Eat More Chocolate

Give yourself a break and have some chocolate. Many studies have shown that there is antioxidants in the cocoa bean that are known to help lower blood pressure and keep arteries clean. Here are a few helpful hints:

1. Choose dark chocolate. The darker chocolates are less processed and contain more disease fighting flavanols than chocolate that is processed. In general the higher the percent of cocoa the better. Look at the ingredient list before purchasing because some manufacturers list sugar as the first ingredient. The better chocolate will list cocoa first.

2. Always check for sugar content. If sugar is down the list at number three or more, than it is a good bet this is a dark chocolate. The chocolates to search for usually have cocoa as number one and a fruit or nut as number two.

3. Practice portion control. It is hard when everything on the shelf is actually more than one serving. To reap the benefits associated with chocolate limit yourself to 1-2 ounces or roughly 150-250 calories per day.

The list of choices is enormous. Some of the best dark chocolates come from Europe, though some US producers are getting into the game. Alter Eco, Chocolove, Dagoba, Lindt and Endangered Species are all in the growing trend of treats. You can find these brands in just about any grocery store and even at some convenience stores around the nation.

Fruit fondues, trail mix, chocolate smoothies. So many choices, so little time. The next time you have a craving reach for the dark chocolate. It is satisfying and delicious.

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Milk Chocolate And Cranberry

Have you ever thought to use the cranberry beyond the holiday season? The cranberry thrives best during the fall and winter months , but many grocers carry the frozen berry all year round. The cranberry is grown in the bogs of  Southeastern Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. With a tart flavor, ruby-red color and named a “superfruit” due to their nutrient content and antioxidant qualities, why not give them a try.

When using the cranberry in a recipe, think of it as the shy sister of the raspberry and blueberry. Now you can imagine why it is so versatile beyond the usual sauce! You may have seen “Craisins” in the grocery store. These are dried cranberries and can be used in many of your dessert recipes. However, this humble whole fruit deserves the spotlight at your next gathering, no matter if it is dried or not.

Milk Chocolate Cranberry Bark

12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (look for high quality such as Lindt or Ghiradellighiradellimilkchocolate

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) dried cranberries

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) pistachios, lightly toasted

1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) candied orange zest, finely diced

Melt chocolates, separately, in a double boiler until smooth. Fold the cranberries and pistachios into the milk chocolate. Fold the candied zest into the dark chocolate. Pour the milk chocolate mixture into a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, spreading into an even layer with a spatula. Allow to set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, continue to stir the dark chocolate to prevent it from setting. Pour the dark chocolate over the milk chocolate, making sure to pour all over to minimize the need for additional spreading, making sure to cover the first layer completely. Let set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before attempting to cut. DO NOT cover or refrigerate because any condensation could make the bark grainy. To servecranberrybark break into pieces, storing any leftovers in an airtight container.

Other ideas are a Cranberry Chocolate Pie, Cranberry Stuffed Baked Apples, Cranberry Mousse, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Souffle and a Spiked Cranberry Granita.

Happy Baking!

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Happy New Year!

With the new year just starting what will you do this year? Are you planning any trips? If you have tried all of the chocolates in your town and still want more, there are many chocolate houses and factories across the United States to get your fill. Here are a few suggestions to get the planning started:

Payard in New York is owned by Francois Payard, a James Beard “Best Pastry Chef” award winner. Located at 1293 3rd Ave in New York City, this bistro boasts fabulous chocolate desserts and many other treats. In 2013, their dark chocolate, key lime and slated caramel chocolates won awards at the International Chocolate ceremony.      vanillarumtruffle

While in New York, you may want to stop by the Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop at 350 Hudson Street. Delve into the delicious chocolate of one of the world’s most renowned chocolate chefs. All of the chocolates are made rich and thick and bursting with flavor. jacquestorreschocolate

It may not be a household name, but Scharffen Berger Chocolates in Berkley, California is a great place to watch how chocolate is made. A small production facility allows you to watch the process from start to finish. Started in 1997 by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger, their chocolates are used by many top chefs. Truly distinctive chocolates with balance and complexity—not unlike those found in exceptional wines.

Finally, while in the San Francisco area, take a jaunt to the Embarcadero and sample some Recchiuti Confections. Such exquisite delights include a burnt caramel or a candied orange peel. Michael Recchiuti has been making delectable confections for over 25 years and uses everything from fruit to nuts!burgundybox

As 2014 rolls along, remember to stop and sample the chocolates along the way!

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The Question is The Answer

Do you ever have questions about chocolate, but were too afraid to ask? Here are some answers to some of those questions:

The Toblerone bar includes: A) Honey, B) Malt extract, C) Molasses, or D) Rum? The answer is A) Honey! This iconic chocolate bar, created by Theodor Tobler in the early 1900’s originally contained milk chocolate, nougat, and honey. Today, this bar is also made with dark chocolate and white chocolate.  Anyway way you buy it, the taste is amazing.

Eating dark chocolate can cause: A) Acne, B) Cavities, C) Migraines, or D) None of the above? The answer is D) None of the above. So true based upon several studies that chocolate cannot be blamed for any of these ill effects. yeah! In fact, the antioxidants contained in chocolate may have healthy benefits. As with everything else you do in life, moderation is the key.

Which of the following is not a classic pairing with dark chocolate: A) Brandy, B) 12-tear old Scotch, C) Port, or D) Chardonnay? The answer is D) Chardonnay. Many people have debated chocolate pairings, none of which include Chardonnay. Most suggestions are aged Scotch, Armagnac or Bourbon, while others include a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Be adventurous and try them all.

On Valentine’s Day (which is coming up!) in Japan, who traditionally gives out the chocolate: A) Women, B) Men, C) Parents, or D) Children? The answer is A) Women! On Valentine’s Day, Japanese women dole out two types of chocolate. This first is giri choco to their bosses and co-workers and the second is honmei choco for their sweethearts. Try it this year and see what happens.

Chocolate is amazing. So not matter where you are or what you are doing take some time to indulge.

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Gifts Galore

The holiday season is upon us so now is the perfect time to get those sweets and treats together. Chocolate will keep nicely in a cool dark place. Making your own stocking stuffers and table favors is really easy and quick.

Chocolate-dipped spoons are an easy homemade holiday gift. Make them sichocolate_spoons_2mple and sweet or dazzle the taste buds with custom flavors and colored chocolate melts! The basic recipe for chocolate spoons is to take your chocolate and melt as directed on the package. Dip the spoons into the chocolate and lay out on a silpat to cool. You can flavor your chocolate with various extracts such as almond and orange for a nice variety. Whether they’re white chocolate drizzled with holiday colors, or dressed up with crushed candy canes, chocolate spoons are sure to please.

Candy canes are always plentiful this time of year. Find the sticks fopepermintr this project. Melt you chocolate as directed on the package. Dip half of the candy cane in the chocolate and cool on a silpat. You can also decorate them by rolling in toasted coconut, mini chips or sprinkles. Put in a box or just in groups of three or four with a ribbon. Voila!

Here is something for everyone! Make up a batch of Rice Krispie treats. When batter is still warm as you are mixing add in black food coloring. Yes, I said black! Instead of spreading in a pan just take chunks and let them cool. This becomes your “lumps of coal” for the stocking. We all know someone who deserves a few lumps of coal.

So, as you make you list for those naughty or nice, don’t forget the stockingchristmascoal stuffers. Very easy, very fun, and very yummy!

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Create A Dessert Table

Have you ever gone to a gathering and the same old tables of food were presented to the guests? Well, with the holiday season just around the corner, take the plunge and create a dessert table! You can even have your guests bring their favorite mini-dessert to share. Remember that presentation is the key to a memorable event. Some ideas for the table are as follows:

Chocolate Cake! Make one type of chocolate cake or buy several little cakes to feature on your dessert table. Add chopped strawberries or raspberries, slivered almonds, shaved white chocolate, caramel drizzle, candy bar chunks or peanut butter cups. Your guests might also enjoy chocolate cheesecake with similar toppings. Decorate the table with accessories to match the theme of your party. Red rose petals scattered around the desserts creates a more elegant or romantic appeal that works well for formal parties, receptions or anniversaries.

Cookies! Adorn silver serving trays with all sorts of mini chocolate cookies. Make double chocolate chip cookies with additional chunks of dark chocolate or white chocolate. Use almonds or other nuts as a garnish. Serve peanut butter cookies with large chocolate kisses in the middle or make chewy chocolate cookies with powdered sugar on top.

Brownies! No chocolate dessert table would be complete without a few brownies for guests to enjoy. Choose one main type of brownie then top with whipped cream, strawberries, caramel or white chocolate chips. Turtle brownies are fun because they have nuts and caramel added, which gives this dessert a much sweeter flavor than traditional plain brownies. Use slivered almonds, walnuts or shaved chocolate on top of brownies.
Just a few ideas to get you started. Use your imagination and if you need any help just call!
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petitdesserttableSmores-in-Jar

Can Chocolate Be That Good?

Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but is it really that healthy for you? Chocolate’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice.

 

Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols, found more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate or white chocolate, also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Believe it or not, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Remember, everything in moderation.

 

Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. Too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Look at brands that are made from European companies, such as Lindt, where chocolate is the main ingredient. Limit yourself to around 3 ounces (85 grams) a day. However, this amount may add up to 450 calories to your daily intake so you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the exercise to compensate.

Curbing those sweet cravings with a dose of good chocolate can actually help. Read the ingredient list before purchasing and then sit back and enjoy!

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