Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Remember everyone, this week is King Arthur week in SoCal! If you have it on your schedule have fun! I'm going to the Ontario session. Hope to see you there!

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The Grocery Store

Most of us shop at a local grocery store. We choose one close by, get to know the aisles and quickly go through picking up the items we need for the week. Occasionally we may visit a local farmers market for fresh fruits or vegetables to round out our needs. It seems simple enough.

Well, now and for the past few years, corporations have been feeding the waters of the very simple grocery store aisles with sharks. Yes, there are sharks in those aisles now that are unseen. Pay attention for the next few paragraphs and I'll tell you how to identify them and how to navigate the aisles with being eaten! Possibly you'll be able to help someone else get out unscathed too. Then, when you really get excited about this, I'll turn you into a quiet activist, making change, and possibly getting rid of the sharks altogether.

A few facts. 99% of all genetically modified foods are corn, soy, conola and cotton. I remember when we were living in Austin TX in the early 90s. A&M University announced that they had genetically altered cotton to grow a specific color of cotton so as to avoid dyes in the future. Hmmmm. I thought wow that's kind of neat. You want blue cotton, plant blue cotton seeds. What could be easier? Then I thought, wait a minute! That's messing with mother nature. I am not sure that's exactly how we want the cotton crop to change. Altered in a lab somewhere. What else are they altering?????? Why are they altering it?

So far we know that Monsanto has genetically altered corn, cotton, canola, and soy seeds. They've altered them so they can control who grows them, how they're grown and where they're grown. They have sold them to foreign farmers cheaply, then later raised the prices, making it impossible for farmers to grow anything else. It is horrible to think a poor farmer somewhere in the world is in debt and being hounded for money and then takes his own life because he feels there is now way out. All so we can have cheap food at our tables, and cheap clothes on our backs. There is no free lunch.

While it is difficult to think about the economic consequences of these products, what is worse is the health consequences to the human body. There hasn't been a whole lot of testing done to see what long term ramifications come with consuming these products over time. We do know, and it is a fact, that one of the very worst foods for your body is high fructose corn syrup. It damages even the best of bodies. We are seeing type 2 diabetes in epidemic numbers all over this continent. For some reason, the FDA hasn't connected those dots and called an end to the use of genetically altered corn syrup, or corn syrup in general.

Side note. The FDA is responsible for policing the food industry to ensure that our food is safe. You should see all the forms that need to be filled out just to bring food into this country. So it cannot contain a bomb or some terrible creepy thing in its container when it enters our country. The "Prior Notice" forms must be filled out, processed in a timely manner, or your shipment is held until a border agent sees fit to allow your shipment into this country. It is very costly and time consuming but food companies do it everyday.

Why then do we not worry about how that food is altered? Why do we not insist the food be safe? We are currently allowing companies like Hersheys, Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, Nabisco, Infamil, Similac and others to use genetically modified foods in their ingredients. While we were distracted worrying about a war in Iraq, the FDA and the federal government have colluded to pull one over on the citizens of the U.S. But don't get me wrong it isn't just the Bush administration. It's politicians in general. As soon as they get a little power they become corrupt, gaining from large corpoations and setting aside the needs, and regulations put in place to protect our nation.

Okay, okay back to the problem at hand. We need to be informed. The list is extensive. However, it is not making it impossible to eat good food that we enjoy and have good things. We just need to buy appropriate and safe products for our families, and unfortunate for you busy people out there, do a little more cooking from scratch. Instead of buying that pre-made "good for you" "healthy choice" dinner. Go pick up a few carrots, potatoes and celery, chop them up and make dinner for real. It really doesn't take any longer than most ready to eat meals. And think of the benefits. If you have your kids help you, you're teaching them to cook too!

Go here. Look at the list. Don't be afraid. Be empowered. Take charge of you eating and begin again. Next post: I'll turn you into a quiet activist!

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Monday, January 29, 2007

A Bit of Good News

Friday I spoke to Heather over at the Center for Food Safety. She mentioned we have some good news. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) will introduce a bill to the senate dealing with cloned foods notification. It's called the Cloned Food Labeling Act and states that we need to be informed about what types of food we are eating. The full text of her press release is here. I told you it would be the women of the U.S. that would make an impact on these types of things!

The fight is not over though. There is still plenty of things we must do. We still need to tell the FDA we're not happy with what they are proposing. The FDA used to be the policing arm in the food world, now it seems we need to police them. Please go and let them know you're not happy with the cloned food ruling. Please also contact your senators and tell them you want them to support Senator Mikulski's bill. The FDA is going to rule in April. Senator Mikulski's bill could be in committee for months or years. By talking to your friends, neighbors and local politicians you support Senator Mikulski and her bill.

Back to Heather. She has a blog now keeping us informed of food news called True Food. Go by say hello and check back often. She is employed by the Center for Food Safety and runs the blog with their assistance. She'll be a good contact in keeping everyone informed of news and true information. I love the header "Food Fight". It's a far cry from the gymnasium/cafeteria of junior high, but it's still a fight. I'm keeping the True Food blog high on my list of contacts.

The blog is an arm of the True Food Organization. The website does a pretty good job of listing the issues of genetically modified foods. It is a good resource for learning about genetically modified foods, what you can do as a consumer and what you should be concerned about regarding your family's food consumption. There's a shoppers guide, a take action section and a supermarket campaign program. Go there. Take a look and see what foods you should be avoiding and why.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Now onto the real rascals!

Monsanto is only doing what congress and the USDA and FDA have allowed them to do. So how could you blame them. They're in it to make as much money as possible and to make their shareholders happy. They have no conscience or soul, just the determination to rule the world food-wise.

The real culprits are our government, yes all those lovely politicians, who spout verbiage about how much they care about their constituents and how much they want to do for us folks back home. Funny, the problem is, Monsanto is not my neighbor. Neither is Archer-Daniels Midland or ConAgra. But they are the guys that my congress people and representatives seem to listen to the most. Why is that?

Well, the most obvious reason is the money. All three of those companies have waaaaaaay more money than I'll amass in three lifetimes. But that shouldn't matter. I do pay taxes and that should get me a voice with politicians. I could get grumpy and complain that no one listens to me and my voice and vote is not heard. Or I could really begin searching the net and LEARNING about those things that matter to my family and future generations.

Sheri Dew once said that the most powerful force in the world is mothers. I believe she is right. Most of my readers are women. Most of them have a mother, possibly will be mothers someday, or will have nieces and nephews and small people and old people that they care about. I venture to say if we would listen to our hearts, on matters like these, we women could be a force to be reckoned with vs the Monsanto's of the world! In fact there is a woman in India that has done just that: Vandana Shiva is an Eastern Indian woman. She is educated and has become outspoken on the methodologies employed by companies such as Monsanto and Coca-Cola. She is not happy with the way these companies come in and take advantage of Indian farmers and villages. She has made a difference.

We too, can make a difference. How?

To begin, go here: Organization for Food Safety and read about the existing problems with the FDA and USDA. A brief synopsis is that on Dec 6 2006 the FDA approved the sale of cloned animals in the U.S. without, and I emphasize, WITHOUT notice to consumers. They are seeking comments from consumers about how we feel about this and will make a permanent ruling after they hear from us. We must take this seriously. We must write, not only the FDA, but our representatives and senators about this issue before April 2 of 2007. If we sit back, and do nothing, we will be at the mercy of animal cloning experts, eating what ever they decide to grow in a laboratory. Drinking milk from and udder not attached to a cow!

If you do go to the Food Safety site, you can send an email from their site. However, the fact that you wrote a letter yourself, and sent it to each of your political contacts, will mean much more. Politicians and the FDA get thousands of emails a day. They are often ignored. A snail mail letter has been proven to get better results.

Please I urge you to take action. It is up to us. The mothers and sisters, the aunts and nieces, of this country to band together to change the horrible path our nation is on regarding the food we consume.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Monsanto Problem

Okay, so we've watched the film, seen how Monsanto wants to own food production, and control the world's food supply. Where do you go to stay informed?

First you need to research the problem. You can google Monsanto and find all kinds of articles. I decided to go to the main subject of the film: Percy Schmeiser. Mr. Schmeiser has been farming in Canada for 50 years. He has been a prudent farmer, collecting his seed each year in preparation for the next years crop. My father in law did the same thing each year. In fact, my father in law has been dead for almost ten years now and we still have seeds from his farm that we use to grow our own food. Mr. Schmeiser explains the problem he has had with Monsanto very well.

He isn't some kook that infringed upon the rights of a major corporation. He never purchased a product from Monsanto. Never. However his field was next to a field of canola that used Monsanto seed and products. They cross pollinated and Monsanto now says what grows in Mr. Schmeiser's field actually belongs to them because his field was cross pollinated with theirs.

How did Monsanto gain the ability to make the claim? Well, Monsanto is a biotechnology firm. They are genetically manipulating seed to perform as they wish and they have gone into federal patent courts and had the patents granted. Now they own the patent on their Roundup Ready seeds, as they call them. Essentially they developed a seed that was resistant to Round up weed killer, so you could weed your field without killing your product. Well, that sounds like a good thing, what's wrong with that? Nothing if that were all there was to the problem. However, it was Monsanto's ability to claim a field was their seed, if seed was never planted in the field. The idea that cross pollination can takes place when the wind blows, or a truck transporting the product passes by and blows it into your field, or any other of the different ways a field becomes cross pollinated. When Monsanto sued Mr. Schmeiser in the federal courts of Canada the judge, one Mr. Andrew McKay upheld the patent of Monsanto's that a field of product that had become cross pollinated by no means of the farmer who owns the land, became the property of the of the patent owner because of the genetically modified seed is owned by Monsanto. Generally Canadian law protects a farmer from cross-pollination claims due to mother nature, but not for genetically modified plants. Mother Nature no longer owns those plants, the modifier does.

What??????? Monsanto, by the very act of developing seed has usurped a process that came to be when the planet was formed. Whether you are an evolutionist, religionist or just plain consumer of food, tells you this is wrong. Plant life and animal life springs forth on its own, without help from human beings. The act of genetically modifying them to produce superior results is wrong. We are going in the wrong direction when we allow a corporation to manipulate the food we eat in a laboratory. There hasn't been a lifetime of study to ensure that the product they are developing in labs is safe to consume. It is a recipe for disaster. I fear that my grandchildren will reap the results we sat by and allowed to happen because we were too busy trying to pay the bills.

This is only the beginning of my reporting on GMO foods. We must all become informed. We must all begin to question whether or not the food we eat is safe. All GMO foods should be labeled and we the consumer must demand it.

Next time I'll show you all the players in the GMO foods arena and show you how we got this far. How the FDA and the USDA sit by complacent to allow these corporations to do this to the food supply and why the world really hates us. Just know, it's not because of our bombs. If you have yet to see the film, order it today from Netflix. It's worthy of your time.

Sidenote: I find it very funny that the spell checker on google's blogger program, tells you that google is not a word and must be spelled incorrectly! heh.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007


Sorry the spice of the day may or may not return.

I watched a very interesting video, entitled The Future of Food, recently. It has set me off axis and I am frustrated about large commerce even more now than ever. The film is by Deborah Koons Garcia. Here are a couple of quotes from the press:

"If you eat food, you need to see The Future of Food..."

"This stylish film is not just for food faddists and nutritionists.
It is a look at something we might not want to see: Monsanto, Roundup and Roundup-resistant seeds, collectively wreaking havoc on American farmers and our agricultural neighbors around the world. In the end, this documentary is a eloquent call to action."
--- The Telluride Daily Planet

The Future of Food is a film everyone should see. I think the reason for my frustration is that so many people don't know or don't care to educate themselves about this issue. I have read about the monster Monsanto for a couple of years now. It frightens me to think our political system is so corrupt that we allow big business to kill the ability to grow food at all.

What do I mean by that? In the film it is explained that Monsanto now owns 95% of all seed companies. It also explains that Monsanto has developed a seed they call terminal seeds. What that is, is that the seed will yield one crop and then die. It does not produce seed to reproduce itself. It is not a natural phenomenon for plant life to not reproduce. Monsanto has developed these seeds because they want to force farmers to have to buy from them. If you control the food supply, you control the world, in my opinion.

I urge you to rent this movie. It's been around quite sometime and I am surprised I haven't seen it. However, I do understand the reason not to purchase GMO foods. The film does a good job of explaining it in terms understandable to all. Monsanto and companies like them need to be stopped.

The slow food movement is a beginning. We should all try to eat local. Take the 100 mile diet challenge. We must all do something.

I am thinking the idea of moving to my own land and having a farm is a good idea. I certainly will never use a round-up ready product on the farm. I just hope the wind doesn't blow from a neighboring farm that does.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spice of the day - Chipotle Chili

This is one of my very favorite spices. It is made from Jalapeno peppers. They are fully ripened red Jalapenos. Mexican kitchen have used them for centuries. In order to keep them from spoiling, as fresh vegetables have a tendancy to do, the Mexican people would slow roast them over a wood fire until dried completely. The slow roast develops a smokey full bodied Jalapeno flavor. They can be used whole or ground to a powder. They have gained quite a bit of favor in the states over the past 15 years and have become a staple for many of us. It can be combined with meats or other foods while cooking or can even be used in a shaker at the table. They can be considered quite spicy to an undeveloped palate, yet only rank in the mid range on the skovill scale. I love them. Give them a try yourself!

From Food and Wine:

Crispy Spiced Fried Chicken

* 4 pounds chicken wings, legs and thighs, trimmed of excess fat
* 2 cups buttermilk or plain nonfat yogurt
* 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* Peanut oil, for frying

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut the wings in half and discard the wing tips. In a bowl, mix the buttermilk with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt and 2 teaspoons of the chipotle powder. Add the chicken, turn to coat and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

In a resealable plastic bag, mix the flour with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chipotle powder, the cayenne and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Seal the bag and shake to blend.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 3/4 inch of peanut oil to 360°. Working in 2 batches, shake the buttermilk off the chicken, put the chicken in the bag with the flour mixture and shake to coat well. Add the chicken to the hot oil and fry over moderate heat, turning once or twice, until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes; lower the heat if necessary so the chicken doesn't brown too quickly. Drain the chicken on a rack lined with paper towels and serve immediately.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New feature I'm adding

Starting to day, I am adding a daily item to food chronicles. There may not be a regular post daily, but there will be The Spice of the Day post every day. I will discuss a different spice each day in hopes that you will venture forth and try something new!


I mentioned we went to Penzy's in Torrance during December. I was insearch of a few spices I could not pick up in town. We have a very diverse group of people living here, yet the stores have refused to carry anything other than the "normal" ethnic types of supplies. Sp now and then I must venture forth.

My first choice is Cardamom. I first became acquainted with this spice in a chocolate truffle from an artisanal candy maker. It reminded me quite a bit of nutmeg, but still different. Don't avoid this spice because you don't like nutmeg, it isn't strong like nutmeg, yet it does have a very distinct flavor. In the picture it is the far right spice. I took a shot showing the tops of the bottles so you could see the difference in density of each. Cardamom is very dense as opposed to other spices when ground. It is available in pod form, white, black or green pods and that is probably the best way to purchase it. Then you can grind it as you need it. I bought the ground for expediency's sake.

Cardamom is native to India, yet its use has spread worldwide. India's cooks use both the green and the black pods in thier cooking. It is used with meats and vegetables and could be considered a mainstay ingredient. In the mideast the green pods are sometimes combined with coffee beans prior to roasting to add body and depth to the flavor. The green pods are preferred in the mideast and India. Scandanavian cooks use Cardamom in baked goods, white pods are used mainly as their choice. In Africa, the black pods are the preferred choice. The black pods have a distinct smokey flavor that has developed in them over the years and is also used as a substitute for the more expensive green pods in India.

The pods, intact with no splits, can last forever. They can be cracked open and the spice ground when needed, however the ground Cardamom is easily used for baking because of its ease of use. The pods can be used for flavoring ganache. While heat the cream before adding it to the chocolate, steep a few pods in the cream. Strain the cream to remove the pods prior to adding it to the chocolate. It gives the chocolate a rich flavor that many people will enjoy.

Cardamom can be added to several different recipes such as jam, tea, coffee, chocolate, various meats such as lamb or veal, and baked goods.

Here's a recipe from Epicurious:


Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cayenne pepper enhance this North African-style dish.It can be served over steamed rice.

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder o-bone (round-bone) chops, trimmed, boned, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cups chopped onions
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 cup water

2/3 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat. Heat vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saut
 until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add lamb and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced ginger and stir 1 minute. Add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add apricots to pot and simmer uncovered until liquid is slightly thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar and sugar. Season to taste with salt. Divide stew among 4 bowls.

Serves 4

93% of the people who tried this recipe would make it again. Sounds good, I'll have to give it a try.

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Oh wow, mark your calendar people of SoCal!

King Arthur Flour has gained a bit of noteriety over the past few years. They are dedicated to educating America on the rewards of home baking. They have a travelling class, free of charge, where they share important baking skills to attendees. You can visit the King Arthur website and check out the schedule. You'll find it on the left side of the page under What's New? Click the link and there is a schedule of their calendar.

In January/February it is SoCal's turn to be educated by King Arthur:

Pasadena, California - January 31, 2007


300 East Green Street

Pasadena, California

626.793.2122 (for directions only)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

12:00 pm to 2:00 pm - Yeast Breads: Sweet & Whole-Grain
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Crusty Artisan Breads
Cost: FREE

Ventura, California - February 1, 2007

3451 Foothill Road
Ventura, California

805.648.1143 (for directions only)
Date/Time: Thursday, February 1, 2007
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm - Yeast Breads: Sweet & Whole-Grain
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Crusty Artisan Breads
Cost: FREE

Ontario, California - February 2, 2007

1945 E. Holt Boulevard
Ontario, California

909.390.7778 (for directions only)
Date/Time: Friday, February 2, 2007
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm - Yeast Breads: Sweet & Whole-Grain
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Crusty Artisan Breads
Cost: FREE

Irvine, California - February 3, 2007

90 Pacifica Avenue
Irvine, California

949.471.8888 (for directions only)
Date/Time: Saturday, February 3, 2007
11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Yeast Breads: Sweet & Whole-Grain
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm - Crusty Artisan Breads
Cost: FREE

So if you have the free time, and want to imporve your bread making skills, pick a place, show up and enjoy the company of a few other bakers. It should be fun and informative. The best part? They're free!

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Christmas Treat

One of my favorite gifts, over the holidays, was this wonderful tin:

Handy tins

It came filled with some of my favorite treats. Including this:

I had never had a Farr's Cherry Cordial before. Now I know why I haven't ever lived in Idaho. Why? Because if I did, this simple little cherry bomb, would be consumed too many times by me. What's so good about it? It's like a drumstick ice cream, without the ice cream! You know, that favorite part, the chocolatey, nutty thick top of the drumstick. It's like that, then as you eat away, you'll find a cherry with that wonderful cherry-y liquid center! Farr's has found the key to my sweet heart. I love a sohisticated sweet along with the rest of you. But on occasion, you need a bit of simple childhood goodness. Farr's has been making the Cherry Cordial since 1911! They also make other candy bars like the Idaho Spud and a Mallow Nut bar, however, I think this Cherry Cordial must be their best! And I am very glad I don't live where they are readily available.

And the tin? I ate all those treats, and now I have a handy container for all my computer gadgets that I need readily available without making a mess! I have my phone charger, 2 flash drive, my camera usb cord, my iShuffle, and one hershey's kiss in the tin currently!

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Emily Stone

Wow. I have just stumbled across a very interesting blog. Of course, you all know, I am very interested in chocolate. Chocolate in Context has personified the definition of a life obsessed with chocolate. Not the "crazy" form of obsession though, the very good form. Emily has lived the world of chocolate, globe trotted, learned and allowed herself to be schooled. Schooled well, I might add. Not that she needs my endorsement or approval, by any means. I'll just add my admiration from afar.

Recently Emily had the opportunity to interview John Scharffenberger. It is one of the best interviews I've ever read. Her process of making him feel comfortable is superb. She established rapport and gave the impression they were fast friends sharing a phone call. John mentions at the end how pleasant it waas to be interviewed by her. I agree. She asked the right questions, shared her knowledge and allowed all of us to learn through the process also.

Thank you Emily. I'll read you often.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas leftovers

This is not your average leftover! It is the remains of the chocolate sorbet I made for daughter #3. She and I love chocolate sorbet and this recipes is fantastic. I got it from a friend and have altered it just a bit.

You take 2 1/2 cups of water, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup of cocoa, and a pinch of salt. Boil it together in a saucepan until the sugars aredissolved. Remove it from heat, add 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped and a tablespoon of vanilla; and whisk it until smooth. If you want a fine texture pour it through a sieve and strain into a bowl to cool until chilled. I was in a hurry and put it in the fridge. Then once it's chilled put it in your favorite ice cream maker and churn until it is set up. Transfer it to a freezer container until your ready to eat it. It will have to sit out a few minutes before you can serve it to soften it up a bit.

How I changed it: I added a half teaspoon of cardamum. When we were at the Penzey's store in Torrance I found a great dutched chocolate. It was dark and rich looking and the label said it had twice the flavor as store bought. It was an excellent choice for the sorbet. I liked the outcome very much. A bit had been sitting out and melted to a "syrup". Of course, I had to see what it was like, and I have decided to begin using this as a syrup for hot chocolate! It is rich, has a full body without being too watery. Very nice.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007


Now let's organize the chocolate! Yes, I said organize the chocolate. Not many of you will have the need to perform this task, but I certainly do. You see I buy chocolate all the time. I have small pieces, like a couple of bars of Scharffenberger, or some of the new Nestle 63% Chocolatier morsels, and a bar of Schokinag white chocolate to boot. That's not counting the 200 pounds of various Peter's chocolate in dark and milk on hand.

Yes, my name is chronicler, and I'm a chocolate hound! So I'll share a bit of interesting facts about chocolate storage. For instance, did you know that chocolate actually emits molecules into the air as it ages. That's why they say chocolate is best when it is fresh. Not that it gets old and tired, but it actually begins to die as soon as it is exposed to air. I am sure there are some very scientific explanations for the process, but for now that will have to suffice.

Manufactured chocolates, like you buy from an artisan chocolatier, the shelf life is very narrow. It is almost an 'eat it here now!', for best results. Mass producers add preservatives to slow the aging process, but it still isn't as good as the day it came off the assembly line. So what should you do?

For best results, use chocolate within six months. However, the darker the chocolate, the longer the life. Chocolate will still be good a year out, but that's only if you've taken the time to store it properly. If you have a large supply, when you first bring it home, get out your sealer (what you don't have one???) and seal the chocolate in your average use quantities. A pound is usually a good rule of thumb. Wrapping it in foil is a good choice also. Then it should be stored in a cool dry place. You can store chocolatein the refrigerator or freezer, but you run a huge risk if you get any moisture in it. A small drop of water can sieze chocolate and then all you have is a mess. That's a good reason why your chocolate dipped strawberries didn't turn out the first time you made them. Water and chocolate are not friends. Keep in mind that heat rises and so the lower shelves are better for storing chocolate.

Heat is also not a huge friend of chocolate. It causes "bloom". It is a chemical condition of the chocoalte when it was not heated and then cooled correctly. Chocolate tempering is for another day, but just know, chocolate is delicate and needs to be treated well. Why else would it have so many devotees?

I am, hopefully, going to chocolate school in April. The end of April. I will be learning how to make European Confections at UC Davis. That is if they don't cancel the class. Just before Christmas, I got a phone call informing me of staffing problems and that the class had been cancelled. I was heartsick. I have waited for five years to be able to take the class and now this! Then just before Christmas the director called, we chatted, and there may be a chance that they'll still be doing the class. Please keep me in your thoughts and hope along with me. I am so looking forward to the specialized training I'll be receiving.

So with thatI'll leave you to your chocolate. Enjoy a nibble with me. There is so much more to talk about on chocolate and we'll take it bit by bit, just like the chocolate!

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Now on to the spice rack!

Just how long do spices stay good? Hmmmmmm. Good question. I bet a lot of you don't realize that spices really don't have a shelf life. Most if kept in dark, air tight containers can stay good for a looooong time. Yes, that's right, a long time. Some people think that you have to throw away spices after six months or so. Not true. The government guideline is 4 years for whole and 2 years for ground. However, sometimes even the best spices die young and you need to use your sniffer to check the potency. Yep, you nose will tell you if a spice is still potent and worth using.

Spices do lose their potency. As do dried herbs. However, just because a dried herb looks gray and almost colorless, doesn't mean it isn't good. Press a bit into the palm of your hand. Rub it around, does it still have a good aroma? If so, use it!

Some things to keep in mind, however. When using spices, don't shake the container over a steaming pot. This allows moisture to settle into the jar and that begins deterioration. It's not a good practice to shake over your pot because you could use a bit too much and ruin a perfectly good dish just by the tip of your hand. Measure your spices into those cute little bowls, or even a plate prior to getting your cooking started. Then you have them when you need them and there is not a concern of too much to quickly in a "shake".

Keep in mind also, that dried herbs are always more potent than fresh. Be careful with that dried basil, it can really spoil a palate if used incorrectly. Herbs are best fresh, but not many of us live in climates where you can have them fresh all year long, so a good supply of dried herbs is usually best for times of shortage.

Whole spices keep their potency longer than ground spices. When, and if possible, purchase whole spices and grind what you need when you need it. Keeping them in sealed containers and a dark place is a good rule of thumb for all spices, whole or ground.

Heat is also a factor when storing spices. The cooler the area for storage the better. Heat is another reason you don't shake the container over the pot, the heat does damage more than you realize.

Another thing with ground spices to keep in mind is that the spice berry, for lack of a better term, is made up of several layers that give body and fullness to the spice. Those layers can lose potency separately. Some parts will be good as others are fading and the full body of flavors will decline.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

As requested by Melissa

For Christmas each year I make Log Jams. Then I take a photo and put it up on the blog. Like this:

Log Jams

Each year pleanty of people ask for the recipe. It is so easy, I usually just tell them to find a butter cookie recipe and make it into a log. Basically that's what you do. But, just for Melissa, I'll give you the whole recipe and I expect to see these photographed on everyone's blogs next year! ;-)

Log Jams and little jems

1 cup butter 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour
dash salt 1 teaspoon baking powder
strawberry or seedless raspberry jam I use raspberry for the Log Jams and strawberry for the Little Jems

PREPARATION: Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture; mixing until well blended. Shape dough into small balls (one inch) for Little Gems, or logs for Logs Jams. For Little Jems poke a wooden spoon into center of dough, forming a well, and fill hole with strawberry jam and then top with a pecan half.

For Log Jams make a well in the log, you'll have enough dough to make four "logs". Fill well with seedless raspberry jam. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Let cool. After the log jams are cool drizzle lemon drizzle over cookies.

Lemon Drizzle

1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
2 tablesppons of lemon juice
milk to thin

Mix together until smooth. Drizzle over cookies.

The lemon drizzle is only for the log jams!

I've given you the recipe for the two most popular cookies at our place. The little jems are superb. The toasted pecan on top just make them irresistable. So go for it guys, let's bake up a storm!

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