Double Mocha Brownies

As I may have confessed before, I do not make brownies from scratch because Ghirardelli’s mixes are just so good.  I can have brownie mix from box to oven in less than five minutes with stellar results, but I never stop looking for interesting variations on plain brownies.  Enter Kahlúa with a sponsored post on allrecipes.com for Kahlúa brownies, which immediately went on my must-have list.  Just because I could, I amped up the mocha flavor ever so slightly by adding a little espresso powder.  If you are a mocha fan, you will totally love these fast and fantastic brownies.

Double Mocha Brownies

  • 1 – Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix (You could also use Ghirardelli’s Triple Fudge Brownie Mix.  I usually buy whichever flavor Costco has on hand.)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Kahlúa
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly coat a 9″ x 9″ pan with non-stick spray.  Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and spread evenly in the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  (Do not over bake!)  As soon as brownies are out of the oven, cover lightly with foil to keep the edges from hardening.  Cool completely before cutting in 16 brownies.  Store in an airtight container.

Note:  This recipe calls for different measures of oil and water than the back-of-the-box instructions.  It works very well as written above!

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Celebrate National Biscuit Month!

September always seems to be a month of transition.  Kids head back to school.  Football teams gear up as fans hope for a winning season (particularly weary Dallas Cowboy fans).  The weather begins signaling a change in season, and everyone in Texas breathes a sigh of relief that most of the high temperatures should be in our rear-view mirror.  I’m not sure who was given the authority to deem September as National Biscuit Month, but it seems like a fitting time for a celebration as we move into fall.    For your celebratory pleasure, we are recapping our favorite biscuits and the artisans who make them.

Callie’s Charleston Biscuits

Callie White was a renowned Charleston caterer perhaps best known for her buttery country ham biscuits.  Her daughter, DSC00496Carrie Morey, took over the helm of the family business when Callie was ready to retire and redirected it to a nationally-recognized artisan biscuit bakery.  Their cocktail-sized varieties include buttermilk, black pepper bacon, cheese and chive, country ham, cocktail ham, shortcake and cinnamon.  The cheese and chive biscuits we tried were nothing short of awesome.  You may find a retailer near you, or you can order directly from the company’s website.  Anyone want to join the Biscuit of the Month Club and celebrate buttery biscuit perfection all year?

In 2014, Carrie launched a new downtown Charleston bakery, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.  In addition to their regular biscuit flavors, the bakery offers a “biscuit of the day”, often featuring foods from local restaurants and artisans.  It would be a required stop for us in Charleston!

Robinhood Meetinghouse Layered Cream Cheese Biscuits 

DSC01109Chef Michael Gagné created “the love child born of a biscuit and a croissant” by laminating layers of cream cheese biscuit dough in same method used for making croissants.  When the biscuits became a patron favorite at his Maine restaurant, Robinhood Meetinghouse, his young daughters began selling the biscuits out of the back porch of the restaurant.  As the Gagné girls grew, so did Chef Michael’s biscuit business.  Today, they offer the original cream cheese biscuits, along with sweet potato, triple ginger, blueberry, herb parmesan, and cheddar chive biscuits.  The biscuits are widely available at retailers or through the company’s website.

The original layered cream cheese biscuits just made our breakfast, and they would be equally delicious as the foundation for strawberry shortcake.  One of Chef Michael’s daughters, who blogs as “The Biscuit Girl”, was married earlier this year and had a biscuit bar at her reception.  The featured selections would be fantastic at any gathering:

  • Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham and Peach Chutney
  • Cream Cheese Biscuits with Carmelized Onions and Goat Cheese
  • Herb Parmesan Biscuits with Filet of Beef and Horseradish Sauce
  • Blueberry Biscuits, Triple Ginger Biscuits, and Cheddar Chive Biscuits served with local honeys and jams

YUM to all the above!

Create Your Own Celebration

Want a fool-proof recipe for your own kitchen?  Try these easy Duke Dining Hall Biscuits made with King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.  It is as good a basic biscuit recipe as I have ever tried.

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 Duke Dining Hall Biscuits

Servings – About 5

  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450°.

Mix dry ingredients, and cut in shortening.  (A food processor works great, but you can use a pastry blender, or 2 table knives.)  Add the milk all at once, and stir only slightly.  Place dough on slightly floured surface and knead very gently for only a few seconds.  Roll into 1/2″ thickness.  Cut with a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter or small glass, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut.  (Note:  press the cutter straight down; do not twist it back and forth.)  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Makes 8 – 12 biscuits, depending on size of the cutter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pizza Night!

Making my own pizza dough has been on the to-do list for too long.  It became a higher priority after our recent visit with Karen and Jim, and we enjoyed awesome homemade pizza baked in their neighbors’ outdoor pizza oven.  Nice!  A family dinner on the calendar provided the perfect opportunity for our own pizza party.  I had bookmarked a recipe for pizza dough from Annie’s Eats months ago and noted several of Annie’s hints for success.  First, don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour.  Bread flour’s high-gluten content gives pizza crust its structure and satisfying chewy crunch.  Second, weigh the flour for best results.  You also might want to take a moment to read Annie’s tutorial about making pizza dough.  It really helped me work through the process with confidence.

King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour was a must-have for the experiment.  If you have read our site for very long, you know our affinity for King Arthur products and their employee-owned corporate culture.  It’s been very exciting to hear that some of you have switched to King Arthur flours in your own kitchens!

IMG_1281Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup warm water (about 110°)
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups (22 oz.) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions:

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed.  Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms.  Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone.  Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Because I was making multiple pizzas for dinner, I doubled the recipe, then par-baked three crusts about 5 minutes before adding the toppings.  I froze one portion of dough for another time.  We had a marinara-pepperoni-sausage-cheese pizza for the traditionalists, an alfredo-mozzarella-romano pizza for the cheese lovers, but the star of the buffet was the recreation of an unusual pie we had enjoyed at an upscale pizza restaurant in the Dallas area.  It was super-easy and mega-delicious.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

  • Spread a par-baked pizza crust with fig preserves (Bonus:  I had some of Mom’s homemade preserves!  Alternatively, try Dalmatia Fig Spread.)
  • Top with prosciutto
  • Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles

Bake for 5-6 minutes at 500°.  After removing from the oven, top with fresh arugula and drizzle with balsamic glaze.  I used glaze I had purchased, although you could certainly make your own.

The result?  The crust was perfectly crisp and chewy.  The sweet fig preserves were balanced with the tangy goat cheese, while the salty prosciutto paired fantastically with the sweet balsamic glaze.  It was a smashing success, to be repeated often!

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National S’mores Day

It’s almost the eleventh hour of National S’mores Day, but not too late to reminisce about the awesome s’mores we made with Mother Rucker’s Cinnamon Cookie Brittle!

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Check out Mother Rucker’s delicious treats!

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Robert Rothschild Farms Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt Sauce

IMG_0878This post is overdue because Robert Rothschild Farms Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt Sauce is way too good not to share.  My brother told me how much his family enjoyed it over ice cream, and while we completely agreed, I kept waiting for a great recipe inspiration that would really do it justice.  It finally came to me — cream puffs topped with Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt Sauce.  That should work!

I started with a cream puff recipe from my vintage Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  “New” is relative in this case, as this was my first cookbook and has been my go-to resource for cooking basics for many years.  The recipe is easy, but you need to be patient and beat the batter long enough to insure it will puff when baked.

Cream Puffs

  • 1/2 cup butter (the recipe says “or margarine”, but no)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (always King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour in our house)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs

Melt butter in 1 cup boiling water.  Add flour and salt all at once; stir vigorously.  Cook and store until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate.  Remove from heat; cool slightly.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each until smooth.  Drop by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400° until golden brown and puffy, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven; split.  Cool on rack.  Makes 10.

I always use my mom’s vanilla custard recipe for the cream filling.

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To assemble the cream puffs, heat the Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt sauce in the microwave.  Place the bottom of a cream puff on a plate and fill with about 2 tablespoons of custard.  Place the top of the cream puff on the custard, and drizzle with the chocolate sauce.

I wasn’t surprised at the delighted response to the cream puffs.  The chocolate sauce took them from good to great, with its dark chocolate, creamy caramel and salty bite.  If you have followed our blog for any amount of time, you know my affinity for sweet and salty foods, so this is really easy to love.

Cream puff with Chocolate caramel sea salt sauce

We already knew the Rothschild Family does savory sauces well, because their horseradish sauce has earned a reserved space in our refrigerator door.  The Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt Sauce also posted a win in the dessert category at our house!

Where to buy Robert Rothschild Farms Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Sauce

    • Buy from the artisan
    • Buy from Amazon
    • Find a store  (Note: “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products. Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock. If not, ask them to carry it!)

 

 

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Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets

Was your first thought, “ho-hum, the grocery aisles are full of pretzels”?  That was kind of my reaction when I saw  Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets on the shelf, but I did a double-take when I saw the “spicy-hot!” logo and realized they were sour cream & habanero flavored.  Wow!  I picked up a box, and also bought a box of honey mustard flavor since Allen is not always a fan of super spicy foods. Pretzel Pete I poured myself a cold drink (a fire extinguisher, if needed) and prepared for taste-testing.  I was pretty excited to see the pretzels were made from sourdough, which is my favorite bread.  Ever.   The first bite was awesome!   The pretzel is softer than most, but has a very hearty crunch.  The sourdough flavor is yummy, yet the seasoning is definitely the star.  Fiery habanero flavor is balanced nicely with cool sour cream.  Allen wandered in while I was enjoying my snack,  and before I could warn him about the spice factor, he had popped a pretzel nugget in his mouth.  Surprisingly, he loved it, so the heat is not overwhelming for those who can’t tolerate as much.  We immediately broke out the honey mustard flavor to try and found them to be really different from the national brands.  Flavor permeates each bite, and isn’t overwhelmed by salt. Karl Brown, President of the family company that makes Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets, was kind enough to share the unique process that makes the pretzels so great.  They are made in single “slow” batches, and soaked in  seasonings.  Karl said other companies’ pretzel products are simply sprayed with seasoning as they move along a conveyer belt, a method he described as a “20-second shower”.  By contrast, Pretzel Pete nuggets get a “4-minute bath” in seasonings.  So no wonder the pretzels are so flavorful!  The pretzels all have complementary seasonings:  honey and mustard, sour cream and habanero, garlic and parmesan cheese (gotta find these!), and cheddar and ale.  The pretzels are baked to a softer finish than most, giving them a very distinctive texture. Pretzel Pete sounds like a character straight out of the old west, but the company is located in Pennsylvania.  The customer testimonial page on the company’s website shows the world-wide reach of this snack.  People from Germany, Australia, all over the United States, and some of our military heroes in Afghanistan wrote to say how much they love Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets.   We heartily agree! Like many artisan foods, finding Pretzel Pete products might be a challenge, but so worth the effort!  They are most often found in gourmet food and specialty stores, but the most reliable source is the company’s website. Where to buy Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets

 

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Belmont Artisan Butter Toffee Gourmet Peanuts

This post almost didn’t happen because we ate practically all of  the subject matter before realizing the container was nearly empty!  “Addictive” might be an overstatement of the attraction power of certain foods, but sometimes you just have to go with it.  This is one of those times.  Allen is the peanut lover at our house and when I brought home this can of Belmont Artisan Butter Toffee Gourmet Peanuts, I expected he would enjoy them solo.  Wrong.  I opened the can, tasted a couple of the toffee-covered peanuts and fell in love with their rich, buttery crunch.

Belmont Peanuts come from the Virginia family farm owned by Bob and Patsy Marks.  Bob and his brother, Mike, are farmers who grow peanuts, cotton, soybeans, corn, and watermelons in the heart of Virginia peanut country.  Patsy grew up on her father’s peanut farm, so these folks know peanuts.  In 1993, Bob and Patsy decided to share their quality peanuts through a mail-order business started in the basement of their home.  Patsy worked the business around the farm’s schedule and being a full-time mom.  Their children were pressed into service to help maintain the crops when things got really busy,  and son, Robert, is still active in the operation.  In 2004, David Peck joined the Marks family business, bringing peanut cooking skills he began learning as a very small boy.  Demand for the family’s products quickly required more space, and a move was made from the basement to a larger facility on the farm.

These peanuts are so awesome in part because of the Marks family’s  environmentally sound farming practices.  They alsoBelmont Peanuts use the same small-batch cooking methods David learned as a child.  If a hand-cooked batch doesn’t turn out just right, it goes in the trash.  Under the watchful eyes of Bob, Patsy, Robert, and David, quality is absolutely under control from the peanut field to your snack bowl! Belmont offers a variety of flavors, which you can order direct from the farm.

Where to buy Belmont Artisan Butter Toffee Gourmet Peanuts

 

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My mom started teaching me to cook at an early age, and one of the first desserts I learned to prepare was pineapple-upside down cake.  It is one of my favorite comfort foods to this day.  I’ve always followed Mom’s recipe faithfully until today, when I decided to make things a little more decadent, and hopefully, a little more delicious.

Mom and I share a love for rum-flavored desserts.  Rum raisin ice cream, black-bottom pie, rum cake — you get the idea.    She relies on rum extract, while I prefer the 80 proof version for cooking.  I thought a little rum and some coconut might convert our tried-and-true upside-down cake recipe to a tropical treat, and exchanging the original recipe’s vegetable shortening for real butter was a no-brainer in my upgrade strategy.  It has only been in recent years that I’ve come to realize all flours are not created equal, and now King Arthur flour has become part of the recipe.  One thing was consistent with family tradition- this cake bakes best in a cast-iron skillet.  No mere cake pan can deliver the pineapple-butter-brown sugar topping with the same wonderful caramelized texture.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  • 1-8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
  • 1-8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
  • 1 tablespoon rum (I used light rum)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Drain pineapple, reserving the juice.  Add rum to the pineapple juice, and if necessary, enough water to make 2/3 cup liquid.  Add 3 tablespoons of crushed pineapple to the juice.

On the stove top, melt 1/4 cup butter in the prepared skillet over medium low heat, then stir in the  brown sugar and the remaining crushed pineapple.  Spread evenly in skillet, then place pineapple chunks in the skillet, spacing them evenly.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of coconut.  In a mixing bowl, cream 1/3 cup butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg, and mix until thoroughly blended.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry mixture alternately with pineapple juice mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Add 1/2 cup coconut and mix thoroughly.  Spoon batter over the pineapple mixture in skillet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tests done.  While the cake is still hot, carefully turn it out of the skillet onto a serving platter.

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I’ve never made this cake when a little of the topping didn’t stick to the skillet, so be prepared to make a few repairs once you have plated the cake.  It is best served warm, and is equally delicious on the second day after a brief microwave reheat.

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There’s a check mark in the “WIN” column for this experiment.  The butter and rum added more flavor depth and moistness to the cake, while the coconut in the topping and batter made it satisfyingly tropical.  King Arthur Flour always plays a key role in my baking success.  This American employee-owned company mills high-quality flours from 100% American-grown non-GMO wheat.  If you have been following our blog for very long, you know I use it with confidence in all my baking.

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Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit

I’m over winter, completely done with cold weather, and hope not to see ice on my driveway again.  I’ve worn more heavy sweaters in the last two months than I have in the previous ten years.  With sleet and possible snow in the forecast, it seemed like a good day for chili.

IMG_0819Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit has been the foundation of my chili-making for years, but I didn’t know the historical significance of the recipe and its creator until very recently.  Homer Thomas Wilson (Wick) Fowler was born in East Texas, close to the town Karen and I call home.  After joining the Dallas Morning News in 1943, he became the first Texas reporter to go overseas in World War II.  He followed General Patton into Germany, and was one of the first journalists to enter Hiroshima after it was bombed.  Wick was known for his friendly, outgoing personality, and was in demand as a speaker after the war.  While continuing his news career, he started his own chili company and was one of the first competitors at the famed Terlingua chili cook-off.  He resumed the role of news correspondent during the Vietnam war, and with several cases of his chili mix on hand, established the Da Nang Branch of the Chili Appreciation Society International.  He accompanied H. Ross Perot to Vietnam in 1970 to seek the release of American prisoners of war.   Wick traveled the world recording history, but he is better known for his role in the culinary history of Texas.

The best thing about Wick’s kit is that there are seven individual seasoning packets, so it is easy to adjust the recipe to individual tastes.  I’ve tinkered with the standard recipe and here is the version that is a winner at our house:

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  • Brown 2 pounds of chili meat or lean ground beef and drain fat
  • Add 1 – 8 ounce can of tomato sauce and 2 cans of water
  • Add 1 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Add the salt, paprika, cumin/oregano, onion/garlic, and ground chili peppers seasoning packets
  • Add as much or as little of the red pepper seasoning packet as you like (I normally use 1/4 to 1/2 of the packet)
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • I do not use the masa seasoning packet

Although the recipe on the box recommends simmering the mixture for about 30 minutes, the flavors are more developed if slowly simmered for about 90 minutes.  Alternatively, the chili mixture can be transferred into a slow cooker, and simmered on low heat for 4 hours.

Honestly, we would have enjoyed an 80° sunny day, but our warm and spicy chili with Fritos® and freshly shredded cheese made today’s cold and dreary weather a little more bearable.

Chili bowl

Where to buy Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit

(Note:  “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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Wild Ophelia Chocolate

Katrina Markoff ‘s nickname, Wild Ophelia, was inspired by her childhood experiments with unusual ingredients and chocolate at her family’s fruit stand.  She carried her passion and creativity into her career, founding Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and she is recognized as a visionary chocolatier for her fusion of high-quality chocolate and exotic ingredients.  Katrina’s second company, Wild Ophelia, partners with other food artisans in developing upscale, distinctly American, chocolate candies.  Wild Ophelia chocolates are made with all-natural ingredients, are manufactured with 100% renewable energy, and are packaged in 100% recycled materials.  Along with the company’s commitment to producing high-quality chocolate in an environmentally responsible manner, Wild Ophelia’s mission is to educate Americans about their food sources and encourage them to really appreciate their food.

Because I’m crazy for sweet and savory combinations, we sampled Wild Ophelia All-Natural Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips Dark Chocolate Bar, which pairs Wild Ophelia’s 70% cocoa content confection with Billy Goat Chip Company’s BBQ Chips for a warm, spicy, dark chocolate treat.

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Billy Goat BBQ Potato Chips were born in the first gastropub in St. Louis.  The restaurant’s chips became so popular that commercial production was practically demanded.  The handmade chips are made from thinly-sliced potatoes dusted with Billy Goat Chip Company’s Kicker seasoning.

We love Wild Ophelia’s mission to build cooperation among American food artisans, and the great-tasting result of the partnership with Billy Goat Chip Company.  The complex flavor combination of chocolate, potato chips, and BBQ spices makes the last bite as interesting as the first.  Join Wild Ophelia’s “American road trip through chocolate”!

Where to buy Wild Ophelia Chocolates

Where to buy Billy Goat Chip Company Smokehouse BBQ Chips

(Note:  “Find a Store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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