Chocomize: A Review and Giveaway

I receive what seems like more than my fair share of emails with products for review, but most of them go ignored.  This is first and foremost a food blog and I’m not a sell-out hawking different items every week.  I do occasionally accept these offers though, when the product is something I’m genuinely interested in and I think would be of interest to my readers.  When someone from Chocomize contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing their chocolate bars, I went straight to their website to see what it was all about.  Immediately I knew, this would be one of my exceptions.

So what is Chocomize?  It’s a website that lets you customize your own chocolate bar.  You start by choosing dark, milk or white chocolate as the base.  Then you can choose from a huge variety of mix-ins to personalize your candy bar.  They range from ordinary things like nuts and candy to more adventurous choices (wasabi peas, beef jerky, mini chipotles, etc.).  I think these bars could be great in so many contexts – birthday gifts, party favors, etc.  They also have a list of popular flavor combinations in case you’re not in the mood to create.

I was totally overwhelmed when choosing my chocolate bars because there are just so many choices!  Eventually I decided on these two.  One is a milk chocolate bar with dried strawberries, blueberries and raspberries because I absolutely love dried fruit.  The other is a dark chocolate bar with M&Ms, Nerds, Oreos, Sour Patch Kids and strawberry Gushers (remember Gushers?!)  I totally let my inner child come out while designing this bar and tried to combine all my favorite childhood treats in one candy bar.  I loved both of my creations, and had so much fun designing them.

So, do you want to try Chocomize for yourself?  Great, because we have a giveaway!  One reader will receive a $25 gift card to Chocomize.  Not only that, but even if you don’t win, all readers can receive 10% off their orders by using the coupon code annieseats.  I know I’ll be going back to try some more combinations for myself.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me what kind of chocolate bar you would like to design.

The Rules: One entry per person, U.S. residents only.  Commenting will close on Friday, May 28 at 10:00 am, EST.  Entries that do not follow the entry requirements will not be considered.  One winner will be chosen at random and announced next week.  Good luck!

Cookbook Review: Real Simple Best Recipes

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday filled with good food and more importantly, quality time with family and friends.  I’ll be posting about my Thanksgiving adventure soon, but in the meantime I thought I would share this review with you.  Now that the big turkey day is past, I’m guessing a lot people are a bit tired of cooking for now.  With the December holidays in the not-so-distant future, cooking regular meals may be a bit more stressful than normal with so many things going on.  This is why now seemed the perfect time to talk about this cookbook.

I was offered the opportunity to review Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy Delicious Meals, and I was immediately interested.  I do not subscribe to Real Simple magazine, but I have heard from many people that they have good recipes in their issues.  The premise of the book is simple (no pun intended) – fast, easy meals that still taste great.  Though I get a lot of pleasure out of preparing an involved, time consuming meal, that is just not practical behavior for every day and certainly not for weeknights.  That is where this book comes in very handy.

There are many features of this cookbook that I really enjoy.  Of course, the gorgeous photos are a big plus for me.  Clearly as a food blogger, food is very visual for me and I like to see what I will be making.  This book has a photo of every recipe.  Other helpful tools are listing of approximate prep time and total time for each recipe, as well as little icons to signify meals as kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, no-cook, etc.  One of my favorite features is that the nutritional information for each recipe is listed in the back of the book.  I wish all cookbooks had this!

It has a nice variety of recipes in many categories, such as appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and dessert.  While I’m not going to say that I plan to try every recipe in the book, it does have a lot of recipes that sound appealing to me.  The only thing that seems a bit weak is the dessert section – it is too brief in my opinion.  However, this isn’t a real problem for me as I have plenty of other cookbooks that focus primarily on desserts.  And clearly, the best way to review a cookbook is to try some recipes, so I did!  I made the Parmesan pasta with chicken and rosemary and the southwestern beef chili with corn.  Both meals turned out great and were exactly as expected, fast and easy!  The pasta in particular was fantastic and seemed like something I would order in a restaurant.  I’m happy to have this book as a resource for when I need a quick meal idea, and look forward to trying more of the recipes.

See’s Candies – A Review

Not long ago, a representative from See’s Candies contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products.  Free chocolates?!  Obviously, my answer was yes!  They shipped me an assorted box of chocolates and Ben and I wasted no time digging in.  Right off the bat I was slightly disappointed because the box did not come with a key – you know, the little guide that tells you the flavor of each candy.  I need that key when dealing with a box of chocolates – so that kind of bummed me out, but I forged ahead.  I did my best discerning the various flavors and took notes of our favorites.  Now, looking at their website I have been able to figure out which types we liked best so I will highlight those here.

Overall we really enjoyed these chocolates.  Of course, like any assorted box of candies I had favorites and some I did not like so much.  But there were a lot of really, really good ones.  I had four favorites in particular: the mocha (coffee milk chocolate buttercream), the maple walnut (maple buttercream with English walnuts), the walnut square (caramel with English walnuts and a chocolate bottom), and the P-Nut crunch (chocolate with a crunchy peanut butter center).  Ben’s favorites were the Scotchmallow (honey marshmallow and caramel) and the rum nougat (English walnuts, rum, cherries, raisin nougat).  While perusing the website to identify my favorites, I saw several other flavors that I am very anxious to try – raspberry cream, kona mocha, and the apple pie truffle to name a few.

In my opinion the very best thing about See’s and their website in particular is that you can order custom assortments to include your favorite candies.  This flexibility allows you to create your own “ideal box of chocolates” because you choose what is included, and just as importantly, what is left out (like mint for me – ick!)  This would also be great for avoiding food allergies, nuts in particular.  Most standard boxes of chocolate include multiple candies with nuts, but See’s allows you to create a custom assortment that is allergy-safe!  These would make lovely gifts for just about anyone, and I will certainly be ordering my own custom assortments for friends full of flavors I know they will enjoy.  Of course they have a huge selection of pre-packaged gift ideas as well so if you do not want to spend the time choosing a custom assortment, they have you covered.  They have gifts in a wide variety of price ranges to accomodate any need, large or small.  Try some of these chocolates for yourself, and you won’t be disappointed.