Mid-Week Tangent: sitting on a year’s worth of chocolate

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a certified sugar addict. I know that’s not an actual certification, but it should be. If it were, I would be the most qualified for the certification than I’ve ever been for any other designation in my entire life.  I’m now imagining a world in which there was actually cachet for no other reason than love for sugar. What a wonderful world that would be…for me at least.

Sorry, I digress. My point is that I am a sugar addict. My love for sugar is widely known in my family, as well, which ensures that I receive several pounds of chocolate each year for Christmas. I’m not kidding.  I normally burn through it at a rapid pace. For once I’m not speaking metaphorically when I say that I’m usually like a kid in a candy store after the Christmas holiday, only the ‘candy store’ is the kitchen cupboard in which I store my personal chocolate stash.  My chocolate stash usually doesn’t know what hit it. I’m just in its face, every night, creating a customized (and large) chocolate sampler uniquely designed to soothe that day’s chocolate cravings.  Needless to say, chocolate typically doesn’t last long amidst these blitz attacks. The chocolate carnage is real.

This year, though, I find myself in a very different predicament. In efforts to,  you know, not give myself early diabetes and also to generally not feel like an exhausted sack of crap on the daily, I have given up sugar six days per week. Now I have just one day during which I can attack my chocolate stash like the sugar predator that I am. For the first time in my life, what used to seem like a short-term chocolate stash is starting to feel like my chocolate Everest.  Based on my new average weekly chocolate consumption, what was once weeks’ or maybe a month’s worth of chocolate at best now feels like a solid year’s worth of chocolate–maybe even longer!

I suddenly find myself facing all sorts of new problems*. Where will I store all this chocolate? How will I keep it fresh?  Should I make an inventory and prioritize consumption based on code or expiration dates? Does chocolate really even expire?  How much chocolate can a human actually consume in one day before making herself ill? Maybe most importantly: can I somehow break my problematic pattern of selfishly keeping all the chocolate to myself, something that I have struggled with since childhood, and instead learn to actually give and share?

I’m with you on this one, Joey.

The questions are never ending as my brain tries to wrap itself around the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead for me. But I’m game to find a solution and confident that I will somehow eat my way through my impressive inventory.

*Relax, I understand that this is not, in fact, a real problem. This is what I like call dramatic effect, or artistic license, if you will. The reality is that I couldn’t be more thrilled to be loaded to the gills with chocolate options every time Saturday rolls around.  In fact, it might be one of my life dreams…

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Mid-Week Tangent: busting through the bad economics of advent calendars

I bet you thought the holidays were over, didn’t you? Well, I’m always one to extend the holidays beyond what’s considered normal. Not only is our tree still up and lit, but we also watched a holiday movie last night, and a really bad Hallmark holiday movie at that! But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. What I’m actually here to write about today are advent calendars.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve written about advent calendars before. I lamented the fact that I couldn’t find any, and then the universe delivered not one but five!!!! But throughout all of this, neither me nor my boyfriend could shake the bad economics of advent calendars. Regular retail price for a Lindt advent calendar ranges from $11.99-13.99 CDN. For 128 g. Even steeply discounted at end of season they’re around $7 CDN. If you do the math, that’s anywhere from $6.24 to $10.92 per 100g. No one in her right mind would pay that much for chocolate. Sure there’s festive packaging, but let’s not pretend that’s worth the extra coin.

We knew something needed to change, but our challenge was that we love the idea of advent calendars. We love daily surprises during the holiday season. I also have a deep and passionate love for chocolate. Given all of this, what were we to do?

Boom. We got ourselves a fillable advent calendar. No more paying exorbitant fees for chocolate. No more putting up with whatever assortment the calendar comes with (I’m looking at you, Lindt calendar, wasting my time with your boring milk chocolate squares and seemingly eliminated my beloved white chocolate Lindors!). No more dealing with the threat of advent calendars selling out. No more worrying about retail pricing whims getting in the way of a “good” deal.

Next year, the power falls squarely back in our hands. Next year, we will fill this calendar with any brand of chocolate we so desire, at prices that don’t carry a hefty sticker shock. Hell, we may even go crazy and stuff those slots with small ornaments or other festive surprises. The sky is the limit now. Sorry, Lindt, while I have enjoyed your advent calendars for the last few years, the economics of them are simply ridiculous. We’ve found a more cost effective way to indulge in a month’s worth of holiday spirit. If only I didn’t have to wait 332 days to give our new calendar a try…

Monday Musings: ask and you shall receive

As you are reading this, I’m likely having dinner with a bunch of executives in Minnesota. I still don’t understand how this trip came to be, but I can tell you one thing: I’ve never had a desire to visit Minneapolis, particularly in the dead of winter. This has nothing to do with today’s post, but rather it is a total aside. I simply felt the need to complain about being in Minnesota. In December.

What’s really important is that my Christmas advent calendar wish came true this weekend! If you recall, last week I lamented  the lack of advent calendars all around me. By the time the weekend rolled around, I had given up hope of ever finding my beloved Lindt calendar. They seemed to have vanished into thin air. In fact, just yesterday as we were driving home from some errands and yet another day of seeing nary an advent calendar, my boyfriend said to me “I guess we have to give up for this year.”  It was a sad holiday moment for me.

Well, all I have to say is that you should never underestimate the power of the universe to deliver on your wishes. Last night, when we arrived at my friend’s son’s first birthday party she excitedly told me she had something for me and not to leave without seeing her. I do love a good surprise, but I admit I thought it was maybe a Christmas card.  As it turned out it was so much better (which is saying a lot because I love a good Christmas card!).

As we were getting ready to head out from the party, I went to say goodbye and my friend excitedly told me to come with her. She looked way too happy for this to just be a card. As I followed her into the kitchen, I was wracking my brain for what it might be but it never occurred to me it would be so grand: my Lindt Christmas advent calendar! I am sure my face looked like a child opening the best gift ever on Christmas morning. Others who were there to witness looked confused by my level of excitement. They clearly didn’t understand that I had looked everywhere. Moreover, I had actually given up.

Isn’t she a beauty?

There are few things as wonderful as the unexpected surprise of finding yourself holding something you didn’t believe would be yours. I understand that an advent calendar is rather trivial in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes the little things are everything. Great joy can be found in small moments of total surprise and excitement. In fact, it is the stuff that Christmas magic is made of.  As we near Christmas (two weeks away to be exact!), I’d like to remind you to keep dreaming and making wishes, both big and small.  Though this is a small example, it goes to show that sometimes what you ask for, you will receive.

Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.

Mid-Week Tangent: Renouncing my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms

Just one year ago, almost to the day, I wrote a list of my top holiday treats. Sitting atop this carefully crafted list was the white chocolate peppermint M&M, the very pinnacle of the festive season’s candy choices, so beloved that it even edged out the Lindt Candy Cane Lindor. I mean, that’s saying a lot. You can see why what I am about to say is extremely difficult for me. Today is the day that I must renounce my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms. Fully and completely.

How does a tried and tested confection fall from top of my list to the very bottom in one fell swoop? Even I cannot answer this question with any real certainty. All I know is that when I saw my formerly beloved white chocolate peppermint M&Ms in the store a couple weeks ago, I thought I had reached nirvana. I don’t recall ever seeing them in Canada.  I was so so excited that I eagerly tossed a bag into our shopping cart despite one very troubling fact: I wasn’t eating any sugar at the time.

Those M&Ms sat in my cupboard for a full two weeks, a true feat for my self-control. They called to me almost daily. Okay, not “almost” daily, but actually daily. I bargained inside my own head, trying to find any avenue to justify abandoning my sugar-free weekdays for just one or two sweet, sweet M&Ms. Finally, last Saturday, my cheat day, it was time to dive into the bag. I couldn’t wait. What happened next can only be described as a candy tragedy.

The first bite could only be described as a full-on peppermint overload. My actual thought: “Good God, my mouth is ablaze…from peppermint. How is that even possible????.”  Peppermint should, in fact, be an icy sensation not a hot sensation so the fact that my mouth felt as though it were on fire was particularly perplexing. My next thought was that perhaps I’m just not used to sugar/candy and I need to eat a few more to get reacquainted with the delight of sugar. I foolishly deluded myself into believing more peppermint might somehow tame the peppermint.  Well, I ate the whole damn bag and I can definitively tell you what you probably already knew: more overwhelming mint begets only more overwhelming mint. Not only did I feel absolutely ill, but the minty aftertaste was so strong and prevalent that I swear to you it felt like I just brushed my teeth…excessively…with the world’s mintiest of toothpastes.

Look, I am a huge, huge advocate for chocolate and peppermint, but I have to say that if you feel like you’ve just brushed your teeth after eating a peppermint candy, that is too much peppermint.  I like my white chocolate saccharine and these M&Ms lacked the sugar hit to balance out the peppermint. To say I was crestfallen would be an understatement.  I was left only with an extremely unhappy stomach and the unnerving experience of being let down by one of my true candy loves.

I do not know if Hershey Canada has a different formula for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms than in the US, which is where I acquired these candies in the past. I do find that Hershey’s chocolate tastes altogether different in the two countries. Perhaps that is the culprit here. Regardless, I can safely say that my latest experience has soured me so much that I will never find out. I am sorry peppermint white chocolate M&Ms, but we are done.  Though I am saddened by your sudden disappearance from my list of favourite holiday candies, I am thankful that there are hordes of other peppermint chocolate confections to take your place. I bid you adieu.

Mid-Week Tangent: An Ode to the Cadbury Creme Egg

I am essentially five years old when it comes to holidays and special events. I expect stockings at Christmas. I want a whole birthday week, not just one lone birthday. I want to eat my weight in bite-sized candy bars at Halloween. And damn it, when Easter rolls around, I want my Easter candy hunt. It’s not quite the same if the candy is just handed to me in a basket (though, of course, I’ll still gladly accept it).

Easter is truly one of my favourite candy holidays. I have many, many Easter candies that I love with all my heart, but there is one Easter treat that surpasses all others, that holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart, without which the Easter season is simply not complete: the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Today I pay homage to this saccharine wonder with a love letter. You may think it too much to write a love letter to a creme egg, but I am certain by its end you will see just how sizeable a portion of my heart it has seized.

Dear Cadbury Creme Egg,

You were my first Easter love and now, at the ripe, old age of 38, I continue to be hypnotized by your sugary goodness. Others tell me that you are too sweet for the adult palate, but their (unjust) criticisms fall only on deaf ears. For me, you are confectionary perfection.

One of my most excited moments occurred when, as a university student with a Costco membership, I discovered your 12-packs: a dozen creme eggs lovingly nestled in a plastic egg carton (this was prior to environmentalism being a primary product concern). Never had I seen an egg carton so alluring. I am not ashamed to admit that I purchased the 12-pack, consuming each and every one of them by myself and in far too short a time frame. In fact, I refuse to publicly admit how quickly.

I show greater restraint now. Despite the fact that Easter candy appears in stores before the Valentine’s Day candy flame has even been fully extinguished, and despite the addition of the Cadbury “Screme Egg” (such a clever moniker) at Halloween, I reserve any creme egg purchases and consumption to the days surrounding Easter itself. I am a purist and respect the sanctity of the Easter egg in all its forms.

Can I express what I love about you in words? As many other confections continue to whittle away at the thickness of their chocolate coating, I presume in efforts to charge more for less product, you have refused to pull the wool over consumer’s eyes. Your chocolate shell remains stubbornly think and impenetrable. There is no accidental crushing of your chocolate shell; it holds up to substantial pressure. I know, because I have dropped many on hard surfaces, and thrown them into the bottom of my purse, which can only be described as a black hole of crap, and from which few food items survive without being smashed beyond recognition.

Many criticize your interior for being nothing but liquid sugar.  To them I say: what more do you expect from a candy confection?  Though substantially thicker than a real egg, your filling is a wonder of chemistry. It is viscous enough to almost hold it’s form once the chocolate shell is broken, making you a feasible snack for people on the go. I believe your filling even has a distinct flavour and that flavour is “magic”.

So many brands have tried to replicate your deliciousness but none even come close. At times in my childhood, my parents misunderstood your uniqueness and fell prey to the lure of other cream eggs. I cannot describe the level of disappointment I would experience when my well-meaning parents would present me with Purdy’s creme eggs, as though they were a perfectly suitable replacement. My heart would sink. I’d eat them, of course, but the guilt I’d experience, knowing I was cheating on you, would render the experience decidedly less pleasurable.

Thank you, Cadbury Creme Egg, for being a steady constant in my life, and for creating a product that can only be loved by the ultimate sweet tooth (i.e. me). Never change. Ignore the haters. I cannot wait to be reunited with you again so very, very soon.*

*I am in no way affiliated with Cadbury’s nor is this post sponsored by them, though I’d be lying if I said I would turn down free Creme Eggs in exchange for my love letter.  I feel no shame at the thought of selling out for Cadbury Creme Eggs.

 

 

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Peanut Butter Cups

It’s been…a week, friends.  I am staring unemployment in the face for the second time in the last four months (both times by choice, mind you) and it’s stressing me out hard.  When I’m stressed, I turn to my constant friend and comfort, candy. I’ve been eating my weight in peanut butter cups these days, which has inspired me to ponder the very unimportant question: in a battle of the peanut butter cups, who would reign supreme?

Let me present you with the :

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At the bottom of the heap, I’d squarely place Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups in a dead tie with Theo Peanut Butter Cups.

–Let’s start with Justin’s: People go nuts over these things, I think under the illusion that organic ingredients somehow make them more healthy. Let me tell you, there is no mass-produced peanut butter cup on the planet that is legitimately healthy.  Plus, don’t ruin my peanut butter cup high with your dark chocolate. Don’t you dare. (Sidenote: Perhaps the milk chocolate variety is more delicious, but I have yet to see them readily available in Canada).

–On to Theo we go:  I mean really, these are at the same level as Justin’s. They are candy masquerading as healthier treats. The biggest issue I have with Theo peanut butter cups is the cost, a whopping $3.49.  If I’m going to pay $3.49 for a peanut butter cup it better weigh more than 38 g and it better pack some serious sugar punch. These do not. While I enjoy unsweetened, natural peanut butter on my toast in the morning, I like my peanut butter cups on the sickeningly sweet side of the scale and these are nowhere near that.

One level up from these peanut butter cup travesties, we find my perfectly acceptable range for peanut butter cups: the classic Reese’s peanut butter cup and the PC brand mini peanut butter cups.  Why do these outperform Justin’s and Theo? They are made as peanut butter cups are meant to be, unabashedly artificial and saccharine!

–First, the beloved Reese’s: Let’s be honest, these are pretty fantastic. They don’t really taste like peanut butter, but that’s somehow perfectly acceptable.  What keeps these from the top of my peanut butter cup pyramid are two minor problems: the chocolate layer is too thin and the peanut butter to chocolate ratio is all wrong.

–Next up, President’s Choice mini peanut butter melts: I am as shocked as anyone that these made it above the bottom of the list. I expected them to be repulsive.  However, they are not. They present an appropriately thick chocolate layer and an only vaguely peanut buttery filling that is reminiscent of the great Purdy’s peanut butter finger (a treat only omitted from this list because it does not meet the cup-shaped criteria). You’re probably wondering how something that does not taste exactly like peanut butter made the list. I urge you to try these and then ask me that question.

At the very top of the peanut butter cup hierarchy, however, are two of my most treasured peanut butter treats: the Reese’s Big Cup and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Giant) peanut butter cup. Let’s give these treats the recognition they deserve.

–I’ll start with the Reese’s Big Cup: This beauty corrects all the issues I have with the original Reese’s. It has a thick chocolate layer, particularly enjoyable when chilled, and a perfect ratio of chocolate to filling. I also swear the filling tastes different, more like actual roasted nuts, but that is likely confirmation bias hard at work. I want to like these more, so I look for all the things that I’d want in a better version of the standard Reese’s cup as evidence of its superiority, and then find it whether it truly exists or not.

–Last but certainly not least, I have my magical RMCF giant peanut butter cup:  This is true love in a peanut butter cup. It is mammoth, as evidenced by its calorie count (which I saw by accident and wish desperately I could unsee)–530 for those who are curious. It has what some would consider too thick a chocolate layer, though chocolate thickness is never something I would personally complain about. It’s peanut butter filling is clearly blended with other delicious things. It lacks a distinctly peanut flavour, but has a sublime creaminess that will make you not care.  I wish I had one of these in my face right now. It would be the perfect antidote to the Wednesday blues.

So there you have it, I have presented you with the thing you never wanted nor cared about: a peanut butter cup hierarchy complete with commentary that is purely subjective. You’re welcome. Happy Wednesday. I’m going to go eat a Big Cup (because I do have one of those in my fridge right now).