Category Archives: Guest Blogger

21 Chocolate Bars We Ate in Equador by Jeremy and Angie

21 chocosEcuadorian chocolate has been enjoying an increase in worldwide popularity over the past few years. If you talk about chocolate with any Ecuadorian worth their salt, they will quickly point out that Pacari, an Ecuadorian chocolate company, has won dozens of international awards over the past two years, beating out traditional European chocolate makers time and time again.

After decades of merely exporting their cacao internationally, entrepreneurs in Ecuador are realizing how good their cacao is and how much pride (and money) can come from producing chocolate bars from their own cacao right here in their own country.

We had to see for ourselves what distinguishes Ecuadorian chocolate from bars processed by the premier chocolatiers around the world.  After a month of traveling around Ecuador, and 21 bars later, we found out.

What Makes Ecuadorian Chocolate So Special?

DSC01593 (450x600)What’s so special about Ecuadorian cacao, you might ask? Well, only about 5% of the cacao beans grown in the world are gourmet beans, or ‘fine aroma’ cacao. Impressively, about 60% of these fine cacao beans are grown in Ecuador. Perhaps the best of the best is the Nacional bean type. Nacional beans tend to produce floral and/or fruity notes in the finished chocolate products. Also, the flavor of the beans varies depending on the environment in which the beans are grown. There is truly something unique about this bean and the terroir in Ecuador: attempts at growing Nacional cacao in other countries, even when the plant has thrived, have failed to produce the variety of floral notes achieved in Ecuador.

I’ve told you all of this so that you don’t think I’m a gluttonous fat kid for having eaten 21 different chocolate bars during our time in Ecuador. When you’re in a specific location that makes something so unique from everything else in the world, you’ve got to try it, right? Right.

One Month, 21 Chocolate Bars

The following is a summary of the 21 bars we had during our stay in Ecuador.  Does your favorite make the list?

Hoja Verde 72% Cacao: Surprisingly good considering we’d never read anything about this brand in our research of Ecuadorian chocolate. The texture wasn’t as creamy as some of the other bars but it was decent. The flavor was sweet for a 72% bar.

La Universal: Easily the worst chocolate bar we tried in Ecuador. It was sickeningly sweet, hardly tasted like chocolate, and the texture was very chalky and not smooth or milky at all. Gross.

Valdivian Gold 72% Cacao: This bar had a very crisp snap and was relatively one-dimensional in terms of flavor. If you like really dark chocolate, you’ll probably like this bar, but we felt it was missing the complexity of flavors of other bars with similar cacao content.

Republica del Cacao: The overall theme of this brand is it is expensive. We’re talking $6.73 for a 70g bar (in the grocery store!), whereas most other Ecuadorian bars are $3 for 70g. We first tried the 75% bar which had a nice creamy texture but wasn’t very memorable. The second bar we tried was the 75% with coffee nibs. I did like the added crunch of the nibs, and intense coffee flavors, but even with the delicious flavor I still don’t think I can justify spending this much money on a chocolate bar (in Ecuador, at least).

Pacari: In general, we didn’t really care for most of the flavored Pacari bars. The texture was typically chalky, crumbly, and not creamy. We kept trying bar after bar of flavored Pacari bars because we thought they were supposed to be so internationally acclaimed, but through this process I realized that I just really don’t like ‘stuff’ in my chocolate, and their plain bars are where it’s at.

  • Chili: I thought this bar was too sweet and had way too much salt, creating a really unpleasant sweet/salty effect. Jeremy really liked this bar, however.
  • Lemongrass: The lemongrass flavor is very subtle and the chocolate was too sweet for my taste. The flavor grew on Jeremy, though, although the intensity of the lemongrass flavor varied from bite to bite.
  • Hand-Pulled Caramel: Not really sure what the point of this bar is. The “caramel” is really more like bits of taffy, which are so small that you really can’t taste them at all.
  • Andean Blueberry: One of the better flavored bars, but I still don’t like stuff in my chocolate.
  • Cherry: The cherries are nice and sour which contrasts well with the sweeter chocolate. One of the few flavored bars that we bought more of to mail home.
  • Raw 70% Cacao with Salt and Nibs: The only flavored bar that I fell absolutely in love with. The chocolate is sufficiently dark such that the salt enhances the flavor of the bar rather than creating a weird sweet/salty combo. The crunchy nibs give a nice contrast in texture to the intensely creamy chocolate.
  • Raw, 70% Cacao: The bar that we should have bought over and over again instead of all the other flavored Pacari bars. The flavors were so complex and interesting that my tongue did a double take the first time I tried it. I’m not very good at identifying specific flavors when I taste chocolate, but I definitely got the fruity notes in this bar, especially berries at the front and citrus notes at the back. The creamy texture of this bar was the complete opposite of the texture of the flavored bars.

Kallari: Our overall favorite Ecuadorian chocolate brand. The quality and texture of the flavored bars was much better, in our opinion, than that of the Pacari flavored bars. But the real star was their solid chocolate bars. We also like the fact that this company is a cooperative of native Quichua people and is socially and environmentally responsible- they’re Certified Organic and Rainforst Alliance Certified.

  • 75% Cacao with Vanilla: Very slight vanilla flavor, very crispy snap to the bar, dark and bitter tasting with little milkiness.
  • 73% Cacao with Banana Chips: Another one of those, “what were they thinking?” bars. The banana chips are really small flakes and they’re not very sweet or crunchy like I was expecting, but rather mushy and salty.  Skip it.
  • 70% with Ginger and Salt: I do love salt in my dark chocolate bars. The ginger adds a nice spiciness, too.
  • 72% Cacao with Chili and Cinnamon: Heaven. My mouth felt warm when eating this from a combination of the mild chili flavor and the smoky, spicy cinnamon flavor.
  • 60% Cacao with Roasted Coffee Beans:  A sweeter chocolate contrasts well with the tannic coffee bean chunks. The coffee bean pieces were smaller in this bar than in the Republica del Cacao bar and gave a more uniform coffee flavor.
  • 70% Cacao: I kept going back and forth between this bar and the Pacari Raw 70% bar, trying to figure out which one I liked better. The Pacari bar definitely has more complex flavors and is more bitter, while the Kallari bar has a milkier texture. They’re both fantastic so it’s really hard to choose one over the other; I guess it just depends what mood you’re in!
  • 75% Cacao: This bar has a snappier texture and more complexity in flavor than the 70% bar. For when you’re feeling sophisticated and classy.

Mindo: This small chocolate maker in Mindo is focused on high quality, innovative products. If you visit Mindo you can tour their small experimental laboratory and their small-scale garden in which they grow all the things they need to produce their chocolate bars. We tried their 67% cacao bar and the 77% cacao bar with ginger. Both of these bars tasted more bitter to us than other bars with similar cacao content, but the texture of both was nice and creamy. If you’re in Michigan, look for their bars- they have a production facility there and their bars can be found in retail stores throughout the state.

It’s hard work eating 21 chocolate bars in less than 30 days, but someone’s gotta do it.  

A Little Souvenir For Later

Of course, after going through this experiment we had to buy a few bars to ship home for later:

souvenirIf they survive, we may even give a few away on our sister site, Eat Your Passport!

Have you ever tried Ecuadorian chocolate? What did you think?  Comment below to let us know your favorite!

Thank you Guest Bloggers Jeremy and Angie! Please note that Pacari Chocolate is available on Pod72.com. We are running a summer chocolate sale. Enter promo code “summer” and get 40% off your order. $5 flat rate shipping. US only.

Don’t forget to support our Kickstarter campaign. You can get chocolate in return! Pledges stat at only $1. Tell your friends!!!

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

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Dark Chocolate

Taking Heart from Dark Chocolate by Guest Writer Claire Irons

Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but also full of surprising health benefits, so there is no need to feel guilty about embracing the taste. This is especially true if you choose high-quality bean to bar and organic varieties, which contain higher levels of cocoa. As well as giving a rich flavor, the mix of ingredients in dark chocolate have also been found to lower cholesterol, help heart health and lower blood pressure – and that’s just for starters.

Chocolate’s health benefits have been known – or rumored – for hundreds of years. It was once hailed as the food of the gods and, back as far as the 17th century, it was believed to help people to live longer. The sweet stuff was regarded as a tonic in Europe for many years, after being introduced there by the Spanish. It has also been used as a medicine in the past for a wide range of conditions, ranging from rheumatism to heart troubles and sleep disturbances.

Lowering Cholesterol – and Blood Pressure 

Many people in the 21st century are all too aware of the risks of high cholesterol levels and taking action to cut their level. Eating a small amount of chocolate is the most enjoyable way most of us can imagine of doing this, and one piece of health advice we’re all happy to take. Dark chocolate is the most beneficial type of chocolate to combat cholesterol, because of its higher levels of health-giving chemicals and because it doesn’t contain dairy ingredients, which could possibly have the effect of raising cholesterol.

blood-pressureNumerous research projects have found that a small daily dose of dark chocolate can help to lower “bad” cholesterol in the blood, as long the chocolate you consume has at least 70% cocoa content. This is believed to be because chocolate contains flavonoids, which are the same natural chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables… as well as another treat, red wine. Another benefit of flavonoids is that they contain anti-oxidants, which are well-known for their power to protect against damage to cells.

A recent study showed that eating around 100 grams of dark chocolate daily could cut the danger of both heart attacks and strokes in people with a high risk of these conditions. Lowering cholesterol isn’t the only way in which dark chocolate can help your heart, though, because researchers have also found that a few squares daily have an impact on blood pressure, too. In another compilation of 20 different studies conducted over a 10-year period, people who ate a daily portion of chocolate saw their blood pressure drop by two or three points.The best idea, of course, is to combine eating chocolate with changes to diet and taking up exercise, for a healthier lifestyle all round.

Working Out the Benefits

Female with weights, working out.Many athletes and those on a get-fit drive might think twice about yielding to chocolate temptation, but there’s evidence that it is healthy for them too. Research by scientists from the University of California, San Diego, found that small amounts of epicatechin, an active ingredient in cacao-rich dark chocolate, boosted the muscle power of middle-aged mice, suggesting that the same could be true for humans. Dark chocolate also contains  theobromine, a natural stimulant which gives energy. This means if you eat a few squares along with a hydrating post-workout drink, you are likely to find the combination can really help to lift feelings of tiredness, whether they are the result of workout or a hard day in the office. As well as helping you to overcome aching muscles and strain, a few mouthfuls could also boost your mood, not just because of its  taste, but also because of its mix of stimulants and vitamins.Dark Chocolate BarsOther Health Advantages 
Dark chocolate also has a number of other possible health benefits. One recent suggestion is that, unlike other sweet foods, it might actually help to prevent teeth decay, because of its tannin content. Another suggestion is that it might help to control diabetes, and it could even provide beauty benefits by combating wrinkles and stress on skin, again down to its flavonoid content. There are also many chocolate skin care products to choose from, ranging from face masks to body lotions, so you can get the benefit of of this amazing super-food both inside and out.
Thank you for the guest post Claire!
Don’t forget to enjoy your daily dark chocolate! It’s good for you!
Annmarie Kostyk
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Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com

From Bean to Bar Chocolate by Marcela De Vivo

I would like you all to welcome guest blogger Marcela De Vivo in her first post on something that’s been creating a big buzz in the chocolate world and that’s bean to bar chocolate.

Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com
Image Courtesy of A30­_Tsitika | Flickr.com

The production of chocolate from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar is an art form. Multiple steps are involved to ensure the flavor of the chocolate is at its finest. The specific recipe used to make the chocolate is up to the manufacturer, but the process of production is essentially the same, and has been the same for hundreds of years (with only innovations in technology that has made the process more efficient).

Chocolate making starts in the field with cacao trees. These trees flourish in tropical environments, where temperatures are high and there is consistent rainfall.

There are three main types of cocoa plants: the Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.

Criollo

Due to the plant’s susceptibility to disease, the Criollo cocoa plant is difficult to grow, but its bean is highly sought after for its distinct and complex flavor. The few plantations that grow this bean are located in Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, Venezuela, Columbia, and the Caribbean islands. Since its taste is rare and it is hard to grow, the Criollo bean is also the most expensive cocoa bean.

Forastero

The Forastero been is widely cultivated and thus the majority of the world’s chocolate comes from this type of cocoa bean. The Forastero are easy to care for, the beans grow fast and in multitude, and unlike the Criollo bean, the Forastero cocoa plant is more resistant to disease. Most Forastero plants are located in Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, West Africa, Guyana, and south Venezuela.

Amenolado

Amenolado is a variety of the Forastero cocoa. It has a mild, delicate flavor and is produced mostly in Ecuador.

Trinitario

The Trinitario plant is a fusion of the Criollo and Forastero plants. First planted on the island of Trinidad, the Trinitario combines the flavor of the Criollo plant with the sturdiness of the Criollo to produce a flavorful bean that is typically used in dark chocolate.

Harvesting

Harvesting the cacao pods is done by hand to ensure the buds are mature and ready. They are cut from the tree without damaging the flower buds or the surrounding stems and immature pods.

The cacao beans are found within these pods within a protective, fibrous white pulp. The pods itself are carefully broken to reveal the cacao beans, which are gathered onto a mat made of banana leaves or in covered  bins.

Fermentation

Yeast in the air and heat generated from the pile of beans converts the pulp surrounding cacao bean into alcohol in the process of fermentation. The beans are gently mixed as oxygen is further introduced, turning the alcohol into lactic acid or acetic acid, which leaks out of the pile to leave in its place the beans.

During this process, the beans plump and change their flavor into what are the beginnings of chocolate. The fermentation process can take as long as eight days, and at the end of it the beans are referred to as cocoa beans.

Drying

Due to their high moisture content, the beans are dried either directly in the sun or in sheds. When they reach a moisture content of about 6 or 7 percent, they are sorted and packaged based on their size and quality and then delivered to chocolate manufacturers.

 

Image Courtesy of Moyan­_Brenn | Flickr.com
Image Courtesy of Moyan­_Brenn | Flickr.com

Manufacturing

Once they reach the manufacturers, the beans are carefully inspected for defects, insects, size, aroma, and flavor. They are then thoroughly cleaned and sent to roast for 10 to 35 minutes to separate the shell from the bean kernel in a process known as cracking.

The cracked beans, or cocoa nibs, are then put through a grinding machine to liquefy the cocoa’s butter to produce chocolate liquor, or chocolate liquid.

A refining machine is used to further break down and even out the liquor. This is another crucial step in producing the distinct taste of chocolate.

Based on the manufacturer’s specificity, the conching process further rolls out the chocolate liquor and its other ingredients over hours or days for its defined taste and texture. From there, the chocolate is molded into bars, and they can get sent to other manufactures to create specific chocolate retail products.

And thus, the production process is as charming as the chocolate itself!

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. Her writing covers everything from health to marketing and manufacturing. She’s always been interested in how things are made, and as an avid chocolate lover, she finds the process fascinating!

We’re also starting to see a lot of bean to bar chocolate being made from the Nacional variety of Theobroma cacao which was previously thought to be extinct.

Have a great day!

Annmarie Kostyk, Founder Pod72

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Gnosis Raw Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Really? by Guest Blogger Lee McCoy of Chocolate Reviews and Chocolatiers.com

Gnosis Raw Chocolate

It’s not just in the chocolate industry that aficionados fight, tooth and nail, to promote the benefits or small batch, organic, artisan or ethical, locally-produced chocolate; there are large swathes of people in the ‘slow food’ movement that believe food should be made from healthy, nutritious ingredients that have been fairly traded.

There are also ever-increasing numbers of people that are shifting their diets from high-fat, low-nutrition foods to vegan, vegetarian and even becoming raw foodists. Personally I’d never go that far, but that doesn’t mean that I’d never try raw chocolate. But why should beer-drinking, heavy smoking, Big-Mac loving people give raw chocolate a try? There are no green leaves in it, there’s no nuts and pulses, it’s made of chocolate, and it has sugar …. That’ll be enough for most, but there’s more.

The problem with all these food ‘movements’ is that they often isolate the very people that could do with considering those diets. Typically the people that don’t need a gluten-free diet, a dairy-free diet, or meat-free diets are the ones that choose to live by those restrictions. But the people that have dietary intolerances, the people with very poor diets and those whose life could be enhanced by shifting their intake towards more wholesome foods, are the ones that are made to feel excluded by ‘food fascists.’ But, it doesn’t need to be that way.

Zotter Raw Dark Chocolate

What is raw chocolate?
Before we get onto what it tastes like, it may be good to know what raw chocolate is. Essentially there are many different processes which involve heat. The first is fermentation. Here the beans get their composition changed by heat from the fermentation process that is important to so many of the beverages you consume. Another feature of the chocolate making process and one of the last: conching. Here too heat is present to reduce the size of the chocolate liquor particles as well as help define the flavour of the chocolate. The middle stage that features heat is the most intense and that is where the cocoa are roasted, either in the form of beans, nibs or liquor. This has a significant impact on the flavour and chemical composition of the chocolate you taste in bar form. Hence, the flavour and texture of raw chocolate is the biggest differentiator between that and ‘normal’ chocolate.

Lulu’s Chocolate (raw chocolate)

What does raw chocolate taste like?
In my time I’ve reviewed a great variety of raw chocolate. To me, virtually all of those have an underlying metallic flavour, which can be distracting. But with raw chocolate comes a mind-set that just isn’t present with the more ‘artisan’ chocolate makers.

In the US the leading raw chocolate maker is Gnosis which is run by the very talented Vanessa Barg who combines the raw chocolate making process with a homeopathic, herbalist expertise. Here chocolate moves from just being an emotional food to a functional one. Vanessa’s chocolate not only satisfies the need for those who have a desire to consume non-cooked food, but also those that could have a more direct, beneficial effect on our bodies.

To simply cast aside ‘raw chocolate’ because you view it as some sort of ‘hippy’ fad is really missing the point. Eating fruit and vegetables isn’t a fad, its common-sense. Consuming herbs and spices that may have a benefit our health should not be dismissed.

Can it taste like normal chocolate?
The only bar that I’ve found tastes like ‘normal’ chocolate is the Zotter raw chocolate bar. This is an utterly fantastic bar of chocolate, despite being ‘hampered’ by the lack of roasting. It’s full of flavour, robust and utterly delicious. There’s only the slightest metallic taste, but this is more than compensated by a true fine chocolate flavour.

There must be a whole world of raw chocolate that will appeal to you – whatever flavours and textures, just try it, you may actually end up loving it.

Where else can I buy raw chocolate?

Have a look at:

You can read Lee’s blog at Chocolate Reviews and buy chocolate at his website Chocolatiers.

Have you tried any raw chocolate?

Annmarie Kostyk, The Chocolate Expert

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Chocolate’s Startling Health Benefits by John Robbins (Huffington Post)

John Robbins

For years now, I have been preaching about the health benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa.  Sometimes I do not feel that anyone out there is listening.  You probably know that I eat about 2 ounces of dark chocolate daily.  I have even been known to add a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to my oatmeal in the morning.  Here’s a great article by John Robbins of the Huffington Post who shares the same views as me.

The food police may find this hard to take, but chocolate has gotten a bad rap. People say it causes acne, that you should eat carob instead, that it’s junk food. But these accusations are not only undeserved and inaccurate, they falsely incriminate a delicious food that turns out to have profoundly important healing powers.

Healthy Heart

There is in fact a growing body of credible scientific evidence that chocolate contains a host of heart-healthy and mood-enhancing phytochemicals, with benefits to both body and mind.

For one, chocolate is a plentiful source of antioxidants. These are substances that reduce the ongoing cellular and arterial damage caused by oxidative reactions.

You may have heard of a type of antioxidants called polyphenols. These are protective chemicals found in plant foods such as red wine and green tea. Chocolate, it turns out, is particularly rich in polyphenols. According to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the same antioxidant properties found in red wine that protect against heart disease are also found in comparable quantities in chocolate.

Dark Chocolate

How does chocolate help to prevent heart disease? The oxidation of LDL cholesterol is considered a major factor in the promotion of coronary disease. When this waxy substance oxidizes, it tends to stick to artery walls, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. But chocolate to the rescue! The polyphenols in chocolate inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

And there’s more. One of the causes of atherosclerosis is blood platelets clumping together, a process called aggregation. The polyphenols in chocolate inhibit this clumping, reducing the risks of atherosclerosis.

High blood pressure is a well known risk factor for heart disease. It is also one of the most common causes of kidney failure, and a significant contributor to many kinds of dementia and cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate daily can reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.

Aspirin

Why are people with risk factors for heart disease sometimes told to take a baby aspirin every day? The reason is that aspirin thins the blood and reduces the likelihood of clots forming (clots play a key role in many heart attacks and strokes). Research performed at the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, found that chocolate thins the blood and performs the same anti-clotting activity as aspirin. “Our work supports the concept that the chronic consumption of cocoa may be associated with improved cardiovascular health,” said UC Davis researcher Carl Keen. (Read more about this study in my book Chocolate is Healthy!)

Chocolate is Healthy! by Annmarie Kostyk

How much chocolate would you have to eat to obtain these benefits? Less than you might think. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Why, then, has chocolate gotten such a bum reputation? It’s the ingredients we add to it. Nearly all of the calories in a typical chocolate bar are sugar and fat.

As far as fats go, it’s the added fats that are the difficulty, not the natural fat (called cocoa butter) found in chocolate. Cocoa butter is high in saturated fat, so many people assume that it’s not good for your cardiovascular system. But most of the saturated fat content in cocoa butter is stearic acid, which numerous studies have shown does not raise blood cholesterol levels. In the human body, it acts much like the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.

Cocoa Butter

Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains added butterfat which can raise blood cholesterol levels. And it has less antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals than dark chocolate.

Does chocolate contribute to acne? Milk chocolate has been shown to do so, but I’ve never heard of any evidence incriminating dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is also healthier because it has less added sugar. I’m sure you don’t need another lecture on the dangers of excess sugar consumption. But if you want to become obese and dramatically raise your odds of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, foods high in sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) are just the ticket.

Are chocolate’s benefits limited to the health of the body? Hardly. Chocolate has long been renown for its remarkable effects on human mood. We are now beginning to understand why.

Theobroma cacao

Chocolate is the richest known source of a little-known substance called theobromine, a close chemical relative of caffeine. Theobromine, like caffeine, and also like the asthma drug theophylline, belong to the chemical group known as xanthine alkaloids. Chocolate products contain small amounts of caffeine, but not nearly enough to explain the attractions, fascinations, addictions, and effects of chocolate. The mood enhancement produced by chocolate may be primarily due to theobromine.

Chocolate also contains other substances with mood elevating effects. One is phenethylamine, which triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins and potentates the action of dopamine, a neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure. Phenethylamine is released in the brain when people become infatuated or fall in love.

Another substance found in chocolate is anandamide (from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which means peaceful bliss). A fatty substance that is naturally produced in the brain, anandamide has been isolated from chocolate by pharmacologists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. It binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as cannabinoids — the psychoactive constituents in marijuana — and produces feelings of elation and exhilaration. (If this becomes more widely known, will they make chocolate illegal?) (FYI – Dr. Andrew Weil talks about this in his book From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs)

If that weren’t enough, chocolate also boosts brain levels of serotonin. Women typically have lower serotonin levels during PMS and menstruation, which may be one reason women typically experience stronger cravings for chocolate at these times in their cycles. People suffering from depression so characteristically have lower serotonin levels that an entire class of anti-depressive medications called serotonin uptake inhibitors (including Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) have been developed that raise brain levels of serotonin.

Green and Black's Organic, Fair-Trade Dark Chocolate

Since I am known as an advocate of healthy eating, I’m often asked about my food indulgences. One of my favorite desserts is a piece of dark organic chocolate, along with a glass of a fine red wine.

I do have a policy, though, to eat only organic and/or fair trade chocolate. This is because of what I have learned about child slavery in the cocoa trade. (BBC produced a great documentary on the subject.)

May your life be full of healthy pleasures.

John Robbins is the author of many bestsellers including “The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World”, the classic “Diet For A New America,” and “The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less.” He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, and Green America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. To learn more about his work, visit www.johnrobbins.info

The perfect quote on Facebook today… “For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect.”

Dark chocolate is a super power food. The problem is that most people still think milk chocolate and chocolate candy when they think about chocolate. Hopefully, with the proper education from us, people will finally get it! Grab some dark chocolate to munch on while you read!  Enjoy

Annmarie Kostyk

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Guest Blogger: Paris Patisseries on Chuao by Francois Pralus

We have not had a guest blogger in awhile!  Today I bring you Adam Wayda of Paris Patisseries talking about a recent chocolate tasting he conducted on the Pralus Chuao chocolate bar.  Totally brilliant review!

Long before I overindulged in pastry, I got to know chocolate. Having Biagio Abbatiello as my purveyor of fine bars, from his luxe chocolate shop here in DC, made it easy. I’ve made my way around the world, from Trinidad to Madagascar, Indonesia, Costa Rica and beyond many times over – in dark and milk alike. Yes, even white, too. Along the way, I’ve developed some favorites, well-respected in the chocolate community, such as Amedei’s Porcelana or Domori’s Apurimac, and some other less renowned gems, like Patric’s 67% or Vestri’s 50g Pistachi. Yet, aside from a thorough romp around Michel Cluizel’s offerings, I haven’t delved into many of the French chocolatiers. But that’s about to change.

Usually when I visit Biagio’s shop, I get easily swayed by something new and rare. It’ll start innocently, when one of the salespeople tosses out something like, “Did you know this is one of only two bars in the world produced from Congolese beans?” And 20 minutes later I’ll be walking out with $50 in chocolate. So last week I went into the shop determined to buy some of the French bars I’d never sampled. Pralus’s Chuao immediately caught my eye, not only because of its swank packaging but because, since it was a Chuao, it would be fun to compare it to Amedei’s masterpiece Chuao, purportedly the finest chocolate in the world. The verdict?…

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

Color me impressed. Pralus’s Chuao might not have quite put the “wow” in Ch-wow, as Amedei’s version does, but it was definitely ch-great. I found the initial snap fairly satisfying – crisp without being too firm. I gave two chomps to help it melt a bit faster, picked up on a sweet but very mild hint of gorgonzola . . . and, within about 5 seconds, was hit with a pronounced acidity that, interestingly, cooled-down very quickly and began to balance itself out with some more muted bitter tones. Light, but very obvious, waves of strawberry became abundant and were held nicely by a classic and super sophisticated backdrop of Criollo and subtle oakiness. Or, put more succinctly . . . yum.

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

The texture, too, stood up pretty well. Though there was a slight grain, it was still dazzlingly smooth for a 75%. And the lingering finish to the overall flavor and texture? Almost as smooth as a baby’s bottom, though short-lived. There was a slightly bitter/tanniny, though moreso creamy/woody, flavor quality to the lingering elements. But, again, I found that it slipped away within a minute or so.

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar Inside (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

Aside from thoughts on the taste experience, you’re probably wondering, “PP, what’s with all these freaky lines on the inside of the chocolate?” Well, friends, welcome to the pour pattern and cocoa butter crystal formation found in many a fine bar – as seen in 16MP of ultra-hi-res. I only wish I could speak to the physics of it, but the gist is that the spread of the liquid chocolate from the center of the mold into which its poured, combined with different rates of cooling, from top/bottom and outside edge to inside, form some wild striations. In some bars, you can barely see a thing; in the Chuao, it’s like a Paleontology exhibit.

You probably thought the pastry cross-sections I take in my patisserie reviews were pretty fun, but I know the true chocophiles are sitting there saying, “No ******* way! Are you going to show this for every bar you review?” Count on it. Life wouldn’t be complete without a catalog of 30x magnification crystal patterns of the finest bars in the world. (Remember: You can click on any photo to see it larger in the PP image vault.)

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar Surface (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

Let me clarify that all the preceding photos got cleaned up to remove many of scratches, speckles and more that come about during shipping of the product. The shot below, however, is unaltered, so all the ugly bits are still in place! Kinda sad that an $11 piece of chocolate, weighing in at a mere 50g, gets banged-up so much, but it’s a rough road from France, my friends.

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar Interior (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

One thing that does not occur in shipping is air bubbles, which you can see clearly in the above and the below. Monsieur Pralus would do well to tighten up the quality control a bit. But, whatever, I’m mostly concerned with the flavor and texture.

Francois Pralus Chuao Chocolate Bar Air Bubbles (Photo Courtesy of Paris Patisseries)

So, yes, all things considered, I would definitely recommend Pralus’s Chuao. What it lacks in magic, it makes up for in pure sophistication. And though you’ll only ever see me do this for bars, as I wouldn’t want to **** off my patissier/chocolatier friends in Paris by doing this to their chocolate pieces and fine pastries, here’s how I’d score this along various 0-10 scoring dimensions of my own development (with a nod to Susan Cohen for coming up with the name of the first criterion)…

Brashness: 3.5
Mouth feel: 8
Grit: 1.5
Snap: 6.5
Acidity / Bitterness: 7 / 3.5
Personality: Sophisticated
Overall Opinion: 8

If you’re now thinking, “Where can I get this?!” I’m not quite sure what to tell you. Short of already having a good chocolate shop near you, it’s difficult to find one with a broad selection of ultra-luxe brands. Your best bet is to try to track this and others down online. Or, if you’re in the Washington, DC area, you can just swing by Biagio Fine Chocolate at 1904 18th Street, (202) 328-1506 ‎. Tell them Adam from the pastry blog sent you. They know yours truly all too well ;)

Feel entitled to enjoy goodies like this all the time? Follow Paris Patisseries on Facebook, on the Paris Patisseries website, and on Twitter. That’s where you can keep up with my latest pastry adventures and see extra goodies deemed too awesome for the blog.

You are not paying attention if you did not learn something from that chocolate review!  Now go order yourself a bar and try your own tasting at home!

Annmarie Kostyk

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Guest Blogger Jeff Deasy of American Feast: Robin’s Handcrafted & Artisanal Chocolate Sauces

Today’s guest blogger is Jeff Deasy of American Feast!  Jeff’s blog teaches us that fabulous food can be sustainable food too.  Jeff loves chocolate (who doesn’t?) and he’ll be sharing a fantastic line of chocolate sauces made by Robin’s Chocolate Sauce.  You can also follow Jeff and American Feast on Facebook and Twitter too!

Robin's Chocolate Sauce's Handcrafted & Artisanal Chocolate Sauces

Can a meal be truly great without a dessert? “Maybe” was a reply that came up a few times during a small, informal poll. And then there was a welcome completion of the thought: “But why chance it?”

Our friend Robin sees no need to to take that chance and she has created a selection gourmet chocolate sauces capable of satisfying dessert lovers everywhere. Place a jar of her creation in a microwave oven for just 30 seconds and a warm sauce du jour is ready for service over a favorite treat. Ice cream, cheesecake, fresh fruit, or homemade pound cake will all do nicely.

Robin

Robin’s Chocolate Sauce is handcrafted in northern Maine from a family recipe using only the finest, freshest ingredients. She combines pure organic cocoa, organic cane sugar and organic vanilla with local farm-fresh dairy ingredients to create a dessert topping that is simple and sophisticated, exotic and homemade. No artificial ingredients, just pure decadent goodness.

What began as a holiday gift for friends and family has gained quite a reputation among sweet tooths, cocoa connoisseurs and grand kids throughout Maine. Robin made her first batch of “Original Recipe” organic chocolate sauce in a 12-gallon steam kettle in 2004. Since then, she, her husband, and their two sons have built up the family business to produce six distinct varieties. Robin processes the sauce patiently in small batches to produce a luscious, creamy texture and flavor.

Great Dessert for a Great Cause

Awareness of global environmental issues is at the heart of the business. Robin became conscious of the not-so-sweet realities of the chocolate trade by researching where and how her ingredients are grown and produced, and by whom. She is committed to using organic, shade grown and local or Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients whenever possible. These standards are crucial to maintaining a sustainable environment, protecting migratory birds and creating healthy communities—and your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren will notice the sweet difference.

Robin’s Chocolate Sauce is more than a delicious dessert topping. It’s a resource for the education, awareness and advocacy of the issues concerning communities and the environment both locally and globally. Every delicious spoonful of sauce is helping make a difference.

National Wildlife Federation

With every purchase of Robin’s Chocolate Sauce, you’re supporting the mission of the National Wildlife Federation to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. What could be better than getting some delicious treats and supporting a great cause!

If you’d like to order some of Robin’s sublime chocolate sauces go to any of the following:

Robin’s Fair Trade™ Variety Pack

Robin's Tropical Dark Chocolate Sauce

Tropical Dark Chocolate Sauce: With just a hint of natural lime flavor, Tropical Dark is the perfect complement to fresh fruit slices. Try lemon or lime sorbet or a mixed melon cup with this variety. Dip cherries, orange, or pineapple slices in a fondue made with this dark, delicious chocolate. Or try making some Tropical Waffles!

Blueberry Chocolate Sauce: A surprising combination of Robin’s Original Recipe, natural blueberry flavor and a touch of cinnamon. A bit like chocolate blueberry pie in a jar! Serve as a topping for plain cheesecake or try a DownEast Sundae made with vanilla ice cream, fresh Maine blueberries and Robin’s Blueberry Chocolate Sauce. The perfect ending to your next lobster bake!

Robin's Ginger Pear Chocolate Sauce

Ginger Pear Chocolate Sauce: The heady aroma and flavor of freshly grated ginger and chocolate combined with the rich, smooth flavor of pear bring a touch of the Orient to the dessert table. It’s a recipe inspired by Robin’s mother and grandmother, New England cooks who always put extra ginger into their homemade gingersnaps, and absolutely delicious when served with plain pound cake. Robin’s Ginger Pear Chocolate Sauce is made with 70% dark chocolate and Fair Trade Certified™.

Orange Spice Chocolate Sauce: The piquant flavors of orange and Caribbean spices make this variety a delicious topping for a steaming dish of bread pudding, straight from the oven. Or try an “Orange Blossom Special”, a sundae made with mandarin orange slices, vanilla ice cream and Robin’s Orange Spice Chocolate Sauce, made with 70% dark chocolate and Fair Trade Certified™.

Robin's Raspberry Chocolate Sauce

Raspberry Chocolate Sauce: Made with Robin’s Original Recipe, this popular variety has just enough light raspberry flavor to give it that special “zing.” Especially delicious with rich chocolate desserts, dark fudge brownies or chocolate bread pudding. For a light touch, serve with sorbet and fresh raspberries.

Robin’s Original Chocolate Sauces: Robin’s Originals are made from the finest organic, shade grown cocoas from Central America and the Caribbean. Made from the finest organic, shade grown cocoas in Central America and the Caribbean, Robin’s Original Recipe is smooth, luscious and deliciously rich, with a deep chocolate flavor. Raspberry Chocolate Sauce has just enough light raspberry flavor to give it that special “zing.” With natural blueberry flavor and a touch of cinnamon the Blueberry is a bit like chocolate blueberry pie in a jar!

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Guest Blogger Rococo Chocolates on London Chocolate Week

Today’s guest blogger is Rococo Chocolates in London, England to tell us about what’s happening in their chocolate shops over the upcoming London Chocolate Week!

Exciting and delicious news for all chocolate enthusiasts!

London, England Chocolate Week is approaching and all the lovers of chocolate are cordially invited to Rococo Chocolates for some delicious events at Rococo Chocolates at our flagship store, 5 Motcomb Street:

Rococo Chocolates Chocolate Bars

Monday 11th October

2:30pm to 3pm

Mini Cheese & Chocolate Tasting

Price: £5/head
Theme: Figs, Cheese & Chocolate
Be transported to a world of delights by sampling our most unusual chocolate truffles and bars and pairing them rather originally with some fantastic seasonal flavors.

7.30pm

Bespoke Chocolate Dinner Followed by a wine and chocolate pairing.

Price: £15/head for the 3 course dinner. £10/head wine and chocolate pairing.

Start the week with a fabulous dinner at Hardy’s Brasserie in Marylebone hosted by Chantal Coady and Laurent Couchaux. With courses based on recipes from Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady. End the meal with a selection of wines paired with our hand made chocolates. Places are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment.

Rococo Chocolates Hot Lips' Chilli Truffles and Red Lips

Tuesday 12th October

2:30pm to 3pm

Mini Tea & Chocolate Tasting

Price: £5/head
Savour some fabulous high quality teas from Bellocq with our hand made truffles and bars.

Wednesday 13th October

2:30pm to 3pm

Mini Cheese & Chocolate Tasting

Price: £5/head
Theme: Walnuts, Cheese & Chocolate

Visit us during your lunch break for a mini tasting of our divine chocolates paired with some delicious cheeses and seasonal nuts.

Chocolate Unwrapped by Sarah Jane Evans

Thursday 14th October

3pm to 4pm

Chocolate Psychotherapy

Price:£10/head
Price includes consultation and tasting. Please book in advance as we have a limited number of places for this session. Chocolate therapy for everyone! Find out what your chocolate preferences say about you. Session with expert Murray Langham.

6pm to 7pm

Chocolate Unwrapped

Fascinating journey, matching some finest wines with Rococo chocolates guided by Master of Wine and author of Chocolate Unwrapped: Taste & Enjoy the World’s Finest Chocolates (published September 2010), Sarah Jane Evans. Test your taste buds with an explosion of flavors and some unexpected pairings.
Available Places: 16, Price: £30/ head (includes generous tastings of wines, chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, goody bags and Sarah Jane’s new book!)

Rococo Chocolates Hot Chocolate

Friday 15th October

2:30pm to 3pm

Mini Cheese & Chocolate Tasting

Price: £5/head
Theme: Prunes , Cheese & Chocolate

Taste some delightful autumn fruits with a selection of ripe wonderful cheeses paired interestingly with our chocolates.

Saturday 16th October

All Day

Living Chocolate Exhibit

Free For Everyone!

‘Bean to Bar’ demonstration, using our own cocoa bean grinder to grind our own cocoa nibs from Grenada into chocolate.

10am to 12pm

Chocolate Cake Competition

Enter a special Rococo competition by bringing in your best chocolate cake, made with Rococo chocolate. All cakes will be tasted by our Prof du Choc Laurent Couchaux as well as by Chantal Coady herself. The winner will have their recipe published on the Rococo website and will also receive a voucher for a chocolate tasting at our flagship store!
Available Places: 12
Price: Free.
To enter: Please bring your cake to Rococo Chocolates at 5 Motcomb St. branch on Saturday morning before 12pm.

6pm to 6:45pm

Chocolate and Wine tasting

Experience some unusual and exciting pairings of wine and chocolate with our own sommelier Luciana Girotto.
Available Places: 12
Price: £5/head.

Rococo Chocolates Nougat

Sunday 17th October:

11am to 11:45am

Chocolate breakfast with Chocolate story for kids.

Prolong your lazy Sunday morning by coming to Rococo Chocolates for a chocolate breakfast of hot chocolate & mini chocolate croissant while listening to chocolate fairy tale.
Available Places: 12
Price: £ 5/ head

2pm to 3pm

Chocolate Painting for children

Be an artist for one hour, create and design chocolate painting that looks and smells fantastic! Available Places: 12, Price; £8/head

Please contact Rococo Chocolates at the 5 Motcomb Street branch for details.
Tel.: 020 72450993

Rococo Chocolates Chocolate
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Guest Blogger Jill Ditmire of Mass Ave. Wine Shop and Chocolate Covered Bacon

Some Selections at Mass Ave. Wine Shop

Our guest blogger today is Jill Ditmire of Mass Avenue Wine Shop in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Jill is the ultimate foodie combining her love of food, wine, beers, desserts  (Mermaid Treats)and in one location.  She loves her chocolate too!  She has wine tastings, live music, lots of sampling going on and she supports the arts.  Perhaps a glass of wine, a tarot card reading or a massage and a Chocolate Caramel Cupcake Mistake is more your cup of tea.  To follow…a recipe for the Chocolate Covered Bacon…because I know that you’re definitely going to want to make that at home!

More Selections from Mass Ave. Wine Shop

Jill recently attended the 2010 Indiana State Fair.  Most people still think of state fairs as 4-H competitions and lots of farmers.  They are there too, but  state fairs are about enjoying yourself and partaking in the food, chocolate and wines that local artisans are creating.  Here’s a bit of what Jill experienced at this year Indiana State Fair.  You can visit Jill at Mass Ave. Wine Shop in person Monday-Saturday 12pm – 9 pm.  I highly recommend a snack there too!  Might I suggest the Croque Merman?  It’s Prosciutto, fontenilla, carmelized onions, currants and cayenne chutney on toasted farmhouse bread.  To go?  Get some chocolate Mermaid treats to go along with some wine, an assortment of cheeses and perhaps some nice side salads and give up cooking for the weekend?  You can also follow Mass Ave. Wien Shop on Twitter and Facebook.  I’m hoping Jill puts out a cookbook to share her recipes with us…Did I mention Mass Ave. Wine Shop offers over 100 different beers and over 100 wines under $15?  You really need to go.  Send your friends too!

DEEP FRIED WINE

2010 Indiana State Fair Year of the Pig

Yes, it’s time once again to toss moderation into the corn hopper. Or maybe the pig trough as the 2010 Indiana State Fair celebrates “the year of the pig”. So pig out on these one of a kind fair food items and wines that if you could drink with, might make the gustatory experience even more glorious.    The wines are widely available at Indianapolis area wine shoppes during and after the state fair. The food however, is a once a year experience.

Krispy Creme Donut Burger

Doughnut Burger-(Krispy Kreme “buns” wrap around a beef burger. Oh my.) Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz is the gulper for this calorie groaner (OVER 1000!) Black raspberry, white pepper/ginger spice highlight the flavors in this full bodied bubbly. YES– a “champagne”. It is big, rich, wacky. A match made in food heaven. Maybe some of the heart healthy tannins/resvertrol in the shiraz grape will offset the humongous amount of cholesterol and fat in the burger.

Pigs in Mud (Chocolate Covered Bacon)

Pigs in Mud (Dark Chocolate Covered Bacon) Barista Pinotage- this earthy dry red from South Africa has distinct aroma of roast coffee. Flavors show rich dark fruit and mocha. PERFECT combo.

Pulled Pork Taco– Root beer sauced slow roasted pork served with traditional taco toppings needs an EZ drinking red. Gran Familia Rioja from Spain does the trick. Medium bodied with delicious aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, vanilla.

Dairy Bar Milkshake-(Chocolate or Vanilla soft serve ice cream done as a thick drink) Chocovine could be added and then this State Fair staple gets an International twist. Mooovalous. Why isn’t it the year of the cow?

ChocoVine Wine

Deep Fried Oreo-(Just what it says) Of course Chocovine would be another perfect pairing as it is the adult version of Chocola (and wasn’t Cowboy Bob and Sourdough the Singing Biscuit a regular feature of the State Fair ‘back in the day’?) As if deep fried chocolate cake and cream isn’t decadent enough then add Malamado Malbec Port. This rich full bodied fortified wine from Argentina oozes lush aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, mulberry, white pepper.  A glass of this might just  be more satisfying than the deep fried fix.

Deep Fried Oreos

IF you really COULD bring wine to the Fair:
Badger Mountain Pure White- Boxwine extraordinaire. 4 bottles equals one box. This fabulous organic offering from Washington State is blend of off dry riesling and succulent smooth semillon. Chill it and swill it. Fits in a cooler, a backpack, a golf cart, a stroller. Oh, ok, well…

By the way. The Indy International Wine Competition renamed and moved its self to Purdue University this year and is no longer affiliated with the Indiana State Fair.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Ingredients:
6-8 slices thick cut, best-quality bacon
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the bacon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven, until bacon is cooked to your liking. 15 minutes for soft bacon, 20 minutes for crispy bacon. Let bacon cool on the parchment paper for 5 minutes then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

Meanwhile set up a double boiler. Heat a large saucepan filled with water over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer. Set a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water. Add the dark chocolate and stir with a fork until smooth and completely melted.

Cover another baking sheet with parchment paper. Using tongs, carefully dip the bacon into the melted chocolate turning to coat all sides in chocolate. Transfer to the clean sheet of waiting parchment paper. Repeat with remaining slices of bacon. Let set until chocolate is hard.

Pigs in Mud (Chocolate Covered Bacon)
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Guest Blogger Levana Kirschenbaum with an Entire Chocolate Menu

Chef Levana Kirschenbaum

Today’s guest blogger is Chef Levana Kirschenbaum of Levana Cooks and Levana Desserts.  Chef Levana has a catering business, a bakery and a restaurant in Manhattan, New York.  She believes in simple and healthy when it comes to cooking and baking.  You can buy Chef Levana’s Cookbooks on Amazon or at your local bookstore.  Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook and Twitter too! Think chocolate is just for dessert and snacks.  Think again!  She’s be kind enough to share her favorite chocolate recipes with us today, so get out your grocery list and get everything you need.  Have  a fantastic day!

Chocolate Anytime Menu:

Black Bean Chocolate Soup
Chicken Breast with Mole Sauce
Assorted Truffles
Chili Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Coconut Pie

Black Bean Chocolate Soup

Serves 12

Beans and chocolate? I recently teased my friend Sara into identifying the odd ingredient in this soup, which she loved. I enjoyed watching her racking her brains, and didn’t feel any guilt about it: After all, she was working for food, and was kept guessing through a second bowl. PS, she never did identify it, she said all she could tell is that this was like no other bean soup she ever had. That’s the magic of chocolate!
Canned beans will work here just fine, as the soup has lots of fabulous flavors going for it.

Ingredients:

Sofrito:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, quartered
4 large cloves garlic
4 ribs celery, peeled and cut in thirds
1 large red pepper, seeded and quartered
1 bunch flat parsley, stems and all
1/2 small bunch cilantro, stems cut off
6 pounds good quality canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
3 tablespoons bottled hot sauce
6 bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground
3 quarts (12 cups) water
2/3 cup grated semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano

Directions:

Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Make the sofrito: In a food processor, coarsely grind the onion, garlic, celery, pepper, parsley and cilantro. Add ground mixture to the hot oil, and sauté until translucent (if you have sofrito in your freezer, skip this step; use 1 cup thawed sofrito and proceed with the recipe from this point). Add the beans, tomato paste, wine, hot sauce, bay leaves and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 30 minutes. Add the chocolate, cumin and oregano and cook for 15 minutes more. Adjust texture and seasonings. Serve hot.

Chocolate Black Bean Soup with Onion and Sour Cream Garnish

Chicken Breasts with Mole Sauce

I can’t tell you how many times I have knocked my guests’ socks off with this dish: Improbable ingredient combo, simple preparation, amazing dish!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped fine
8 chicken cutlets (do not pound thinner)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
Good pinch saffron
Good pinch cayenne
6 bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the cutlets, juice, saffron, cayenne and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, 20 minutes. Transfer the cutlets to a platter. Whisk in the tomato paste and chocolate chips and cook one more minute. Pour the sauce over the cutlets, and serve hot with rice.

Chicken Breasts in Mole Sauce

Chocolate Truffles

I think after sharing this recipe and all its variations with you, I am finally
satisfied that all of you chocolate lovers will think of me very kindly. For the
ultimate gift, multiply this recipe, then divide in 2-3 equal parts and add a
different flavor to each. I wish you this kind of danger everyday! They look
as professional and taste as delicious as if you had bought them in the best
boutique. A guest recently caused total consternation at my dinner table
when he declared he didn’t care for chocolate. A chocolate-addict friend of
mine seated near him looked at him in horror, as if he had admitted to being
a criminal of some sort, and proceeded to ignore him the rest of the meal.
Fortunately for him, the evening was just winding down! Could it be he had
just never tasted good chocolate before? Could he get rehab?

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy or rice milk powder
1/2 cup soy or other non-dairy milk (oat, rice, grain, almond)
1/2 cup natural non-hydrogenated margarine (health-food stores)
2 cups semisweet real chocolate chips, only the best
1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon

Directions:

Whisk the milk powder and the milk in a small saucepan until smooth. Turn
on the heat, set at a low flame, and add the margarine, chocolate chips,
cocoa powder and sugar. Whisk until the mixture is just melted. Turn off the
heat, add the egg yolk and brandy and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate
the mixture until set, a couple hours. Shape into little balls (do not smooth:
leave them a little bumpy, that is the trademark of truffles), and roll into
cocoa powder. Keep refrigerated and tightly covered in plastic wrap until
serving.

Variations:
Coffee truffles: Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee.
Peppermint truffles: Omit the rum, and add a few drops peppermint
extract (health food stores).
Nut truffles: Add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts or
pecans to the mixture. Or place a toasted hazelnut in the center of each
truffle.
Raspberry truffles: Omit the rum, and add 1/2 cup seedless raspberry
jam and 3 tablespoons Creme de Cassis to the mixture.
Peanut butter truffles: Replace the margarine with 1/2 cup smooth
peanut butter.
Roll the truffles in chocolate sauce or ground toasted nuts instead of
cocoa powder.

Chocolate Truffles

Chili Hot Chocolate

A friend recently brought me a box of insanely expensive hot chocolate mix. I couldn’t wait to try it, and….I was frankly underwhelmed. What’s the big deal, I thought? It certainly didn’t beat boiling some milk or dairy-free milk, with some good cocoa powder, a little sugar and maybe a little vanilla extract or other flavoring. Yes, that’s the whole story! No problem making your own natural mix the instant way, using milk powder, dairy or not, and mixing it with boiling water, making a delicious cup of hot cocoa in a jiffy. I still make it for my children, who now enjoy it with their children. Love of hot chocolate is forever: thank God for small blessings!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, best quality
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 cups milk, preferably whole, but low-fat is okay (dairy-free milk OK)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (get racy and try other real flavorings: chili powder, cinnamon, cloves etc….)
1 to 2 tablespoons coffee powder, optional, if you want mocha.

Directions:

In a small saucepan, whisk all ingredients until smooth, and bring to just below boiling. Whisk again to make the mixture frothy. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings

Individual serving: combine 3 tablespoons chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 cup milk, into a large cup. Microwave about 2 minutes. Mix until smooth.

Chili Hot Chocolate

Chocolate Coconut Tart

For this fabulous tart, celebrating yet another great love match -chocolate and coconut – you are under no pressure whatsoever. Make the crust a couple days before dessert time, and make the filling even a few days before serving, then pour the filling over the crust the day you are serving the dessert. Of course there is no problem making both the crust and the filling on serving day, just as long as you allow the filling to set.

Ingredients:

Crust:
1/2 cup natural margarine (health food stores)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups flour, any flour, a little more if needed

Filling:
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup natural margarine (health food stores)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, only the best
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups unsweetened grated coconut (health food stores)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
Make the crust: in a food processor, cream the margarine, sugar and egg yolks until fluffy. Add the cocoa and flour and pulse just 3-4 seconds, adding a little flour if needed to make a smooth-firm dough. Working quickly, starting from the center toward the sides, spread the crust evenly in a 12-inch spring form pie pan, coming up the sides, patting firmly.  Prick the crust with a fork all over. Bake about 30 minutes. Store covered at room temperature up to 2 days before filling and serving.
Make the filling: In a saucepan, whisk the coconut milk and tapioca flour until smooth. Turn the flame on low, and add the margarine, chocolate chips, cocoa, rum and sugar. Whisk only until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Quickly whisk in the eggs one at a time, and whisk 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Turn off the flame, and fold in the coconut. Refrigerate the filling until firm, and pour over the baked crust. Serve at room temperature, alone or with coconut sorbet.

Chocolate Coconut Tart

CHOCOLATE SHOPPING:

NATURAL MARGARINE
CONF. SUGAR
EGGS
COCOA POWDER
FLOUR
CC
RUM
COCONUT MILK
SUGAR
TAPIOCA FLOUR
GRATED COCONUT
RICE MILK
VANILLA
COFFEE
SOY MILK POWDER
WASABI
CARAMEL EXTRACT
GREY SALT
CUTLETS
CRANBERRY SAUCE
OO
CAYENNE
SAFFRON
BAY LEAVES
WHITE WINE
TOMATO PASTE
ONIONS
PARSLEY
CILANTRO
GARLIC
RED PEPPER
CELERY
BLACK BEANS SOAKED
RED WINE
RED HOT
CUMIN
OREGANO

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