauce. My only pause was to caramel coloring even though I know manufactures add it to enhance the look of the sauce since it may not look too pleasing in the jar without it, but I could have done with out it. I hope when Bertolli changed the label, they dropped the coloring off the list too.

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Verdict:
The Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelized onions by Bertolli advertises a nice balance in flavor where the sweetness from the caramelized onions goes very well with the tang you get from the vinegar. No bitter notes or after taste, and the sauce has a rich texture and taste. Very enjoyable and not a jar that needs additions to correct it, but you can always add a protein from chicken and beef to enhance it. Upon opening the jar, I expected to smell a wine like scent  from the vinegar, as I do when I add Balsamic to my marinara sauces. I unfortunately did not. I taste the sauce and it’s ultra sweet, like way too much sugar. It’s not the sugars I’m use to even when I have used sweet onion varieties like Cipollini onions. Even Shallots when caramelized never give off this much sugar and then I notice actual sugar noted in the list of ingredients BEFORE garlic and spice. Okay, so I start thinking what can I make with this and it hit’s me……a dip. This way the sauce stays unaltered and I make Mozzarella sticks from scratch. Everyone can then enjoy the sauce as it is and I can curb the sweet factor by the spices I add to the breaded cheese. Simple to make and also quick, plus batches can be kept warm in the oven while I make more.  This is unfortunately not a sauce I would buy again.  I will try this version again under the Riserva label if the ingredients differ.  So, far the only change I can tell is that the new label does not state “Imported” on it.  Unfortunately, Bertolli does not list the ingredients of their sauces on the site, just the nutritional facts, so I wan unable to compare beforehand.  My Mozz sticks are always a hit but I did ask for feedback on the sauce and thankfully received some honest remarks.  It’s sweet was the chief complaint and maybe this was a batch where the sugar over-spilled, but I was left with dip and this is uncommon at my house where I witness guests usually use even bread to clean a plate.  I feel that without the overpowering sweetness, this sauce could actually be good and enjoyed.  The warming of the sauce intensifies the sugar and when tasted cold, the sugars mellow out a bit.  Maybe adding a little to a pasta salad would help.

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Connect with Bertolli at:

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bertolli and HouseParty.  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.

Gourmet Living: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Review #IGPInitialPromo #GourmetLivingBalsamic

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Some things are beautiful and I always admire a gorgeous looking bottle. Presentation matters and especially when purchasing a product that retails higher than it’s counterparts but that is if you look at vinegar as plainly an acid, disregarding origin, grape used in production, to aging. This can get blurred and sometimes on purpose by the manufacture. We all want what we pay for and that is something I was critical of when I had the opportunity to review Gourmet Living’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. I love Balsamic and use it almost on a daily basis in it’s “raw form” or to enhance the taste of sauces to meats. Nothing tastes like it and it may look like wine but a good tasting Balsamic will make you forget about wine all together.

When I received the parcel from Gourmet Living, the box was beautiful with gold colored foil highlights and it almost felt like suede when touched. I open it and I see a beautiful red wax seal on top, and the bottle is as noteworthy as the rest. Every detail has been thought of but in the end I seek what is inside the bottle. Does the vinegar have a pleasant taste and will it play well with the others, meaning I don’t want an acidic pungent base that overpowers all the other flavor notes and even the smallest drop makes me just taste vinegar.

I figured the best test was trying it as-is and making a simple at home Vinaigrette. I never buy dressings and just make my own because as much as I want the dressing in the bottle to last, everything a manufacture adds to make it long living also makes it poor tasting. I save money and fridge space, plus I can adjust my dressings by the meals I am serving that day. A Vinaigrette made at home will always be friendly to a waist-line too.

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Retail Price Point: $36.95 for a 8.5 fluid ounce bottle via Amazon

You will look and notice years and size of bottles fluctuate drastically when it comes to Balsamic. I thought the more the ounces combined with greater years, makes the price tag higher, but that did not remain factual. Some expensive brands had poor ratings along with the low quantity of ounces they gave. I get it that aging takes storing, time and care. This is not even what it takes to make the initial fluid in the first place. Boiling a product down reduces the quantity and intensifies the flavor but it depends on the cook and the “starter product”, if even the final product will be worthy. Balsamic may look thick and smell sometimes strong but it delivers sweet notes when done well. As it ages the flavor matures and the wood that is used for storage will also affect the vinegar. The Balsamic from Gourmet Living also has an IGP certification that has certain criteria that must be met for a bottle to pass and reach the seal. Think of it like a diamond and how certain outside agencies will only certify if certain standards are met, down to origin of the stone. The vinegar from Gourmet Living is from Modena and had the proper labeling I have seen with products of this kind, so they passed the visual test and now to how it tastes.

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Taste Test:
I made my dressing and I always taste before adding salt. The Balsamic had a pleasant sweet taste without bitter after notes. You could pick up what the wood had added a distinct flavor to the vinegar, and it just intensifies that aroma you get when using the product and tasting it. I actually found this vinegar very pleasant and for the price, it was a fair price point. I have only been able to get a better price point at Whole Foods on 2 bottles that were being cleared out and that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A bottle of Balsamic lasts because you use a small amount. Think of when you use demi glace and how a little goes a long way. The same applies here and that makes it a worthy purchase in my book!

Connect with Gourmet Living at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Gourmet Living.  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.

Giveaway: You can win a California Delicious Gift Card worth $50.00

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(Picture is example of products carried by California Delicious and not of actual prize)

Get ready this Valentine’s Day to get some help with this wonderful giveaway, courtesy of California Delicious!

Giveaway of a $50.00 gift card to California Delicious (http://www.californiadelicious.com/). This prize can be open to everyone internationally but the gifts must be mailed to a U.S physical address, no PO Boxes please.  Giveaway ends on February 5th so get started now and it’s easy to enter below.  Please note terms on site regarding alcohol sales and delivery limitations, as per state laws.

How to Enter:

  1. Like on FaceBook- https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaDelicious
  2. Follow on Twitter- https://twitter.com/caldelicious
  3. Follow on Pinterest- http://www.pinterest.com/calidelicious/
  4. Please comment on my Blog Review- https://samplesandfreebiesgallery.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/california-delicious-not-your-ordinary-gift-box-and-basket-company/

Bonus Entry for those that follow on Instagram-

California Delicious: Not your Ordinary Gift Box and Basket Company

A gift basket is always welcomed in our home and not only do I enjoy the variety but I love trying new items. As of late with the holidays not too far away from us, I noticed that many baskets cost a pretty good penny but the thrill of the “good stuff” is not present. It’s almost the place where snack food goes to get stale! Not great when you bite into something and wonder if you would have liked it if it were fresher.

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In comes California Delicious with not your ordinary baskets. They offer everything from baskets and gift boxes with fresh fruit, chocolates, stuffed animals, wine, beer, and you name the occasion……they have it covered. The one thing I love is that if you live within the state, shipping is a whopping $0.00. Very nice. So the price point you see is what it is with no hidden charges. If you live out of state, they offer a reasonable rate starting at $9.00 (standard ground) for most of their selections. Very fair pricing and if you sign-up for their mailing list, you get 15% off promotion. Navigate the site and a $10.00 off a $75.00 purchase coupon pops-up as so does a $5 off of $50.00! I believe in getting the most out of your dollar and right now, California Delicious has a heck of a perk! Be part of the “Give a Gift, Get a Gift” program. Just purchase a basket and each purchase gets you a $50.00 gift card* to http://www.NakedWines.com. The only small catch is you can only use one gift card yourself but you will get one with every item you buy. Great way to pass the perk forward and share with others. Make your basket purchase twice as nice!

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I ordered the Starbuck’s Coffee gourmet box. It’s item #9966 and it’s the first gift basket I have been 100% content with from top to bottom. I always have items in baskets and boxes that are just not for me or I plainly do not enjoy…..not this one! The Starbuck’s Coffee Mornings Gift box has a reasonable price point of $59.99 and it even has a stainless steel travel tumbler that can be used again and again. I always like gifting items of this kind that not only yield food for my family and friends to enjoy, but you want a reusable gift so there is something always left to enjoy again and again. Every item in the box is Starbuck’s branded…..no fillers to make this box seem more than it is. See for yourself and California Delicious discloses all contents, no need to over examine a picture to see what really comes in the basket (“Is that a candy I see back there?” kind of thing). I like that California Delicious is open and upfront because its just so tacky to inquire when you send someone a gift basket or box and hope they got everything as pictured. The last thing you want to ask is for a run-down! This is what my beautiful box came with http://www.californiadelicious.com/starbucks-coffee-mornings-gift-box.html:

  • Starbucks Pike’s Place Blend Coffee
  • Starbucks Sumatra Blend Coffee
  • Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee
  • Starbucks Café Estima Coffee
  • Starbucks Hot/Cold Travel Mug
  • VIA Ready brew Coffee
  • 3 – Spiced Biscotti
  • 1 – Vanilla Biscotti

Other things I want to share is that I have never received a Biscotti cookie in “as-pictured” shape. They are usually baggies holding something what was once a cookie but is not a dry cracked baggy of dust. My chocolate swirl was even intact and every cookie was whole. I got to break it myself and enjoy it…..fresh and “biteable” with no regret or staleness! Ever item has an expiration date and just the bagged coffees alone the date was 6 to 7 months from when I received it. The VIA coffee is an entire box with 8 servings and that doesn’t expire until September. You can actually take your time enjoying your treats. The bags included have a 10 to 12 cup serving each so you get plenty of sevings for a very reasonable price. You add that you get a $50.00 gift card to NakedWines.com and it’s a perk that makes buying from California Delicious a must! Try them today and especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. California Delicious is not your everyday basket and gift box company, they deliver not only beautiful looking treats but it’s filled with items you will actually enjoy and love!

Connect with California Delicious and place and order just in time for Valentine’s Day:

  • On-line- http://www.californiadelicious.com/
  • Twitter- https://twitter.com/caldelicious
  • Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaDelicious
  • Pinterest- http://www.pinterest.com/calidelicious/
  • YouTube and Video Blogs- http://www.californiadelicious.com/california-video-blog

Hint: I will be posting a giveaway soon, so get ahead and connect with California Delicious by connecting with the above links!  

 

Nakedwines.com Perk detals, as disclosed on California’s Delicious site:
No kidding…We will send you a nakedwines.com gift card valued at $50 for every gift* that you send from California Delicious. It’s our way of saying Thanks for your business! *What’s the catch? If you buy more than one gift, we will send you a card for every gift you send but you can only use one of those gift cards yourself. You can pay it forward by giving your extra cards to all of your friends and relatives…sounds too good to be true? Well it is if you live in MA,MO,VA,WV,TX,HI,NC or VT because unfortunately those states have prohibition era rules.

I received the above product free of charge from California Delicious.  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.

 

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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