Blog Archives

Recipe for Ikea’s chocolate oat ball

One product I’ve reviewed on this blog that seems to be quite popular is Ikea’s chocolate oat ball. This is a wonderful delicious sweet and easily worthy of a candidate for my top 10 sweets.

I’ve received a comment asking for the recipe of a similar treat which was distributed at Ikea. I haven’t been to Ikea recently and didn’t pick it up when I was there, but when I sent an email to them I got a response with a PDF scan of the original recipe.

You can read the PDF here:

Chocolate balls recipe

Comparing the ingredients it’s clear it won’t taste exactly the same, but someday I hope to try it out. One great thing about homemade sweets is you can adjust the amount of sweetness to your taste.

If anyone makes this, please give me a picture and full report on the test!

 

References

https://sweetsreporter.com/2013/10/15/ikea-chocolate-oat-ball-with-coconut-sprinkles-sotsak-kakaoboll-product-review/

 

 

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Taza Coffee Chocolate Mexicano

For those of you following Sweet’s Reporter, you may have realized that I haven’t posted in quite some time. Truly, it’s been over 4 months since my last post, since I’ve been busy with another blog project and other things.

I’ve also been having mostly the same old sweets, so I didn’t have much to report – excepting the products I tried that weren’t really report-worthy.

Until now.

I recently got my hands on Taza’ Organic Coffee Chocolate Mexicano, and to be honest it’s almost like a new class of chocolate to me.

The ingredients are suspiciously simple, containing the trio of cacao beans, cane sugar, and coffee beans (all organic). There is 55% cocoa content.

The disc shape of the chocolate caught my eye, but whats really great about this product is the texture. The package declares it is “stone ground”, and normally I’d write off such marketing speak as a desperate attempt to sell a product in a hyper-competive market.  The discs texture seems pretty typical from the outside, but after breaking off a piece you can see it’s not quite as solid as other chocolates.  Once you sink your teeth into it, you experience something which I can only call decidedly gritty and unlike anything I’ve had before. Letting the it melt on your tongue (my typical way of enjoying chocolate products) enhances the sensation such that I’d like to call up the grounding stones and thank them. What was initially a “strange but unique” texture quickly became an addiction to me.

The price of this chocolate is usually around $8.00, a bit on the expensive side for this weight of organic chocolate, but I managed to pick it up for around $5.00 on a sale at Whole Foods a week or two ago.

Even if the product is not on sale, I highly recommend chocolate lovers to try this out once.

Overall Rating: 8.5

 

References

http://www.tazachocolate.com/store/Products/CoffMexDisc

Store Review: Le Macaron French Pastries (Tampa, Florida)

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I stumbled upon the “le macaron” store in Tampa’s International Plaza mall on a recent family trip. In addition to various flavors of french macarons, there are also fine chocolates sold here. I don’t remember the exact prices, but each of these sells for roughly $2 dollars a piece. We purchased 6 macaroons and 4 chocolates (shown in the below pictures) for around $22.

I have only tried macarons once or twice in my life, but the ones at “le macaron” were pretty typical. The rose and raspberry flavors really tasted and smelled like the real thing, but it’s hard to say if that taste is made from “natural ingredients” or the real thing. The coffee-flavored macaron really didn’t taste too much like coffee, so I doubt there much, if any, real coffee present.

My biggest issue with macarons in general is that there is always some slightly odd flavor I can’t put my finger on, and that applies to these sweets as well. But if you like macarons I’m sure you’ll enjoy the one’s sold here.

The chocolates were very impressive visually, with everything from patterns in the likeness of leopard spots to shiny metallic balls. There was a variety of fillings, including caramel- and fruit-like. While I have to admit they were all tasty, I know a load of sugar when I taste it. Macarons are relatively rare in the world of sweets but chocolates are a dime a dozen, so they have to hold up to more scrutiny. The pretty designs and (typical) good flavor don’t win over the high price and high sugar content.

As for the ingredients, I wasn’t able to find anywhere the full ingredient list was published for either product. However, the company’s website (which is a franchise, interestingly enough) states all macarons are gluten free with no artificial flavors or preservatives. This puts them in the mid range of ingredient quality, but I wish they published the entire list. I couldn’t find any information about the fine chocolates.

Overall, I feel both product lines are mediocre, but they are tasty enough to try once, and the fine chocolates are novel enough to buy for a friend or family member as a gift. The Internal Plaza is a great shopping center with many stores and restaurants, so if you happen to be traveling in Tampa be sure to check it out, and maybe stop by “le macaron” while you are there.

References

http://lemacaron-us.com/

http://www.shopinternationalplaza.com/

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Product Review: Chox chocolate red wine

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On a recent family trip to Tampa I was looking for something sweet to drink, but without mysterious artificial flavors. I ended up trying Chox: “Fine Red Wine Infused with the natural essence of chocolate”.

Flavor

Fortunately this product had only a very slight taste of red wine, which is a big plus for me since I am not a big red wine fan. The sweet chocolate flavor really dominates the experience, although the texture is probably somewhat close to a red wine.

If you like Kahlua or other sweet chocolate beverages then you will likely love this, and the overall experience is quite similar.

Nutrition/Ingredients

I was attracted by the label which stated there are no artificial flavors, and think this the strongest point of this drink, especially when comparing to other sweet drinks like Kahlua which have who-knows-what in them. On the other hand, although everything in this product is ‘natural’, as with other instances of ‘natural flavors’, you really don’t know what is in the product. If this product actually listed everything used to make it I’d feel much better about it.

This product also contains sulfites, but from what I have researched they are present in a majority of wines, and have little effect on the body, so they are not much of a concern to me.

This product is imported from Holland. I’m not sure what type of impact this has on the taste or ingredients used, but it gives it somewhat of “exotic” feel from a marketing perspective.

Ingredients (as listed on package): Grape wine with molasses neutral spirits, dairy cream, natural flavors, and natural carmine color.

Alcohol content: 13.9%

Price/Availability

I bought this 750 ml bottle for $12.99 at a Publix in Tampa, Florida.

Ratings:   Flavor:  8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:  6.0  Price: 8.0   Overall: 7.3

Summary

I was searching for a sweet alcoholic drink with no artificial flavors and some of the health benefits of wine. Turns out this fits the bill perfectly. I can’t speak whether a wine expert would enjoy this or not, but anyone with a sweet tooth who is looking for a little alcohol buzz should definitely try this product out.

References

http://www.thekitchn.com/sulfites-in-wine-necessary-or-100878

A galaxy of sweetness: comparison graph of ice cream calories vs. sugar

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For some reason I really enjoy making visual graphs from data, something which can give new insight into relationships hidden in the data.

I decided to apply this hobby of mine to ice cream, and came with the above graph. It shows calories on the horizontal axis, and sugars (in grams) on the vertical one. Numbers are measured against a single serving, which is typically 1/2 cup.

I have captured data for around 50 products across 7 different brands, and highlighted some of the points on the graph.

As expected, there is a general correlation between calories and sugar, since adding more sugar usually means adding more calories. However there are some cases like Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Pecan, which has a lot of fat that contributes to calories, but not sugar. We also see the other extreme, Talenti Lisbon Lemon, where the main ingredients (besides water) are lemon and sugar, both which contribute to sugar but not to calories.

Product Review: Japanese Candy Bar “Choco Indulge Crunch” (チョコにがっつけパキッツ)

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I happened to find this product at the Morikami Japanse Museum & Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and decided to pick it up.

“Choco Indulge Crunch” is my own translation. Literally translated, the title is closer to “Indulge in Chocolate! Crunch”. The translated English packaging calls the product “Pakitz<Nuts & Crunch>”, but I like my translation better. For those curious, “Pakitz” comes from the Japanese  “パキッツ” which refers to the sound of something like a cracker crunching when bitten into.

This product is made by Glico, a Japanese company, and imported by JFC International Inc.

I want to take this opportunity to mention my other blog, “Self Taught Japanese”, where I have a series of articles aimed at Japanese learners of various skill levels. For those who are interested you check it out here: http://selftaughtjapanese.com/

Flavor

The two halves of this bar are each wrapped separately in sealed packs, which is a nice trend I’ve seen in other Japanese candies. One disadvantage of this, however, is that there is less actual candy that you would expect from the size of the package.

Like many typical chocolate bars, this product is separated into little rectangular nuggets which are connected together in a 3×4 array in each serving. The top half of each nugget is a ‘gaufrette’ wafer (see ingredients section below for details), with a mild taste and crunchy texture not unlike that used in many typical American cookies.

The bottom part is made from pretty typical sweet chocolate, which tastes as if it has a low cocoa count (around 50-60%). It has some small peanut slivers in it that give it a mild crunch. The picture on the front of the wrapper, shown in the picture at the top of this post, gives a good idea of what both parts look like.

This bar does an excellent job of fulfilling my requirement of two or more contrasting flavors and textures, and the end result is quite different than anything I’ve had before. If I had to compare, I’d say that it’s a distant cousin of the classic KitKat bar.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is 25.5 grams and there are two servings per package. In one serving there are 140 calories (60 from fat), and 9 sugars. This is definitely below average for this type of product.

Unfortunately the ingredient list is quite long and contains a few suspect items, such as high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, acelsulfame potassium, ammonium bicarbonate, and artificial flavors. This product is clearly not marketed at those concerned with natural and safe ingredients. Ironically, the text above the manufacturer’s name says “taste and health” in Japanese.

The first ingredient is sugar and the second is ‘gaufrette’, which is defined online as “a wafer of crisply fried potato cut to resemble a small waffle”. However, if you look at the original untranslated ingredient list (in Japanese), it contains flour, starch, sugar, chocolate, vegetable oil, and salt as sub-ingredients of this item. The term “wheat cracker” is also used in the translated English text though it doesn’t taste like a typical wheat cracker to me.

This product also contains several types of nuts – peanuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, but they contribute more to texture than taste.

For the entire list (in English), see the image at the bottom of this post.

Price/Availability

I bought this at the Morikami Museum’s gift shop for only $3.00. Since this is an imported product I consider it a pretty good price, equal if not cheaper to something domestically produced. One reason for the low price is that the wafer portion is very light (filled with air) and so there is a bit of filler.

For those who want to learn more about the Morikami museum you can check out my review of it here.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0 Nutrition/Ingredients:  5.0 Price: 9.0  Overall: 7.0

Summary

This Japanese import candy has a unique texture and flavor, but several debatable ingredients make it hard to recommend to those who are concerned about the safety of the ingredients they consume.

References

http://www.morikami.org/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gaufrette

http://www.glico.co.jp/pakitz/

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/

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Product Review – Whole Foods Coffee Ice Cream

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Flavor

I’ve eaten most of a carton of this product in several sittings, but each time I just can’t get past the odd texture. If you’ve read my other ice cream reviews, you’ll know I am a big fan of creamy texture (heck, who isn’t?). Unfortunately, eating this ice cream right out of the freezer, or even 5-10 minute later, gives an unappetizing rough, icy texture. I even tried to break up the cream into tiny pieces with my spoon to facilitate the melting process, but that was only partially effective. After around ~20 minutes of waiting for it to melt, I finally got one spoonful of something I’d consider partially creamy.

If this was my first taste of a coffee ice cream I might be OK with this, but I’ve had at least two others that are much, much tastier and creamier (Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip and Three Sister’s Milk Coffee). The taste itself in Whole Foods coffee ice cream is only so-so, with a strong element of coffee and milk, and a weak sweetness.

I think the problems with texture, as well as taste, stem from not enough sugar being used. Though I appreciate the effort to try and reduce sugar for health reasons, this reminds me of some experimental batches of ice cream I’ve made in my time.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This ice cream has only 180 calories in a single serving (1/2 cup, 90 grams). That’s near the low end of ice creams of this type.

Sugars are only 13 grams. This is very low compared to Three Twins milk coffee, which has 17 grams. Its also lower than most other ice creams out there, by a large margin.

With only six ingredients, and no artificial flavorings or colorings, it does get much more natural and simple than this. Two differences between the Three Twin’s product and this are the order of the coffee and egg yolks (they are reversed), and the lack of vanilla extract in Whole Food’s product.Full Ingredient List: Pasteurized milk, pasteurized cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and carob bean gum.

Price/Availability

I got this for around $4.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 5.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.0  Price: 7.0   Overall:  6.67

Summary

Any points this product gets for healthiness and natural ingredients are cancelled out by a completely non-creamy texture and mediocre taste.

References

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/whole-foods-market-coffee-ice-cream

Product Review: Three Sisters Multigrain Berry Multigrain Shredded Wheat Cereal

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Flavor

Like some of Three Sister’s other products (including this one that I reviewed), Multigrain Berry does a great job at preserving the taste of a classic cereal (Post Frosted Shredded Wheat). For those who haven’t had this before, each bite is a bundle of shredded wheat with a sweet frosting coating. The rough, chewy texture is quite enjoyable and gives your jaw a workout. The addition of fruit flavoring adds a nice taste which is not present in Post’s basic shredded wheat.

Nutrition/Ingredients

Serving size is 1 cup  (55 grams) and there is about seven per package. In one serving there is 190 calories (only 10 from fat), 6 grams of fiber, 5 of protein, and 11g of sugars. These stats are all pretty much the same as Post’s version, which is not much a surprise considering the near-identical flavor. However, as this product is marketed as the “healthier” version of that, I wish they had at least a little less sugar, or more fiber/protein.

The ingredients are generally natural and safe, though its disappointing there is no real Blueberry or Pomengranate, rather some mysterious “natural flavor” to simulate their taste. I wish companies which claim to make healthy products would use fruit, not some substitute.

The ingredients here win out over many competitor’s products, which use either artificial flavor, artificial color, or BHT as a preservative.Post’s Frosted Mini Wheats “with a touch a fruit in the middle” is one such product that uses all three.

Multigrain Berry uses all fruit & vegetable extract/juice for coloring, and Vitamin E instead of BHT as a preservative. There is still some debate on whether BHT increases or decreases cancer risk, but my feeling is that Vitamin E is generally safer as a preservative.

For those who don’t know what ‘Triticale” is, it’s a hybrid of wheat and rye which can give yield improvements and allow growing in different conditions. It also has more protein than wheat. It is well established as a feed grain, but its use in cereal is relatively new.

Ingredients: Whole Great Wheat, Sugar, Whole Grain Oats, Whole Grain Triticale, Whole Grain Barley, Blueberry Pomegranate Bits (dextrose, palm oil, corn flour, natural flavor, citric acid, fruit & vegetable extract [for color]), Gelatin, Natural Raspberry Flavor, Vegetable Juice (for color), Reduced Iron, Freshness Preserved with Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols)

Price/Availability

We got this for $3.99 for two at Whole Foods on a special promotion. Usually its $3.99 for one.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 7.0  Price:8.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

This cereal mostly lives up to its goal of making a healthier version of Frosted Mini Wheats. Fans of that type of cereal are highly recommended to try this.

References

http://threesisterscereal.com/product/multigrain-berry/

http://www.frostedminiwheats.com

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/two-preservatives-avoid

http://www.frostedminiwheats.com/Products/Touch-of-fruit-in-middle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triticale

Product Review: Just Desserts Mocha Cream Cake

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We bought this to bring to a family thanksgiving celebration. It’s rare for me to eat super sweet cakes like this, and even rarer to buy them, but once in a while its nice.

Descriptive text from their web page: “Mmmm… Dark double-layer chocolate cake with velvety mocha filling and cream cheese frosting. This Bay Area favorite “weekend cake” is so popular we decided to call it our everyday cake.”

Flavor

The chocolate cake is very moist, with mild sweetness (slightly less than I expected), and the cream cheese frosting is pretty much what you would expect – very sweet. I didn’t detect much of a chocolate or coffee flavor.

Overall this cake was pretty typical and neither disappointed nor exceeded my expectations. It was tasty enough for me to have a second piece, but I doubt I would go out of my way to buy it again. I think they should consider adding nuts to give a more unique texture and flavor.

The great thing about this cake is that the frosting isn’t too thick or filled with strange ingredients so you can eat a good portion of it safely. Typically when I eat alot of icing on similar cakes I start to feel a little strange, but I had no such effect here.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There are 8 servings per container, each containing 79 grams (2.8 ounces).

A single serving packs 300 calories, a little over a third (120) from fat. There is also 220 mg of salt (9% of recommended daily amount), 1 gram of fiber and 3 of protein.

As you would expect this super-sweet cake contains a massive 33 grams of sugars. This is par for the course in cakes of this sort, but its good to know if you are watching your sugar intake. Not only is this number a concern, but the fact that Sugar is the #1 ingredient listed on the label, so you know its used in a higher proportion than anything else.

The ingredikents  are pretty typical for a chocolate cake. There is no artificial or natural flavorings, colors, or preservatives, which makes this cake upper class in my booknjj.

Sugar, Cream Cheese (Cultured Milk And Cream Salt, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum And Or Carob Bean Gum), Flour (Unbleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sour Cream,Chocolate Decorations (Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Whey Powder,Lactose, Lecithin, Vanilla), Eggs, Butter, Chocolate (Unsweetened), Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Vanilla Extract, Sodium Bicarbonate, Coffee Extract, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum.

Price/Availability

We got this for $13.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0    Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0   Price: 7.0   Overall: 7.3

Summary

This cake is good for those who are trying to avoid artificial flavors, colorings, or other mysterious ingredients. However a run-of-the-mill flavor along with slightly expensive price makes it hard to recommend this for everyone.

References

http://www.justdesserts.com/#!products/vstc2=cakes

http://www.shopwell.com/just-desserts-mocha-cream-cake/frozen-cakes-pies/p/1360900303

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Talenti Gelato Simply Strawberry

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I am not the biggest fan of strawberry-flavored products but when my wife saw this for the first time in the frozen section, we had to try it out. I have always felt alliteration is an important technique used in product naming, and this is another of Talenti’s products where it is employed, along with others like “Lisbon Lemon” and “Coffee Chocolate Chip”.

Flavor

The flavor of this ice cream is in keeping with its name: all you taste is strawberry mixed with milk. Within creamy texture there is occasionally a gritty sensation as you chew on fibrous parts of a whole strawberry, though they are quite subtle so you might miss them.

As this ice cream doesn’t have any mix-ins such as chocolate chips or nuts, it feels a little incomplete to me. And while I do enjoy eating fresh strawberries, much of the enjoyment comes from their juicy, almost meaty texture which doesn’t really translate here.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is 1/2 cup (104 grams) which contains 170 calories, 60 of which are from fat. There is 24 grams of sugars, a bit higher than many other company’s products, but on the low end of the Talenti line (23 – 36 grams). The calorie count is also near the low end for other milk-based Talenti products, although the water-based ones (for example Roman Raspberry) can be as low as 110.

Except for the “natural flavor”, which fortunately is listed last, I don’t have any issues with this ice cream’s ingredients. There is only eight and the rest of them are well known substances. For those of you who don’t commonly read ingredient,s you may not be familiar with carob gum. It’s used as a thickening agent and also goes by the name “Locus bean gum”.

Though I typically scoff at natural flavors, the taste of this ice cream is so… well “simple” that I feel it really doesn’t need any additional mysterious flavor. I’m not sure what they added but I definitely can’t taste it.

The thing I love about Simply Strawberry is that strawberries are used in a higher proportion than sugar, which gives this product its great natural strawberry taste.  I checked Bryer’s Natural Strawberry as a comparison and this also have the same order for the first four ingredients. Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry, however, had more sugar than strawberries.

In any case, with the high amount of real strawberries, its reasonable to expect some of their nutritional benefits when eating this product.

Full ingredients list: Milk, strawberries, sugar, cream, dextrose, carob gum, vanilla, natural flavor.

Price/Availability

I purchased this at Publix for $5.99 where it had just appeared on the shelves recently. I checked and this flavor has been out for some time in other places.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0   Price:8.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

The simplicity of Simply Strawberry is both its best strength and worst weakness. I feel that major fans of strawberry should try this out once, but for the rest of us the lack of a deep or complex flavor limits the enjoyment.

References

http://talentigelato.com/our-products/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locust_bean_gum

http://www.breyers.com/product/detail/113864/natural-strawberry

http://www.foodfacts.com/NutritionFacts/Strawberry/Ben-Jerrys-Strawberry-Ice-Cream-1-Pint/17314