12/11/12 - 1 Comment
Give & Let Live: A Sweets Obsessed Do-Gooder Gift Guide
It’s a trend these days to tout the health benefits of chocolate, but those who take this statement literally and apply it across all chocolates have been misled, and are doing themselves a major disfavor. Chocolates aren’t created equal. Otherwise immune-boosting, antioxidant-packed cocoa beans are processed to a point of no return, injected with unpronounceable ingredients (dairy in its various forms and sugar included) that harm rather than aid, belying what self-funded studies and ad campaigns would lead consumers to believe. That chemical-laden artificial adulteration manufactured by Nestlé or Cadbury bears no resemblance to its virtuous namesake, and doesn’t do a body good. Guaranteed.
Not to worry! We’re here to help. Forget the bogus big brands and get to know some of the smaller scale, cruelty-free (for humans and animals) companies making their way on the vegan treats scene. From Brooklyn to L.A., we’ve got your sweet tooth territory covered. And, in addition to chocolate cravings, we can facilitate fulfillment of your hankering for marshmallows and caramel, too. Read on for a few of our favorites. There’s something for everyone.
OBSESSIVE CONFECTION DISORDER Whoever says you can’t have rich caramel without cream from a cow is, well, way off base. Obsessive Confection Disorder, begun by Melodi Brooke Donahue, makes it their mission—and specialty—to bring you the best in dairy-free caramel-covered confections. Think organic coconut milk, coconut butter and cocoa butter. What could be better? We believe little else. Packaged in recycled and compostable materials, OCD caramels are pro-planet and absolutely the real deal. She can even do custom for that special person or occasion (ahem, the holidays). So, what did we adore? What didn’t we? Here goes: Irish Carmel Bomb Pops ($10, perfect for the Irish side of your family, no?), the Play Date Candy Bar ($12) and, perhaps our favorite, the Dark Mal(low) ($10) made with Sweet & Sara Vanilla Marshmallows. Holy heck, were these babies satisfying. And, because salted caramel is all the rage, be sure to try (er, gift) the Vanilla Bean Sea Salt Caramel Bars ($10). Nom. M W C
SWEET & SARA We’re not sure what vegetarians, vegans and those grossed out by the thought of ingesting gelatin did before plant-based marshmallows came along. Then, Sara Sohn, founder of Sweet & Sara, changed the game with her range of gelatin-free marshmallows and marshmallow-laden treats. At long last, hot chocolate (nondairy, no doubt) appeals again! Sohn’s Rice Crispy Treats ($2.25 each) are so scrumptious, and it’s all uphill from here with the pillow-y wonders she dreams up. For your Hanukkah observing friend, how about a chocolate covered marshmallow Star of David or Dreidel ($2.69 each)? Kosher, of course! Or, for that family member always on the run, how about pre-packaged Peanut Butter Smores ($3.45 each)? Snowmen, Snowflakes and Reindeer abound with S&S’s Christmas-specific packs ($.399 each), all hand-painted with organic chocolate, the latter boasting a strawberry nose. The list goes on and on, just see—and taste—for yourself. Sample a few flavors, from toasted coconut covered to simple minis for a tried and true cup of cocoa, and decide who on your list gets what. And, once summer rolls around, invest in the big guys, which melt and toast over a fire as well as any other mallow you’ve ever encountered. M W C
NICOBELLA ORGANICS If dangerously dark chocolate, which can be pretty bitter, isn’t your speed and you’re hankering for a lighter type, we cannot recommend Nicobella Organics enough. Nichole Dandrea, a chocolatier of the highest order, founded her confectionary company in 2009 and, to date, we haven’t found a better tasting truffle. These delightful rectangles are melt-in-your-mouth silky smooth and half the calories and half the sugar compared to traditional truffles. Fair trade, vegan, free of added oils, flavorings, soy, processed sugar and sugar alcohols, these babies boast high antioxidant ingredients and zero cholesterol. Where cream and butter once were, Dandrea uses oat milk and coconut oil. She also makes her candies with whole food ingredients, from ground pumpkin seeds to fresh walnuts. Not only a great source of protein and fiber, these are also suitable for diabetics and the carbohydrate-conscious. And many items, from her truffles to her Nicobella Munch, are even gluten-free. Oh, and the boxes are Forest Stewardship Council certified, the bags made from rice paper and 5% of every sale supports animal welfare organizations like Mercy For Animals and The Humane Society. So, what do we most enjoy? The Maple Nut Munch (the maple pecans make this, providing a killer crunch – $5.50/bag) and the Walnut Flaxseed Crunch truffle ($13.50/6-piece box). We recommend tasting her entire inventory—including the Holiday Spice truffles, which have some kick—before determining which to give. Quality control is tantamount! M W C
BROOKLYN DARK These artisan, gluten-free and fair trade bars feature among their ingredients hemp seeds—a whole plant superfood. An excellent source of digestible protein, healthy omega essential fatty acids (EFAs) and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, hemp is one of the most nutritious plants on Earth. And for the Earth, as it doesn’t demand pesticides in order to grow. Made with certified Rainforest Alliance organic chocolate, Brooklyn Dark is 63% cacao, appealing to sophisticated consumers who don’t prop chocolate up on dairy, a diluter of the most dangerous sort. No preservatives, no additives, no junk. Give this to gramps or anyone else who could use the extra nutrition these contain. In fact, get some for yourself. Let hemp-infused chocolate be the first step towards a superfood-inclusive lifestyle. We love the Moroccan Spice bar best, which tastes like traditional dukkah dipped in chocolate. All are remarkable and dissolve on the tongue the way chocolate is meant to. M W C
GO MAX GO So, we know how some folks love their classic candy bars. From Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to Crunch, Snickers to Milkyway, Three Musketeers to Almond Joy, there’s no denying these sugar-stuffed, chocolate-coated calories are a part of most of our childhoods. Hello Halloween nostalgia. But, it’s impractical to consume this stuff on the regular. And, with Mars conducting animal experiments, Hershey foregoing fair trade and all of the above being far from natural, we figured we’d let you in on a kinder, equally craving quelling alternative. Enter Go Max Go, the best thing to hit the dessert scene since…well, just trust us, they’re good. No dairy, no eggs, no hydrogenated oils, no trans fats, no artificial ingredients, no cholesterol. Choose from among six vices, each a new and improved reflection of the aforementioned mainstream brands. So, there’s the Cleo’s (GF), Snap (GF), Jokerz, Twilight, Buccaneer and Mahalo (GF). If you consider closely, you’ll discern the references. Indeed, these bad boys live up to their influences. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, this sweet sestet sure does their predecessors proud, putting the originals to shame. Stock up for the friend who has everything…except self-control (when it comes to candy). M W C
CHICKPEA & OLIVE You’ve heard from this “Peace on a plate”-promoting duo on Dual Show before, and we couldn’t help but bring them up again. We’ve got something new for you this time, however. ’Tis the season for truffles and, if you’re local to NYC, we encourage you to order a bunch of these bodacious balls. (If you’re in Cali, go with Nicobella. Somewhere in between? C+O also ships nationwide, so why not try both? They each offer something special.) In any case, these organic, fair trade (trending topics in our gift guide, right?) morsels make for a handcrafted homerun. Choose among the following flavors: almond, coconut, cocoa, espresso, Mexican hot chocolate, muscadine, saffron and sesame. You can buy as few as four-piece packages ($10), but five- ($12) and nine-piece ($20) packages come in a special gift box. Made in a remote village in the Philippines, these 100% recycled containers create jobs and ensure workers earn a fair wage. If you’re feeling fat or just generous, 22-piece packages ($40) are available, too. But, take your time eating these. Better yet, pass out at a holiday party or your annual family get-together. M W
ANTIDOTE CHOCOLATE This is what we like to call “fancy chocolate.” Don’t call it candy. There’s no denying the caliber of these vegan, organic, gluten-free, fair trade, dark and partially raw chocolate bars; they’re a sustainable superfood fit for a king…and anyone you know who needs an invigorating boost. Either way, they’re potent and elegantly packaged. They offer ten different flavors: four 77% raw and roasted cacao, four 84% cacao and two 100% cacao. No added fats. Without loads of sugar. Packed with antioxidants. These are bars for the serious, health-conscious chocolate lover. As far as taste, consider the extraordinary flavor combinations, such as Lavender + Red Salt and Almond + Fennel. Each pairing is named after a Greek deity (Panakeia and Artemis, in this instance), as elaborated on at the back of their respective “wrappers.” As you or a loved one indulges in this nutritious and delicious mood-improving snack, consider the five A’s they enumerate on their site: Antioxidant, Antidepressant, Anti-stress, Appetite suppressant and Aphrodisiac. Raw, dark, unrefined and unadulterated? Dig in liberally. W M
CORNELIA GUEST You’ve heard her name before on our site and that’s because she’s a pretty busy lady: publishing books, making bags and baking cookies. The cookies, which come packaged in what looks like an eco Chinese takeout container, are the perfect mid-day nibble for that chocolate chip cookie monster on your list. With a hint of coconut flavor, these bite-size gems go down easy, with a slight crumble and a whole lot of melt-in-your-mouth. Order a half dozen for $9 or a full dozen for $18 (+ shipping) and have them sent anywhere in the US. Word of warning: if they’re passing through your home before being gifted, ensure you order an extra batch for yourself. These dollops of delish have a habit of disappearing fast. M W C