Really? Chocolate and cheese? I’ve heard of rather odd combos like chocolate and bugs (ewww) and chocolate and bacon (interesting?), but never cheese and chocolate. I mean, chocolate is a more sweet flavor while cheese a bit sharp and tangy depending on the brand. I wonder how this idea even came about. Then again chocolate and milk go together awesome – and cheese is kind of just old milk. But really, cheese has sort of moved beyond liquid milk to well, cheese. I just don’t get how this came about.
I know mine! No matter what I’m doing—staying up late to study for a test, working the red eye shift, or simply satisfying a big craving—I often find myself turning toward cheap candy, which means I know where to get my sweets without spending too much.
If you turn to the gas station or the grocery store for candy, you know exactly what I am talking about! You might pay $5 to $8 for a simple bag of candy, depending on what you want (especially if it’s chocolate), which is just silly. When I lived in Spain I was spoiled with affordable candy shops everywhere, and I could just buy what I wanted since you scooped it out fresh by yourself. The candy shops we have here are much more pricey and, dare I say it, not as fresh.
So what do I do when I need my candy fix? Easy…I head to the dollar store. Not Dollar General, mind you (though you will sometimes find good deals there, like big hunks of taffy for 79 cents rather than the two bucks it costs at the gas station), but the everything is a dollar store. They have just about every kind of candy you could want, from fruity Now and Laters to chocolate bars to gummy bears, and none of them are more than a buck. In fact, oftentimes you’ll find them two for a dollar, and they are usually in generous portions.
That said, if I’m close enough, I will…
Go to Party City. You might think they would be expensive, but they have big specials on candy. Our local one, for example, sells individual pieces for 7 cents each, which is not a great price for Halloween treats to give out but it’s perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth cheaply! I usually only spend $2, sometimes $3, and get plenty of caramels, kisses, taffies, pixie stix, and other favorites. I actually have not been there in a while and thinking about it is making me crave some candy!
Another great way to get good, cheap candy, of course, is to stock up on post-holiday sales. We bought bags of Starburst jelly beans after Easter for fifty cents a bag, for example—these were big bags, too, and since my husband works at this particular store, we also got his discount—and we are just now running out of those in August! So if you play your cards right, you can do this twice a year—at Easter and Halloween—and have plenty all year round for just a few dollars.
I’d heard a little about the origins of chocolate before traveling in Southern Mexico and Belize last summer. Before the conquest of Mesoamerica by Spain, chocolate was highly prized and exclusively drunk by the aristocracy. It was so valued that the seeds were used as currency by native peoples like the Mayans and Aztecs.Even today in Mexico, while of course you can buy milk chocolate candy like Snickers, the chocolate that is processed and served here is most often served as a drink, like hot chocolate. You can go to a little chocolate restaurant, get a cup, and dip some churros in it.
Down in the markets of Oaxaca and elsewhere, you can buy solid dried balls of cocoa for making hot chocolate. You cook it with milk and sugar and it’s excellent.
But last summer in Belize I met a guy who was volunteering at a cacao processing plant. He gave me a handful of raw cacao seeds from one of their many big burlap bags. The huge fruit is broken open, the seeds are laid out to dry, and later the seeds are cooked and processed into cocoa powder for chocolate.
But, according to him, the raw seeds are full of nutrients. They are a super food. And if you are like me and don’t mind bitter flavors, then they are delicious. They are a little hard to peel at first, but once you get the hang of it you can break three or four open for a snack anytime. If you can get over the bitter flavor, they taste like dark chocolate but with no milk or sugar. I bought big bags of them in the market and have a few every morning, either in something like oatmeal or just as they are. So it is possible to enjoy chocolate and be extremely healthy at the same time!
I’ve heard of many things that have been dipped in and made up of chocolate. Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, chocolate chairs and chocolate bears. But chocolate frogs? The horrible thought of a real frog being made into a dipped chocolate treat grossed me out. I mean there’s a thing that involved bugs dipped in it!
Oh chocolate milk. You were my (not so) secret crush. I indulged in you with fervor. I drank you from mixing milk and chocolate syrup together, to the myriad of various pre-mixed drinks. Nestle Quick, PET, plain old store brand. I loved you straight from the carton to being mixed slyly in homemade milk shakes.
During my middle school years, I was a self-proclaimed chocoholic. I constantly needed a fix of chocolate. Every two hours or so, I would need a taste of chocolate. Back then, my preferred chocolate choice was plain M&M’s—now labeled as milk chocolate M&M’s by the company. I always carried the candy with me everywhere I went. So naturally, I also packed it with me whenever I went to school.
I really did try my best to stock up on M&M’s. Yet every now and then, I would run out of the awesome candy. At that point, I could no longer be choosey about what chocolate I ate. I just ate whatever edible chocolate flavored item I could get my hands on at the time.
My parents knew about my addiction to chocolate. They saw how I always grab the bags of plain M&M’s whenever I go with them to the grocery store. They also took note of how often I would buy chocolate ice cream or chocolate cake. Yet one time I absolutely took them by surprise.
The house was out of my usual chocolate delights. So I drank something I never really considered before. No, it was not hot chocolate cocoa. I did not have any at the time. Instead, I drank a spoonful of chocolate syrup. When I said a spoonful, I don’t mean it as an estimate.
I really did pour the chocolate syrup onto a spoon before swallowing it. My parents saw me doing that, and were caught completely off guard. After a bit, they started teasing me nonstop about it. From then on, they called the chocolate syrup my personal medicine.
I have tried several chocolate bars that combine chocolate with chili flavor of one sort or another, and this one is by far my favorite. No great surprise, really, given the amazing nature of all Theo chocolate bars.
When I finally read the ingredients label, I understood why: this bar is actually made with four different kinds of spicy (pasilla chili powder, guajillo chili powder, cayenne powder, and cinnamon), plus the intriguing addition of orange zest and orange essential oil. This gives it a bright finish, and really kicks up the flavor profile. Add in some vanilla bean, and you have yourself a real winner.
Oh Grocery Outlet, what strange products you bring to my life! I have never seen these before, and will likely never see them again. Never having heard of them before, I obviously had to buy one of each flavor: grape and strawberry.
Now I’m not going to claim I’m a bartender of anything, but I do like to try fun things out every once in a while. It also helps that I know a few bartender friends. But aside from drinking out of the bottle, I do enjoy trying a mixed drink or two. I also think said experiments were prompted by drinks, but that’s another story.