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EASTER CANDY: Easter Chocolate From Our Favorite Chocolatiers

You can’t enter a food or drug store without facing down all the chocolate Easter bunnies and other candy. Thank you very much, but when we eat chocolate, it’s got to be really good chocolate.

Here’s a sample of what are favorite chocolatiers are featuring this Easter. The candies are all natural (no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives) and handmade in small batches. All are beautifully packaged. Each company has other Easter choices as well.

Since they don’t contain preservatives, artisan chocolates should be eaten within 10 days of receipt. (That’s not a tall order!)

BURDICK CHOCOLATE:
SIGNATURE BUNNY BOX

This keepsake wooden box contains our favorite Burdick Easter candies, embellished with a gold wax seal and a beautiful ribbon. It includes:

  • Five hand-piped White Chocolate Bunnies with an orange-flavored hazelnut chocolate interior and almond ears
  • Two sets of Marzipan Eggs
  • Two sets of Chocolate Truffles
  •  
    The Signature Bunny Box is $26.00 at BurdickChocolate.com.
     
    CHARLES CHOCOLATES:
    EDIBLE CHOCOLATE BOX OF BONBONS

    A signature item at Charles Chocolates, the Easter Edible Chocolate Box has a white chocolate lid with a smiling Easter bunny. The bottom of the box is dark chocolate. Yes, it’s 100% edible.

    Inside the box are the chocolatier’s chocolate-enrobed caramels—Classic Fleur de Sel and Bittersweet Chocolate Fleur de Sel Caramels—with chick and bunny designs. The total weight of the box and contents is 17 ounces.

    The Easter Collection Edible Chocolate Box is $65.00 at CharlesChocolates.com.

     
    JOHN & KIRA’S:
    CHOCOLATE COTTONTAILS

    You’ll have to provide your own grass, because these adorable Chocolate Cottontails arrive in a charming keepsake box made of heavy pink paper. The label is removable so the box can be repurposed as you like.

    Three of the Cottontails are filled with peanut butter praline, three with coconut ganache and three with salted honey caramel. The outer shell is white chocolate, with a dark chocolate shell underneath.

    The box of 9 bonbons is $29.95 JohnandKiras.com.

       

    Gourmet Easter Chocolate Assortment

    Gourmet Easter Chocolate

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    Top: Signature Bunny Box from Burdick Chocolate. Center: Edible Chocolate Box from Charles Chocolates. Bottom: Chocolate Cottontails from John&Kira’s.

     

    Recchiuti Easter Eggs

    Gourmet Chocolate Easter Eggs

    Z Chocolat Easter Candy

    Top: Recchiuti’s Easter Eggs are filled with burnt caramel and chocolate ganache. Center: Speckled Robin’s Eggs from Woodhouse Chocolate are filled with brown butter ganache. Bottom: Classic French pralines in a mahogany box from Z Chocolat.

     

    RECCHIUTI CHOCOLATE:
    CARAMEL & CHOCOLATE EASTER EGGS

    This special box of chocolate Easter eggs divides the treasure between Recchiuti’s beloved Burnt Caramel in milk chocolate shells and his Force Noir Ganache (dark chocolate laced with vanilla) in dark chocolate shells.

    The Combo Egg Box, 28 pieces (10.75 ounces of chocolate), is $45.00 at Recchiuti.com. Note that the eggs are halves (the backs are flat).
     
    WOODHOUSE CHOCOLATE:
    SPECKLED BROWN BUTTER GANACHE CHOCOLATE EGGS

    These beautiful Speckled Robin’s Eggs are delicately hand colored in pastels and filled with Woodhouse’s signature Brown Butter Ganache. The box can be given as is, or added to an Easter basket.

    A box of six pastel eggs is $15 at WoodhouseChocolate.com.

     
    Z CHOCOLAT:
    EASTER PRALINES

    How about an elegant gift sent directly from France? Virtually no one will have received such a special box of chocolate.

    Z Chocolat, known for its elegant packaging, offers its Easter pralines—miniature chicks, bunnies, and other critters—in stunning black boxes.

    But even more stunning are the two fine wood boxes: the Easter Diamond box, handcrafted mahogany that’s embellished with an artistic egg motif and a gold metal latch; and the white basswood box.

    No matter which box you choose, it’s filled with pralines and solid chocolates in dark, milk and white.

  • The Easter Diamond (Mahogany) Box is $189.48 for 76 pralines.
  • The Easter Sunshine (Basswood) Box is $148.87 for 52 pralines.
  • Three sizes of heavy black paper boxes are $39.47 for 26 pralines to $136.46 for 62 pralines.
  •  
    Prices were converted to dollars from Euros at a $1.13/euro conversion rate.

    Head to ZChocolat.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 21st Century Uses For Ball Jars

    Blue Mason Jar

    Ball Jar Clear Lid

    Ball Drinking Mason Jar

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    Ball Jar With Salad

    Top: Ball jar in the new blue color. Second: A blue lid band enlivens clear Ball jars. Third: The jar gets a handle to make drinking hot and cold beverages easier. Fourth: A Sip & Straw lid addition for the jars. Bottom: A layered salad in a quart-size jar (here’s the recipe). Photos courtesy Ball.

     

    Whether you call them Ball jars, Kerr jars, Mason jars or some other name, canning jars, a 19th century product, have been repurposed in the 21st. (See the history below.)

    First, there’s a color version—blue—in both the three sizes of jars, and color-banded lids. The blue jars join the limited edition green and purple jars. Both products—jars and lids—are sold separately.

    They join other recent product innovations:

  • Ball Drinking Mason Jars, with a handle to make holding the a hot or cold beverage much easier. They can be used with Sip & Straw Lids, the Infuser, or any Ball lid (third photo).
  • Ball Sip & Straw Lids for regular or wide mouth Ball jars, for easy sipping. They come with a reusable straw that is wide enough for sipping smoothies and milkshakes (fourth photo).
  •  
    See the entire line at FreshPreservingStore.com.
     
    OTHER USES FOR BALL JARS

    Fans have come up with the most ingenious uses to repurpose Mason jars, from liquid soap dispensers to smartphone speakers. After-market hardware is manufactured to create them—that’s how many people repurpose Mason jars.
     
    We’ve also seen these clever applications: blender jar, night lights and party string lights, salt and pepper shakers, sewing kit, terrarium and twine dispenser. Take a look at these.

    But for us everyday folks, beyond canning there are:

    Food Uses

  • Airtight canisters for coffee, crackers, nuts, spices, tea, trail mix, etc.
  • Baking vessel for individual mini cheesecakes, muffins, pies, etc.
  • Cake-in-a-jar
  • Gift packaging for candy, cookie, etc.
  • Leftovers
  • Refrigerator storage (olives, pickles, etc.)
  • Serving individual portions of anything (cereal, cobbler, muffin, salad, etc.)
  •  
    Non-Food Uses

  • Airtight jar for paint, etc.
  • Desk organizers, from crayons to paper clips
  • Tea candle holders or homemade candles
  • Vase
  •  
    What’s your favorite use?

     
    THE HISTORY OF CANNING

    The first can was a glass jar.

    We take canned food for granted, but it is a relatively recent invention—and we owe it to Napoleon Bonaparte. In his time (1769-1821), food preservation was limited to salting, drying and pickling, techniques that had existed for thousands of years.

    Needing a better solution for his troops, in 1795 the French general, known for declaring that “an army marches on its stomach,” got the French government to offer 12,000 francs to anyone who invented a new way to preserve food.

    The prize was ultimately won by Nicholas Appert, a chef, confectioner and distiller, who began experimenting when the award was announced and finally submitted his invention 14 years later, in 1809.

    Appert hermetically sealed food in airtight glass jars and heated them—a method similar to today’s home preserving in Mason jars. Appert thought that driving the air out of the containers prevented the spoilage, but 100 years later, Louis Pasteur showed that it was the elimination of bacteria through sterilization that did the trick.

    Napoleon tried to keep the new process a secret so that enemy armies would not have the advantage, but the word leaked out. Appert’s method was so easy that it quickly became widespread. Appert, who also invented the bouillon cube, became known as the “father of canning.”

    The following year another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, patented a method using a tin container. The lighter, breakage-proof tin cans would become the norm for commercial use, although homemakers, lacking canning equipment, continued to use the jars. In 1812, an English company purchased both patents and began producing canned preserves.

    While canning crossed the ocean to America and canneries began to preserve seasonal foods and perishables, most Americans still cooked with fresh and dried staples—plus whatever they “put away” in Mason jars. Canned food did not become the everyday food delivery system we rely on until the beginning of the 20th century.

     
    The Invention Of The Mason Jar

    In 1858, the first Mason jar was designed and patented. Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason developed the jar specifically to withstand the high temperatures necessary for sterilizing pickles. He received a patent in 1858, but ultimately sold his rights and never enjoyed the financial rewards of his invention.
     
    The jars also became known as Ball jars after an early producer, Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. In 1903, Alexander H. Kerr founded the Hermetic Fruit Jar Company and created the Kerr brand, including the first wide-mouth jars (easier to fill) and jars with a metal lid that had a permanently-attached gasket.
     
    This made the lids easy to use and inexpensive. Kerr subsequently invented the threaded metal ring that held the lid down during the hot water processing and allowed re-use of canning jars: the two-part lid on the jar we know today.

    Today the Ball and Kerr brands are manufactured in the U.S. by Jarden Corp. Here’s a more detailed history.

    Currently, the history of the Mason jar ends with the wane of home canning. The growth of the artisan food movement helped sales, but on a small scale.

    Ball pursued expanding the use of the jars for 21st-century consumers. The result: today’s fashion of serving drinks and food in the jars—and jars and lids adapted for those purposes.

    What’s next? We eagerly await the news.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

    The distillers at Jack Daniel’s have created a lovely portfolio of Jack. Old No. 7 is now joined by Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel, Tennessee Fire and now, Tennessee Honey. Mr. Daniel would be proud.

    For those who like sweetness, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and the company’s own spiced honey liqueur, made just for blending with Old No. 7. There’s general spice on the nose and cinnamon on the palate.

    This unique flavor profile has not pleased all Jack lovers. Some comments online are literally, “awful.” Those folks don’t want their spirits sweet.

    But for those who do, Tennessee Honey is rich, smooth and succulent—no heat, no burn. It is alluring, even seductive. It’s sweet without being cloying. It has a long, lovely finish. And it’s too easy to keep drinking.

    Fortunately, unlike most of our other liquid pleasures, a 750ml bottle is only $22.

    We received a bottle for Valentine’s Day, and we’re ready for another. We’re going to pay it backward by gifting it to our Valentine honeys next year.

    You can sip it straight (our preference) or:

  • Use it in your favorite cocktails (the Jack Daniel’s website has numerous recipes).
  • Add it to iced tea or lemonade.
  • Pour it over dessert: fruit salad or cooked fruit (compote, baked apples, poached pears), ice cream or sorbet, pudding (we enjoyed it with chocolate and vanilla flavors).
  •  
    RECIPE: TENNESSEE HONEY TEA*

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
  • .5 ounce cinnamon schnapps
  • .5 ounce triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 5 ounces iced tea
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a tall glass over ice.

    2. TOP with a squeeze of lemon and garnish with a mint spring.

     

    Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey  Liqueur

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    Top photo courtesy Jack Daniel’s; bottom photo © Brooke Bolling Photography.

     
    FOR THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF WHISKEY, CHECK OUT OUR WHISKEY GLOSSARY.

     
    ____________________
    *We have no idea where this recipe came from. It ended up cut and pasted into a draft of this article, and no one remembers. If it’s your recipe, please let us know so we can provide credit and links; and thanks, it’s delicious!

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    PRODUCT: Drinking With The Hatfields & The McCoys

    The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey

    Hatfields-230

    Top: Heritage hooch in a glass jug. Bottom: Three generations of Hatfields. Photos
    courtesy The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy
    Whiskey.

     

    From our tween years, we remember the expression “feuding like the Hatfields and the McCoys” (not that we were personally involved in an epic feud).

    The hostilities between two clans living in the Appalachian Mountains began in 1865, with a murder. The feud and mayhem continued for decades. There was a miniseries on the History Channel in 2012, and you can review the whole sorry mess on History.com.

    Whether truth or marketing, The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey claims to be made by descendants of those Hatfields and McCoys.

    It extends the tale with news that the two clans have finally put aside their differences, and have created a new whiskey “rooted in old family recipes, pride of name, and Appalachian tradition.”

    We received a bottle as a Valentine gift, along with the recipe for a special cocktail (recipe below).
     
    WHAT KIND OF SPIRIT IS IT?

    Bottled in South Carolina, its an American whiskey, for starters. American whiskeys include Bourbon, corn whiskey, rye and Tennessee Whiskey. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskies are distinguished in flavor from other types of American whiskey, largely because the grain mash used to make them must contain more than 50% corn. By law, all American whiskeys except corn whiskey must be aged in new casks that have been charred on the inside.

    The 80-proof whiskey is made from a proprietary blend of “corn, barley, malt, special strains of yeast, [and] infused natural flavors.” By comparison:

  • Bourbon, corn and Tennessee whiskeys must contain 50% or more corn.
  • Corn whiskey must contain 80% or more corn.
  • We don’t know what The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey contains; it’s a proprietary recipe. If it isn’t labeled as a particular type of whiskey, the company doesn’t have to adhere to government standards (e.g., specific ingredients and the percentages).
  •  
    WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

    If you’re accustomed to analyzing the flavor components of wine or spirits, you may notice flavor nuances that are not uncommon in other whiskeys:

  • Butter/butterscotch and vanilla, flavors that typically derive from aging in new wooden casks.
  • Black pepper, cedar, smoke, spice and tar.
  • Some of our colleagues tasted banana, dried apricot and walnut.
  • If you don’t care about any of this, it makes you no less worthy of drinking it.
  •  
    The suggested retail price is $37.99 for a 750 ml bottle. It’s currently available in 42 states and online.

    At this price, this is not so much a connoisseur whiskey as a novel spirit for entertaining and gifting. We’d especially give it to someone with whom we’re having a major disagreement (and who has a sense of whimsy).

    Discover more at LegendaryHatfieldAndMcCoy.com. And consider it for Father’s Day gifts.
     

     

    RECIPE: FULL SNEAK FROM THE LEGENDARY HATFIELD & McCOY BRAND WHISKEY

    While no one drinks a photo, this one, with its red ribbon of Port, encouraged us to make a Valentine cocktail. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it also works for Halloween, for a Dracula-themed cocktail.

    You may be asking, “What’s a full sneak?” We had no idea, and headed straight to our browser. It’s a taxidermist’s pose often used for the trophy head of a buck deer (big antlers!). Perhaps the Hatfields and the McCoys had their share of impressively antlered buck heads?

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey
  • .5 ounce ginger liqueur
  • .5 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Ginger ale
  • .25 ounce ruby Port
  • Garnish: fresh mint or lemon slice
  •  

    The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Cocktail

    The Full Sneak cocktail. Photo courtesy The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey.

     
    Preparation

    1. STIR the first three ingredients together over ice. Strain into a tall Collins glass and top with ginger ale.

    2. FLOAT the ruby Port on top and garnish with fresh mint or a lemon slice.

     
    WHISKEY VS. WHISKY: BOTH ARE CORRECT

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey, a term that originated in Ireland. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the Scots’ national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the U.S., a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    Here’s a brief history of whiskey.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Shpickles Pickled Vegetables, Shmolives Pickled Olives

    Last summer, when scouting a Brooklyn food festival, we came across Shpickles, Shmolives and Shnuts. They’re made by hand by a mom-and-son company called Brooklyn Whatever.

    Mom, a social worker and son, a chef, started a family business to add more flavor to pickles, olives and nuts. The result: unique, assertively spiced, better-for-you snacks, garnishes, or for a relish tray.

    Or for gifts. We can’t think of a better house gift for hosts, combining flavor and fun. Shpickles and Shmolives will be our go-to house gifts for the forseable future.

    The line is all natural and certified kosher by Rabbi Dovid Chaoi. Shpickles and Shmolives are free of dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and wheat, making them vegan as well.
     
    SHPICKLES: PICKLED VEGETABLES

    Other companies make great pickle cucumbers. Brooklyn Whatever has started out with other pickled vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower & Beets
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Kale Slaw
  • Okra
  • String Beans
  •  
    We can’t choose favorites here: We like them all. And we feel so good about eating them: So much flavor, so few calories.
     
    SHMOLIVES: SPICED OLIVES

    Shmolives is a blend of seven different olives, marinated in a “secret mix” of herbs and spices that adhere to the olives, giving you a mouthful of zing with each bite.

    Made by hand in small batches “the old way”—stirring to coat the olives with wood spoons—they are a must for any olive lover.
     
    SHNUTS: SPICED NUTS

    Shnuts are a mix of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts—no peanuts.

    They’re sweet and savory: herbs and spices with a touch of brown sugar. Made with all natural ingredients, filled with “good fat,” a handful is a healthful snack.

    HEALTH NOTES: The USDA-approved heart-healthy nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. These nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. Walnuts have the highest amount of the heart-healthy alpha linolenic acid, which many studies show lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.

    As with Shpickles and Shmolives, Shnuts are prepared by hand, roasted twice and flavored to perfection: the perfect “shnack.”

     

    Shpickles Brussels Sprouts

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    A sampling of Shpickles: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Cauliflower & Beets.

     
    Shpickles are $10 per 15-ounce jar, Shmolives are $15 per 15-ounce jar. Shnuts are not yet on the website, but should be there soon.

    Get yours at BrooklynWhatever.com.

    Plan ahead for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting.

    Not to mention green gifting for St. Patrick’s Day, with Shpickles Brussels Sprouts, Jalapeños, Kale Slaw, Okra and String Beans.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sweets We’d Like To Receive

    If you’re on the hunt for Valentine chocolate, you probably don’t have to hunt too hard. Even our drugstore looks like a chocolate shop.

    But here are some yummy items we enjoy, year after year.

    CHOCOLATE CHERRIES FROM CHOCLATIQUE

    Most of us grew up hoping to get the chocolate covered cherry in the box of mixed chocolates. At Choclatique, you can get an entire box of cherries!

    These are not the overly-sweet chocolate cherries of our youth. They are Grade A maraschino cherries that are marinated and then wrapped in a white chocolate-butter ganache. Next, they’re enrobed in premium dark chocolate shells (64% cacao).

    The bonbons are allowed to to cure, so that the ganache centers liquefy. The result is a delicate liquid center with just a touch of white chocolate ganache—and a memorable chocolate cherry.

    The chocolates are all natural and you can pick either a bright red ribbon for Valentine’s Day.

  • 12 Piece Box, $30.00
  • 24 Piece Box, $50.00
  •  
    CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRISP FROM GARRETT POPCORN

    Garrett Popcorn, known for its high quality popcorn gift tins, has two suggestions for Valenetine’s Day:

  • Lover’s Mix, a combination of Dark Chocolate Covered Caramel Crisp and regular Caramel Crisp. Note to caramel corn lovers: This regular Caramel Crisp is the best caramel corn you can buy, with a “burnt caramel” flavor that’s so much better than the ubiquitous one-dimensional sweet corns out there.
  • Spicy CheeseCorn, for those who prefer spicy to sweet. We’ve also recommended this corn for the Super Bowl. It’s a perfect blend of cheese and spice.
  •  
    Tins start at $39 for a one gallon and $69 for 2 gallons. The one gallon pink tin of Lover’s Mix is $47.

    Order yours at GarrettPopcorn.com.
     
    CLASSIC CHOCOLATES FROM LI-LAC

    Li-Lac Chocolates is one of our favorite munching grounds. This chocolate shop specializes in old-fashioned chocolates of top quality—the kind it’s become hard to find.

    Take a look at the choices at Li-LacChocolates.com.

       
    Chocolate Covered Cherries

    Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

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    Top: Gourmet chocolate cherries from Choclatique. Middle and bottom: Lover’s Mix and the Valentine tin from Garrett Popcorn.

     
    Whether a mixed box of chocolates or an entire box of our favorite chocolate-covered marzipan rolls, we hope our Valentine reads this message. (Please send both!)

    The chocolates are certified kosher.
     
    For those looking for kosher chocolate, LakeChamplainChocolates.com is another favorite chocolatier. Let us emphasize that, kosher or not, these to companies make excellent chocolates.
     
    MORE FAVORITE CHOCOLATES

    We’re happy with anything from John & Kira’s or Burdick Chocolate, two of America’s great artisan chocolatiers.

     

    Gimbal's Chocolate Cherry Chews

    Cherry Chews from Gimbal’s are available in
    several sizes, and are very affordable if you
    like to give something to many friends.

     

    CHERRY CHEWS FROM GIMBAL’S

    For something fun, affordable and not chocolate, try Gimbal’s Cherry Chews. They’re all natural and made with real cherry juice. They were created to have a cherry shape, but as you can see in the photo, they also resemble Valentine hearts.

    And they also double as celebratory sweets for George Washington’s Birthday.

    Bags in several sizes start at $1.39 to give out to friends and colleagues. A 38-ounce jar is just $13.99.

    Get them at GimbalsCandy.com.

     

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Low Calorie & No Calorie Gifts

    Keurig Pantone Red Brewer

    Rick's Picks Assortment

    Top: The Keurig 2.0 H200, which makes single cups as well as carafes. Bottom: Rick’s Picks: Great flavor, few calories.

     

    As you eye the sea of Valentine chocolates, what can you get for loved ones who can’t have (or don’t care for) chocolate?

    Some people don’t want the calories, others can’t have the caffeine or the sugar, and rarely, a few are allergic to chocolate.

    For those who avoid caffeine and chocolate, there are scrumptious macarons, artisan (“gourmet”) marshmallows, creamy fudge, fine red licorice and other confections. But they’re still packed with sugar.

    But what if you need to avoid the sugar entirely?

    There’s sugar-free candy, but it’s pretty unexciting. Here are what we’d like to get for Valentine’s Day.
     
    FOR COFFEE LOVERS: KEURIG 2.0 K200 SINGLE CUP BREWER

    This new model comes in seven colors, including red for your Valentine. It not only brews a single cup, but a 4-cup carafe, with a single touch.

    There’s a separate setting for specialty beverages such as chai, hot cocoa and mochas. And with more than 500 varieties of coffee, tea, specialty beverages and iced beverages, your Valentine has lots of choices.

    The carafe is sold separately; you can also add a Valentine mug (something with hearts?) to express your affection.

    Get yours at Keurig.com. The list price is $109.99.

    If you don’t want to spend that much, head to the nearest housewares department and get a red water bottle or red implements—spatulas, slotted spoons, etc.—to fill a Valentine mug.

     
    FOR PICKLE LOVERS: RICK’S PICKS PICKLE CLUB

    Good pickles are on our list of yummy foods with few calories.

    One of America’s great pickle makers offers a club that delivers four varieties, four times a year. The club is $ 199.95, including shipping.

    There’s also a Top-Seller Pack, $ 48.95, and a Rick’s Picks Sampler for $64.95.

    Order yours at RicksPicks.com.

    For a less expensive gift, head to your nearest fine market or specialty food store, pick up a single jar of Rick’s Picks, and tie a red ribbon around the neck.
     
    NOT INTO PICKLES? TRY STRAWBERRIES

    If your Valentine prefers sweet to tangy, consider Edible Arrangements or create your own strawberry basket. Look for the biggest, freshest strawberries, find a lovely small basket, and don’t forget the red bow!

     

    FOR SODA DRINKERS: SODASTREAM SPLASH PLAY

    There are red SodaStream machines that make calorie-free sodas and flavored waters. The brand has recently released a new machine, the Sodastream Splash Play, designed by Yves Béhar, a Swiss designer and sustainability expert.

    It carbonates water with touch button activation as well as quick snap-lock bottle insertion. It requires no electricity. It has a small footprint.

    Not only is it fun; it saves you from hauling home bottles of soda, and from tossing the empties into the landfill.

    For calorie counters and water enthusiasts, SodaStream also has a new line of waters, made with all natural sweeteners and colors, called Sparkling Gourmet. It has chef-inspired flavors, including Green Apple Cucumber, Blackcurrant Lime, Coriander Apple Blossom, and Lime Basil. All with 45 calories per 8-ounce serving.

     

    Sodastream Play

    Give a Sodastream in Valentine Red.

     
    There are also calorie-free flavored water options, and plenty of diet sodas.

    AND, if you own a Sodastream, you know that there are two different sizes of carbon dioxide tanks for different models, and they aren’t interchangeable. The Splash Play can use either of them! Bravo, Sodastream.

    Get yours at Sodastream.com. It’s $79.99.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Chocolate Stout, Sriracha Stout & Moonstruck Beer Chocolates

    Rogue Chocolate Stout

    Special chocolate craft brews for your
    Valentine. Photo courtesy Rogue Ales.

     

    Here’s what to get a beer-loving Valentine: two stouts created specifically for the occasion and some hot stuff.

  • Rogue Chocolate Stout, with a special Valentine-red label on a 750 ml bottle, is Rogue’s platinum award-winning Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout (one of the highest rated stouts in the world), infused with Dutch chocolate.
  • Rogue Double Chocolate Stout is an amplification of its Chocolate Stout, with big, rich flavors of chocolate, rolled oats, and honey. The 750ml bright red bottle is only available through the end of February.
  • Sriracha Hot Stout. If your Valentine prefers heat to chocolate, look for Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout. The only beer officially sanctioned by Huy Fong Foods (makers of the original Sriracha “Rooster” Hot Sauce) the heat is back for a limited time. Ebony-hued, with rich notes of caramelized malts and warm, slow burn on the finish, it’s also in a bright red bottle.
  • Special Stout Glass. To enhance the stout experience, Rogue collaborated with Spiegelau to create a special stout glass. Expertly crafted, it was designed to accentuate the roasted malt and rich coffee and chocolate notes of Rogue stouts.
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    There’s more information at Rogue.com.

     

    CHOCOLATE BEER TRUFFLES

    Oregon’s Moonstruck Chocolate collaborated with top Oregon craft brewers to develop a superb beer truffle collection.

    The chocolate truffles are rich, nutty sweet, dark and intense, and fresh and hoppy, depending on the beer. Each 12-pack collection features three each of:

  • Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter Truffle
  • Full Sail Brewing Co. IPA Truffle
  • Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar Truffle
  • Widmer Brother’s Brewing Hefeweizen Truffle
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    Get yours at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

     

    Beer Truffles

    Beer truffles from Moonstruck Chocolate. Yes, they’re shaped like corks.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Soulfully Sweet Great Gluten-Free Cookies

    If you’re looking for a great gluten-free cookie, look no further than Soulfully Sweet.

    You can tell that many, many test batches were baked to find the magic mixture that makes these cookies taste so good.

    With the right mix of ingredients and technique, you can’t tell that baked goods are gluten free. Soulfully Sweet has pulled this off, creating crunchy, very flavorful cookies that easily pass for conventional gourmet cookies.

    The best ingredients are not inexpensive, so don’t be dismayed that a box of eight cookies (2-1/2 inches in diameter) is $10.99, and you’ll want all eight flavors. They are a find for the cookie-lover on a gluten-free diet. Once you taste them, you’ll be happy to give up something else to fit them into your budget.

    We loved every one of the eight flavors:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Toasted Pecan Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Cookies For Chocoholics
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies With Spice Infusion
  • Oatmeal Cookies With Cherries & Chocolate Chips
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies With Toasted Walnuts
  • Orange Cookies With Pistachio & Cranberry Chunks & Orange Essence
  • Peanut Butter Cookies With A Peanut Avalanche
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    In addition to gluten-free, the ingredients are non-GMO, mostly organic* and “virtually” soy-free. The cookies are preservative free and all natural.
     
    A taste is worth a thousand words, so head to SoulfullySweet.com and indulge your cookie passion.
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    *The combination of gluten-free and organic ingredients is often hard to find and very pricey when you do find it. The cookies range from 84% to 90% organic ingredients. This brand doesn’t cut back on the absolute best-tasting gluten-free ingredients, and that, plus the small batch artisanal production, is why the cookies are so expensive.

     

    Gluten Free Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Soulfully Sweet cookies in three of the eight flavors: Molasses Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Photos courtesy Soulfully Sweet.

     

      

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    GIFTS: Last Minute Gifts

    Still in need of a holiday gift? Here are three for food lovers, in the form of electronic gift certificates (e-gift cards), quickly emailed from the companies’ websites.

    GOURMET CHOCOLATE GIFT CERTIFICATE

    We love to give Chocomize gift certificates. They enable the recipient to customize their own chocolate bars with a choice of scores of different add-ons.

    There are also boxes of bonbons, macarons and hot-chocolate-on-a-spoon, that that makes hot chocolate when swirled into milk.

    Gift certificates are available from $10 to $500 at Chocomize.com.

     
    GOURMET HOUSEWARES

    At Sur La Table, e-gift cards are available from $10 to $500. Head to SurLaTable.com. E-cards are emailed five times daily. If you want to send a conventional card, it takes 5-7 days.

    You can do the same at Williams-Sonoma.

    At both stores, e-gift cards can be used for purchases online, in-store or by phone.

    Plan ahead and you can add your own custom photo to a conventional gift card at Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Gift Card Sur La Table

    Chocomize Gift Card

    Go online and send e-gift cards (typically, a photo of a gift card gets e-mailed). Top photo: SurLaTable. Bottom photo: Chocomize.

     
    GOURMET RECIPE COLLECTION

    For someone who loves to cook, AllMyChefs.com is a new gastronomy site with recipes from more than 50 renowned French chefs. Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé, Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert are just some of the top toques represented.

    The chefs share their secret recipes, tips and personal favorites.

    Subscriptions are $4.95/month; you can give a gift subscription, 1 year $59.90 or 6 months for $34.90. There’s also a 15-day free trial if you want to try it yourself.

    Head to AllMyChefs.com; the gift subscription tab is at the top right.

      

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