Monday, March 30, 2015

This Week In Candy

Well, the pre-Easter week is upon us, and that means the shelves are full of fun treats and everything seems to have a pastel colour about it.  This year, more than ever, I'm starting to see the DIY (do it yourself) culture come out in droves for this holiday.  On the internet I've seen all kinds of cool Easter projects, and people re-building classic Easter treats into something original.  When I was a kid all you had was your classic chocolate Easter Bunny, and few other choice treats, but today there's so much more available.  With this great variety of treats I think it's actually inspiring people to take their Easter treats even further.  So what's your favourite Easter hack?

This week on our Instagram feed Snack Facts, we're looking at Easter of coarse.  Each day we'll be posting an interesting fact about the holiday most well known for a bunny that gives out chocolate eggs.  You can follow Snack facts on Instagram, or if you don't use Instagram you can also follow on our Facebook page or Twitter feed as well.

As you would imagine, this week's review is also Easter themed.  It's a re-imagining of arguably one of the most famous Easter chocolate treats ever made, the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Check out the review of this mini classic Easter treat right here.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Candy In the Media

The other day my friend Brent reminded me of the awesome campaign that Mr Big came up with in the 80s.  I remember as a kid thinking that this was a perfectly fine campaign and that there was nothing creepy about it at all.  However, after watching this commercial, there's just something not right at all.  There's something about the lady in this commercial that makes me feel very uncomfortable with the situation happening.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kinder Gender

I've been a huge collector and follower of the Kinder brand.  The most famous Kinder items is the Kinder Egg, something that I've been eating for most of my life.  Over the years they've expanded, both in types of products, and is popularity around the world.  For an ever changing company I've always been excited about new Kinder candies hitting the shelves, and every place I travel I often pick up a new Kinder treat (often the egg) to see how it's different from other Kinder stuff I've tried before.  The other day however I came across something really different.
Most people around the world are fairly familiar with Kinder Eggs.  The format of a Kinder Egg is a milk and white chocolate egg that surrounds a plastic capsule, often yellow or orange.  Inside this capsule is a toy, the toys can range from small puzzles, plastic statuettes, or plastic game like toys that often require assembly.  Kinder Joy is another product made by Kinder that solves a problem that we often find in warmer climates.  Since the milk and white chocolate shell around the Kinder Egg capsule is very thin, in warm climates this shell can melt, and that would leave a box of melted chocolate on store shelves.  So Kinder developed an egg shaped replacement that you separate into two halves, with no chocolate shell at all.
One half of the egg contains a milk and white chocolate spread, with two crunchy chocolate balls floating in it.  The small paddle comes attached in the center of the egg so you can eat the contents.  The chocolate spread is pretty tasty, however the chocolate balls are just awkward to eat and not that flavorful.  They do add a bit of texture, but they're not spectacular.  Maybe if they added a hazelnut it would be better, but I digress since this isn't a candy review.  The other side of the egg contains a standard Kinder Egg prize, as mentioned above it could be a puzzle, a statuette, or some kind of game.  Up until recently, this was the only difference I'd ever seen between Kinder Eggs and Kinder joy, then I came across these...
On a recent excursion in southern Asia I came across some Kinder Joys that had the words "for Girls" written on it.  I've seen Kinder copies with themes for girls and boys before, most notably I remember seeing a Kinder like treat with Barbie logos all over it.  However this was the first time I'd ever seen an official Kinder toy that was labeled for a particular gender.  It took a bit of searching, but eventually I also managed to find a Kinder Joy that was specifically for Boys as well.
I was really shocked, in a bad way, that Kinder had come out with such a concept.  I was happy that they had Kinder for boys and Kinder for girls, and not just Kinder for girls while the regular ones were for boys.  However I've always looked at Kinder toys as crossing the male female barrier. When I was younger I used to collect Kinder toys with both girls and boys, and I can't remember any time when I felt that one toy was gender specific.  I never thought about it before today, but in hindsight I think that's something Kinder should be really proud of.  My next action was to pick up one of each Kinder Joy, and see what the difference is.
The chocolate half of the egg in both Kinder Joys was exactly the same.  I was really worried that there would be some kind of pink dessert in the girls and a "manly" dessert in the boys.  The prizes on the other hand had very different themes.  I'll start with the "girls" toy, it appears to be a put it together toy.  The instructions were very pink, and the toy itself is very much a "girls" toy.
After putting it together, this is what the girls would get.  There is a princess with long hair, and three frogs with loops on them. 
According to the instructions you're supposed to pick up a frog, using the princess's curled hair.  This part of the game was really easy, I mean it was so easy that it didn't seem like any kind of challenge at all.  It wasn't like Barrel of Monkeys where the challenge is to pick up as much as you can.  The idea was that for no particular reason you would use this princess piece to pick up one frog.
After you pick up your frog, you flip it over to reveal the image on the bottom.  Two of the images are of frogs, and one is of a prince.  I assume that when you pick up the prince, you win.  It's like some kind of shell game, but I'm not really sure the point.
Allison played a round of this game, and she pointed one thing out to me.  She felt that the game was unrealistic, but not because of the gender problems.  She felt that it set a bad example because she had to go through more than two "frogs" before she found her prince.  I look at this game and compare it to a really lame version of a 1980's board game called Mystery Date.  Not that the original Mystery Date wasn't a lame game on its own, don't ask why I know.
The "boys" toy was pretty much the way I expected it to look after seeing the girls toy.  The instructions were primarily blue with a bit of yellow.  The parts looked very industrial, and there were no stickers or anything to make it look prettier.
The toy itself was pretty clever from a design perspective.  It was a top, and it came with a launching device that would spin the corkscrew bit of the top and launch it onto the table.  The colours were fairly "manly", with lots of grey with a bit of red.
The toy was also fairly challenging to play with.  I got it working the first time I tried it, but several times after it failed and I had to keep trying.  Allison had the same problem as well.  Both of us found it fairly entertaining, or at least as entertaining as a top can be.
Of the two prizes that I got in these Kinder Joy eggs, I'm not really sure why the top wouldn't work for both boys and girls.  It really seemed that the toy for boys (at least in this example) was fairly gender neutral, while the toy for girls was very skewed for girls.  The thing is, there's no reason you couldn't have designed the toy for girls in a neutral way either.  You could have used something other than a princess to pick up the pieces, like a monkey, or cupid.  Instead of having two frogs and prince, why not have two frogs and a kiss mark or a heart.  I'm not sure why Kinder went this direction, but frankly I'm fairly disappointed.  While this company has been making toys for more than 30 years (I've heard well over 8000 different toys have been made), I still think this is a road that should not be traveled.  There are enough gender specific toys out in the world, it would be nice if we had a company producing something else.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Pink Bunny Candy Thing

While looking at things to feature for Easter on the weekly Candy Thing post, I realized that the Easter Bunny may be the only holiday character that really doesn't have a gender.  That means that this slightly sexy Easter Bunny costume might actually be appropriate.  Personally I think it would be great if the Easter Bunny was a girl, after all there aren't that many holiday themed characters that are women.  However this costume doesn't really demonstrate how much this idea is a great step in the direction toward equality for women in the field of holiday characters.


Monday, March 23, 2015

This Week In Candy

Easter is almost here, and frankly all of us at are looking forward to a visit from our favorite bunny.  It seems like only yesterday we were bundled up in our winter gear waiting for spring to come... after checking the weather reports around the world I see that many of you still are bundled up, sorry.  I'm sure that wherever you are Easter decorations, treats, and spring like festivities are in the air (and on the store shelves).  To celebrate the almost Easter time, this week on we're going to look at our second favorite egg making company, Kinder.

Recently I came across an interesting phenomenon in a certain part of the world.  It was in Asia that I came across gender specific Kinder Joy.  I decided that I would pick up one of each gender of Kinder Joy and see what the difference is.  I'll post a full blog entry about my discovery, and my opinion on the whole matter, later this week.  Also, if you're not familiar with what Kinder Joy is, I'll cover that too.

This week on Snack Facts, our Instagram feed, we'll be looking at the Kinder company.  Every day this week we'll post in egg-stremely interesting fact about a company that's huge all over the world... except maybe in the USA.  All you have to do to keep up with Snack Facts is follow us on Instagram, if you don't use Instagram, you can also follow on our Twitter feed and Facebook page as well.

Whenever spring is in the air I start to crave lemonade. This week's review might just help me get through this craving, and it might also help out my constant craving for chocolate.  Click here to check out this week's lemonade/chocolate crossover.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Candy In The Media

So exactly how funny is it to watch a cat get its head stuck in a bucket of Ben and Jerry's ice cream?  This funny.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Leprechaun Candy Thing

Did you eat anything Irish for St Patrick's Day?  Did you drink some whiskey, or have a beer?  Maybe you had some Irish stew.  What is the flavour of St Patrick's Day?  If you were to make a candy, to fill this "Pot O Gold Cauldron", what would you put in it?  Personally I'd go for mint green jelly beans, but only because they're my favorite flavour of jelly beans, and the green colour kind of works.  Do you think that it's about time for someone to come up with the official candy of St Patrick's Day?  Then kids could buy up Pot O Gold Cauldrons and fill them to the brim.


Monday, March 16, 2015

This Week In Candy

The big event this week is our favorite holiday related to everything green and/or Irish.  I think St Patrick's Day might be the only holiday that has yet to be inundated with gifts or candy.  Just about every other holiday offers a huge selection of specialized treats, but not this one.  I would say that if you had to associate St Patrick's Day with any food item, it would probably be beer.  I'm not saying that you have to be drunk or drinking to enjoy this holiday, I'm just saying that many people do associate certain drinks with this day.  Even if we are to look at snack foods, and try and find one that is associated with this holiday, it's a drink, the Shamrock Shake.

This week I'm preparing for an upcoming trip.  I'm heading back to Europe for a little while to explore a few new places I've never visited before.  I'm going to take this opportunity to taste test one of the new recipe Cadbury Creme eggs, but other than that I'm not sure what I'm going to sample.  The trip is mainly a vacation, but I can't seem to take any kind of vacation from the candy world, and I'm sure I'll stop and try a few new treats along the way.

This week on our Snack Facts Instagram feed we're going to talk about things that are green.  Since I can't really think of too many Irish/St Patrick's snacks to post about, the next best thing would be to focus on the colour green.  Follow us on Instagram if you want a daily Snack Fact sent to your feed.  If you're not on Instagram, you can also follow Snack Facts on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.

As I've mentioned several times on this post, there aren't really that many "Irish" candies that I know about.  The only exception would be this particularly Irish version of Sour Patch Kids that we reviewed a few months back.  So for today's review I figured that I would go as close as I could to a St Patrick's Day review.  Today's review is based on a small magical man, and it's made in Europe.  It's the best I could do.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Daily Rations - Part 5 - Chicken with Ham and Cheese Sauce

Whenever you're writing anything, the key is to end on a bang, save the best for last.  I really tried with our collection of ration pack reviews this week, but unfortunately something went horribly wrong.  I'll start by telling you why I thought this dish had potential.  First of all the chicken is one solid piece, it's not ground, or processed in any visible way.  Secondly, chicken is probably my favorite meat, so I figured it has a pretty good shot of doing well.  Thirdly there's cheese involved, I mean who doesn't like cheese?

After reading the description on the package things pretty much fell apart.  The smell that came out of this ration pack was not pleasant.  It was cheesy, but not a pleasant cheesy, it was instead the smell of cheese that's trying really hard to impress.  A cheese smell so strong, and so sharp, that even a stinky cheese connoisseur might gag a little.  I was happy to see that the chicken was in fact a sold piece, however I'm guessing for packaging reasons it had to be cooked very well done.  I took a knife to this chicken and had to use great effort to break it apart.  Even though it was soaking in this cheese goop for the last 2 years, none had penetrated the dry interior of this chicken.

The smell of the cheese was just a warning for the taste that came with it.  It was so strong and sharp that I had trouble getting down more than a couple of bites.  It says there's ham in this, and you might be able to smell it a bit, but it could have been much stronger allies with the chicken and maybe given up some of it's juice fat to moisten this dry chicken breast.

As always I'm sure if I was out in a jungle fighting to stay alive, this would be fine.  However on my kitchen table it was a struggle to get down.

This review wraps up my whole week of eating rations for lunch every day.  While I did poke fun at the taste of these meals this week, I don't want to forget what they're for.  War is not a pretty place, and the fact that somebody tries there hardest to keep our soldiers not only fed, but give them something tasty to eat is a great thing.  While these aren't home cooked meals, for some people it's a taste of home that can give them a moral and energy boost to get through a tough day that's much harder than any day I've ever had.


Candy In the Media

I love cupcakes, and I love hamburgers, so I really love this idea of making cupcake hamburgers.  The key to making this right is to make sure that you don't get the ideas crossed, because no one likes a cupcake that tastes like a hamburger, trust me.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daily Rations - Part 4 - Macaroni and Asian Beef

Of all of the ration packs that I've reviewed so far this week, this one is the one I've feared most, even more than the cabbage rolls.  First of all, while I'm pretty sure I know what macaroni is, I wasn't really sure what Asian beef sauce was.  I imagined a cross between Chef Boyardee canned pastas, and that red "sweet and sour sauce" you get at mall Chinese food restaurants.  After opening the pack and checking it out, I was only mildly more confident.  If it was a cross between these two things, at least it seemed to lean a more towards the Chef Boyardee, instead of resting in the middle.

While the smell that came out of the package wasn't spectacular, I had hope in my heart.  After taking my first bite, I was really surprised.  I was really surprised because the mysterious "Asian" sauces wasn't that bad at all.  Stranger still was how much I disliked the macaroni.  I would have thought that the meat with a possible four year expiration date would have been much worse than the pasta.  Considering I think I might have some pasta in my cupboard that's been around for at least a year or so, and I'm sure it's fine. When it comes to meat I wouldn't trust frozen meat for more than a few months, let along a couple of years.

All around I'd say that I was pretty surprised by this meal.  I was expecting a horror show, but instead I got a slightly spiced meat sauce with some really horribly textured pasta.  It wasn't great, and if I got it at a restaurant I'd probably return it, but not bad for a quick lunch today.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daily Rations - Part 3 - Sausage and Hash Browns

Everyday this week I'm posting a review of a ration pack meal.  So far this week I've reviewed wieners and bean and cabbage rolls.  Today I'm going to look at a "yummy" breakfast ration, sausage and hash browns.  My first impression of this ration pack, when I dumped it into my bowl was confusion.  I was always under the impression that hash browns were potatoes either grated or chopped into small cubes, then cooked in a pan or on a flattop grill.  The hash browns in this ration pack seemed more like large chunks of boiled potatoes.  There was nothing grilled or fried looking about these potatoes at all.

I was also a little shocked to see the sausages already chopped up into little pieces.  I'm assuming that this is to keep everything bite sized, just in case you don't have a knife and a fork available when you’re eating this pack.  The thing is, why not then just make tiny little sausages, which you can eat in one or two bites?  It would look nicer, and might hold in the meaty flavour a little better.

As far as quality of this ration pack, it was OK.  The flavour of the sausage was the clear winning attribute to this ration pack.  The potato was just as I'd imagined, just boiled potatoes with no fried flavour at all.  Fortunately the flavour of the sausage did mix around into the potato, so it added just a little bit of extra flavour to the bland potatoes.  I'm also really happy that the sausages weren't just hot dogs, similar to the wieners and beans, that would have made this meal really disappointing.


An Educational Candy Thing

Probably the most important thing anyone can do to become a candy expert is to learn the craft.  Even if you don't actually make candy, reading candy recipes can really open your eyes to the candy world.  When you read candy recipes you'll not only respect some of the work that goes into candy, you'll understand why some candy works, and others don't.  This was one of the first candy cookbooks that I ever read, and I still use it regularly for reference.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Daily Rations - Part 2 - Wieners and Beans

All this week I'm eating ration pack meals for lunch, yesterday I had some pretty horrible cabbage rolls, today it's wieners and beans.  There is one serious problem with comparing a ration pack of wieners and beans to a home cooked meal of wieners and beans, and that is, I've never tried home made wieners and beans.  This isn't the first time I've ever had wieners and beans, however every other time I've ever tried them they've come out of a can.  In general canned foods, and ration pack foods are pretty similar, so my reaction to these is exactly the same as if I was having a can of wieners and beans.

So unless you're a wieners and beans connoisseur, and you make them at home from scratch, chances are you'll probably enjoy this ration pack fine.  The wieners are pleasant enough, sliced fairly large, but small enough to be bite sized.  The beans are also tasty enough, they maybe could use a bit more of a maple or brown sugar sweetness, instead these have a general sweetness.  The ratio of beans to wieners is exceptional.  I managed to have a bit of wiener with just about every bite of bean.

If for some reason you find yourself in a situation where wieners and beans in a ration pack are on sale at your local store, go for it.  They're exactly the same as the canned version, but the portion size is better for one person (I often find that a can of wieners and beans is a two serving things).


Monday, March 09, 2015

Daily Rations - Part 1 - Cabbage Rolls

Over the next week I've decided to sample ration pack meals.  In the past I wrote an entire review on a ration box (this box contains all that a soldier would need to survive a day), and I've attempted to make an improved dessert out of ingredients from various ration packs.  This week I've decided to sample a different ration pack meal for lunch every day.  I've only recently discovered the curiosity that is a ration pack, and since sampling one, I've been obsessed with trying more.

One thing to keep in mind is that ration packs are not really designed for taste.  The most important part of a ration pack is to feed a soldier (or sometimes a civilian in a difficult situation), as well as provide them with the nutrition they need to survive and keep moving.  This means two things, first of all these packs are designed to last.  Many ration packs can last several years with out going bad, and can also survive with no refrigeration.  Ration packs are also designed to give the person eating them a very specific amount of energy, enough to carry heavy gear through hostel environments. That means they have lots of the stuff the average health conscious person sitting at home probably wouldn't want to eat, like lots of salt and sugar.

For the first meal I've decided to sample a cabbage rolls.  This is a difficult food for me to review because of my heritage.  I'm half Ukrainian, and that means that I have memories of my grandmother making me cabbage rolls when I was a kid, and I loved them.  So no matter how hard I try, I have to compare these to hers.  In fact the only reason I took this particular ration pack in the first place was to compare my memory of my grandmothers cabbage rolls to these one coming out of a package that is at least two years old.  Seems fairly unfair doesn't it?

As you can imagine these don't hold up at all to the ones my grandmother made. In fact these were so awful I had a really hard time getting through them.  To start, I'll mention the parts that I didn't mind, and then I dedicate a paragraph to why I couldn't stomach these.  The sauce was the surprise highlight of this meal.  It was a little sweet, but it had a nice tomato flavour and I might even say I liked it more than my grandmothers.  My grandmother's sauce was a lot dryer and didn't have nice chunks of tomato like this sauce did.  I also liked the cabbage, but to be honest, screwing up the cabbage would have taken some serious work.  It's pretty much the easiest part of this whole meal.

The part I hated was the part that took up the most space in this meal, and that was the filling.  My grandmother's cabbage rolls consisted of rice, pork, spices, and occasionally some very finely chopped vegetables. This filling contained meat, a big block of thick dense mystery ground meat.  It was like eating a giant disgusting meatball.  I think it may have worked a little better if the meat wasn't so tightly packed, and I think you could have achieved that by mixing in some rice, vegetables, or something.

Unfortunately for the first meal, things aren't going that well.  However I have hopes for some of the future meals.  I thought that I would start with a tough one, and maybe save a few of the "better" possibilities for later this week.  Even though this wasn't like my grandmother's cabbage rolls, I have to admit that in a pinch, it's still pretty amazing.


This Week In Candy

Over the last 6 months or so I've become very interested in ration packs. As it turns out I'm not the only person with such an interest.  In fact since writing the articles I've talked to several people about these random packages of food specially designed to keep soldiers fed.  I've also been offered more ration packs to write about.  So every day this week I'm going to review a different ration pack for lunch.  The thing to keep in mind about ration packs is that they're designed to last.  Most of them have a shelf life of 3 or 4 years, and can survive in very cold or very hot environments. Because they're designed to last, you never really know how tasty they'll turn out, it's always a surprise (good or bad). I'm having my first ration pack lunch today, and I'll have another tomorrow, all the way till Friday.

Some of you who have listened to our podcast Junk Fud, may know about our good friend Mark who has appeared on the podcast several times.  Mark has suggested that we update the podcast, and the two of us are looking to re-format the whole show.  We've been spending the last month brainstorming some ideas for the show, and we hope to have it online soon.  If you have any ideas you think might work, let me know, we're also looking for guests to interview about candy, snacks, or fast food.

This week on our Instagram feed called Snack Facts, we're looking at sugar.  We're looking at several kinds of sugar, and we're going to post a fun fact about the sweet stuff every day.  So check out our Instagram feed daily and find out something new about the sweet stuff.  If you don't use Instagram, you can also follow Snack Facts on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page as well.

Last week was my birthday, and I ate a lot of cake. In fact I went to a buffet for my birthday dinner so I could specifically sample as many cakes as possible at one time.  So I thought it would be appropriate to review a fun cake themed treat this week on Candy Critic.  Who would have thought of crossing Peeps and birthday cake?


Friday, March 06, 2015

Candy In The Media

Whenever I travel I seem to come across an inordinate amount of Polish television channels, I'm not sure why this is.  However, I'm always delighted with the kinds of commercials they have on these channels.  I think I find them more entertaining because I don't speak the language and therefore have no idea what's going on. Recently I've starting seeing this commercial on fairly regularly basis and each time I see it I giggle out loud.  I'm not sure why I love this commercial, only because there's so much to love.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Pair of Candy Things

Is there any kind of clothing that doesn't work with a candy theme?  I plan on testing that theory over the next few years of my life.  In particular, it's come up that I may be buying a tuxedo in the near future, and I'm thinking a candy themed tuxedo might be the perfect (and classy) thing for any man about town.


Monday, March 02, 2015

This Week In Candy

One of the greatest friends anyone can have is a foodie friend. I consider myself extremely lucky, because I have many of them.  Some like to talk food, others like to act on it.  My friend Chris is one of those people who really likes to act on his food interests, and his foodie interests are really fascinating.  Chris likes to cook foods the old fashioned way. To be more precise, he likes to cook food the ancient way.  The other day I was over at his house for dinner and he made me an awesome dessert called Libum.  It's a very simple, yet very tasty ancient Roman cheese cake.  The flavour was really clean, and it warmed me up inside on the cool night that it was outside.  Chris apparently has more ancient cooking tricks up his sleeve, and I'm looking forward to trying them all out.

Over the last few weeks I've reported about a big shipment of lollipops from our good friends at Original Gourmet Lollipops.  The shipment was so big that I ended giving many away throughout the last few weeks. Then I had to try and figure out which of the many flavours I should review.  It was too big a feat for me to figure out, so I decided to ask around both in person and online.  So many people voiced their opinions that even after collecting all the data, I still couldn't decide on just one flavour to review.  I have managed to take this list down to just 5 flavours, so that means that every day this week I'm posting a new Original Gourmet Lollipop review.  So stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+ to keep up with this week's Lollipop Review-A-Thon.

This week on Snack Facts (our Instagram feed), we're looking at Rockets... Or Smarties... Well that all depends on where you live really.  We're looking at those little powdery pill like candies that come in a cellophane tube.  Every day will post a new fun fact about this unique candy on our Instagram feed.  If you don't use Instagram, you can also follow Snack Facts on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed as well.

Part 1 of our Lollipop Review-A-Thon this week is a look at a classic malt shop drink, turned into lollipop form.  I love a good root beer float, and why can't I have one any time of the day, no matter how far I am from a malt shop.  So check out Original Gourmet Lollipops answer to my problem, and check back every day for another lollipop review in our Lollipop Review-A-Thon.