Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chocolates of the World- Chinese M&Ms!!

My awesome amazing friend Josh brought me these all the way from China! They are actually made in Beijing, and you can see all the characters speak Chinese and the website is listed. Whats especially fun is the little triangle bubble packaging with a handful of the candy inside- really cute! So do M&Ms made in China taste any different than those made in America? Well, not really....maybe slightly less sweetness but hardly noticeable. This candy is sold and manufactured worlwide with Im sure strict formulas- but different cultures have variations on taste. And my friend swore the peanut tasted different!

Limited Edition- Junior Mint Peppermint Crunch!

Just for the Holiday season, Jr. Mints produces this ramped up, fancy version of their popular candy- it's very tasty and one of my new favorites. The dark choc coating has peppermint candy bits mixed into it for a really delicious and fun to eat treat! Unfortunately they are not easy to find but check around- I got these at Winn Dixie grocery store (last year at Target).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas M&Ms are here!

As you can see they have many different packages for holiday M&Ms- bags from regular stores like Walgreens, CVS, and groceries have a different look than those bought at Walmart and Target, who each package theirs differently- which makes for some very fun designs!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NEW- M&M and Hershey Holiday decorations!

We have a really fun store here that celebrates the Holidays year round called Christmas Wonderland- they decorate all different colors of trees with ornaments based on special themes. This year, among many others, they have both an M&M tree (yellow) and a Hershey chocolate tree (green) plus new fancy M&M stockings! Very fun, and very cool for collectors.....

NEW- Andes Chocolate Mint cookies and baking bits!!

Mint is one of my favorite flavors in the winter, and Andes Chocolate Mints has blessed us with 2 new items this season- mini cookies (found in a vending machine!) and baking bits, which are just the mints all diced up into smaller pieces. The cookies were a disappointment- not nearly enough mint pieces, and a bit dry. But this can be remedied by using the baking bits to make my own double chocolate mint cookies or brownies! That was the plan anyway, until I opened the bag and smelled that heavenly Creme de Menthe smell- tasted a few, couldn't stop- and it was all over. Luckily Target has a good supply of these! (PS- they come in Peppermint Crunch flavor too, but I dont eat "white chocolate candy" so I skipped them)

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Tis the season to get Cocoa- Cozy!

Ah, winter- as the temperature outside drops, we tend to cozy up inside and want something warm to drink. As any chocolate lover would agree, winter is THE season for yummy cups of hot cocoa served with cookies or pie. Here are some new and older brands and flavors- Hershey & Swiss Miss have added super dark flavors, which I love and is clearly the trend lately. Several brands have taken the Mayan/Mexican chocolate route- Nestle Abuelita is already a well established brand of Mexican chocolate with a cinnamon kick. It commonly comes in round hockey-puck size cakes that you divide up and melt in hot milk over the stove (very traditional). Oh and it's DIVINE, trust me. But for a more on-the-go society they powdered it and have it available in easy serving packets (still much better with hot milk than water).There's also an Abuelita choc syrup. And Hershey & General Foods have their versions of that choc-cinnamony taste too- all good, but Abuelita has the strongest flavor and will always be the best. Happy sipping!

NEW- Snyder's Dark Chocolate Covered pretzels!

These have been available in milk chocolate for awhile, but brand new is the Hershey Special Dark Chocolate covered variety. Really tasty except they need more salt- the appeal of this snack is the combo of sweet, salty, and crunchy- Snyder's is good, but unlike Nestle's version, they do not have enough salty kick in my opinion. But if you mix the milk and dark together and sprinkle a little salt on yourself, it's still a yummy treat.....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NEW- Hershey BLISSful holiday packaging!

I love this time of year- when all the chocolate co's roll out their fancy Holiday packaging and Special Limited Edition products. Hershey has dressed up their Bliss choc bags & foil wrappers (milk, dark, and meltaway center flavors), and they are beautiful! I love the colors- when you mix them all together, the evergreen, burgundy & gold color foils make for a very festive holiday bowl for a party or at work . Had trouble getting the right lighting but hopefully you can tell how pretty these are...

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Brownie-palooza!

Every now and then I get on a brownie kick- especially when I notice a few new varieties pop up on the shelves. So now is that time- there are some really great new box brownie mixes out that I just had to try, but this is only a starter list. There are many more and ultimatly I plan to do a full scale taste test between Organic and regular brands. The pics here show the latest offerings from Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Duncan Hines, Ghiradelli, and generic Hannaford. Im especially fond of the Cookie-Brownie bars and all of the Dark choc varieties- VERY rich & deep dark chocolatey....what brownie dreams are made of (especially warm and served with cold vanilla ice cream!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

NEW- Hershey Cacao Reserve Truffle Crunch!

Oh my, what do we have here? Hershey has expanded the Cacao Reserve line to include crunchy truffles, and they are truly delicious. The packaging really says it all, with a cross section picture and describing them as "Chocolate Truffle Crunch- a three layered tasting experience- rich chocolate, creamy truffle filling, and cacao bit crunch- the heart of the cacao bean". Plus they are beautifully wrapped in bright blue (milk) and purple (dark) foil so they are fun to share and leave as a surprise treat for someone! Highly recommended- currently found at Target.

NEW- Ghirardelli Luxe Milk bars!

So now that Dark chocolate has been thoroughly celebrated and elevated to "chic" & healthy status, I think Milk chocolate is going to try to make a comeback. Here is example one- Luxe Milk bars from Ghirardelli. They are in beautiful slick packaging and have fancy add-ins like deep-roasted hazelnuts & natural toasted almonds. They are described as Rich, Creamy, and Heavenly milk choc, made with the "finest cocoa beans". Does the taste live up to all that? Absolutely, and Im not a big milk choc fan by itself, but I do love these- especially with the nuts. I prefer to pair it with some dark choc too- that Duet bar is just perfection. Well worth the price and calories!

NEW- Reese's Crunchy is back!

So cool- they brought my favorite Reese's back- Crunchy! Filled with yummy crunchy peanut butter, they were last seen more than 10 years ago I think- and I always wondered why they were discontinued? Crunchy rocks! Welcome back!

NEW- Stirs the Soul Organic Raw Chocolate!

Here is a product from my hometown- Portland, OR, that is as special, exciting, and unique as that great city! In true Oregon fashion, this chocolate is Organic and Raw- meaning it is very simply un-roasted cacao beans (preserving the maximum antioxidants & nutrients), raw cocoa butter, raw amber agave nectar (for natural sweetness), vanilla, and Himalayan crystal salt. And it is Fair Trade certified, vegan, low glycemic, and allergy free. This is chocolate for the purist and those trying to break an addiction to refined sugar sweetness (like me, sad to say). It is just a very wonderful, intense, strong, healthy blast of real chocolate flavor, and they have 5 or 6 different varieties- see the entire line at STIRSTHESOUL.COM - available in Natural food stores and by mail order. Thanx mom!!

More Halloween M&Ms and fun treats to make!

Here are some very specially packaged Halloween M&Ms -10 packs of the regular size bags. And some very fun colorful treats you can make with all the M&Ms you get for Halloween- Rice Krispy Treats made with cereal, marshmallow, REFRIGERATED M&Ms, and butter. Just take a BIG plastic or glass bowl, put 1 TB butter in the bottom and fill it with one bag of marshmallows. Heat in microwave till its all puffed up to top of the bowl. Add 1/2 box of crispy rice cereal and mix, then when its all coated in marshmallow, add the cold M&Ms (if not cooled they will start to melt & break apart), mix it all up- then spread it out in large greased pan and cool for a bit- then cut in squares & enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The M&M Halloween collection is here!

So here they are in all their various designs & glory- M&M Halloween/ Autumn packaging from this year and last...plus one much older from the 80's (bottom left corner). As you can clearly see there are LOT of different designs issued for the same product, and the differences depend on the store they come from. For each major holiday, M&M puts out a "mass market" design for all the grocery and standard stores, but they also have special designs contracted for mega-store Walmart and another set just for Target. You can see them grouped together and clearly tell the differences, it's really quite striking! But inside the product is the same and the M&Ms are all new fall colors- this year is great with orange, purple, black, and green- what they call "New Electrifying" colors and "Cool Ghoul's Mix". Plus there's and "Autumn Mix" of maroon, mustard, and brown tones, in dark chocolate only. I really hope they keep doing all this great packaging, I love to see what they come up with- it's an extra treat with every holiday!

Chocolate Shampoo & Conditioner!

My wonderfully amazing Brazillian friend Adriana brought me these hair products all the way from Brazil! They both contain "theobroma cacao extract", which comes directly from the "chocolate" cacao bean and of course, anything with cacao added must be good for us (in my mind anyway...) So you can see its not nearly as dark or chocolaty looking as the bottles, but it smells yummy and really does clean nicely. LOVE, love, love it- thank you Adriana for this exciting, exotic addition to my blog and collection of choco-products!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vintage Red M&M dispenser!

My awesome good friend Linda gave me this adorable vintage red dispenser from 1991- love, love, love it! It still works, just put M&Ms in the door in back, pull the arm, and out they come in his hand! You can tell the vast difference in his character's face from what's on the packaging and tv now- this is back when 2-D animation was the norm, before computer FX made cartoons look so real. I love his innocence and cute face. Thank you Linda- he will be treasured in my collection always!
PS-if you compare this one with the current Red character,it looks like him as a little chubby baby boy M&M,with his sweet innocent babyface-now he looks all adult with an attitude-he grew up just like us :)

NEW- Vintage classic Hershey favorites!

Just found these in a display at CVS, of course had to get all 4! They are a reissue of the original packaging for these bars from waaaay back in the early 1900s and wow are they cool looking or what? This is back when Hershey created the "original 5 cent chocolate bar" and made it affordable to the masses- which in turn made him a very rich man. Of course nowdays the wrapping is plastic, not foil & paper, and unfortunatley if you read the Mr. Goodbar its "made with chocolate" which means it's got cocoa beans in it but has some other cheaper oil in place of cocoa butter. Yes this does affect taste but most consumers won't notice or care (I persoannly cant eat it like that...)Fortunatley they DO still use real cocoa butter for the other items shown! And always will if they are smart enough not to mess with their best sellers formula....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A celebration of all things REESE'S!

Who knew 2 little chocolate peanut butter cups born in the 1920's would become so popular they would have endless spinoffs- now there's Reese's cereal, ice cream, cookies, and dozens of Limited Edition flavor variations. Millions of Americans (myself included) have grown up on the addictive flavor of Reese's, making them the most popular Hershey product by far. But supposedly they are not so popular in Europe or other countries where people are raised on Nutella and don't usually like peanut butter at all -they prefer a choco-hazelnutty flavor instead. But Reese's is still hugely recognized and eaten worldwide and will forever be expanding it's line here in the US. I know we simply could not imagine life without those peanut butter cups in the familiar bright orange packaging- still going strong after 85 years!
PS- Regarding the latest uproar about Hershey substituting vegetable oils in place of REAL cocoa butter to cut costs, they wisely have chosen NOT to do that to their Reese's, Milk choc bar, Almond Joy, or Kisses. They know better than to mess with the formula or taste of their best sellers...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

M&Ms World Orlando!! Love, love, love it!

Yay- I finally made it to the third & final M&M World in the U.S.-Orlando, FL (you know, home of Disneyworld, Seaworld etc..)! The other 2 are in Las Vegas & NYC of course....big flashy cities with heavy tourism. Orlando is the newest store, inside Florida Mall, and is as fabulous as the others- it's huge, colorful, fun, and really a Mecca for any/all M&M lovers & collectors with everything imagineable for kids & adults. Also that day we went to Universal Studios park where they had M&M vending machines, which I havn't seen anywhere else (Mars is THE candy supplier to Universal) Take a look!