JUST FOR FUN

February 19, 2015 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Reflections on Pop Culture

Spring is just around the corner, but if you are still surrounded by winter in the Northeast or hiding away from the drizzle falling from the sky in the Northwest, it can seem like spring is never going to arrive. In the event that you need a little pick-me-up to help you ride out the days until sunshine and tulips spring forth, here are some ideas!

Jimmy Fallon

I love Jimmy Fallon, but can never stay awake long enough to catch his show when it airs. Instead, I watch the Youtube videos of his most popular spots. They’re short, so you can squeeze in a viewing even when your time is limited. Some of my favorites are the Ragtime Gals (a barbershop quartet that turns into a quintet when special guests join in), the Saved by the Bell skit, the Will Ferrell and Chad Smith Drum Off, and any one of his Lip Sync Battles. You can’t go wrong, but to start you off, try this little gem of actual phone texts from moms that had me laughing so hard I wound up in tears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpS4rOwr02s

 

Brussels Sprouts

I hated Brussels sprouts growing up. I thought they tasted like bitter dirt, and so I have avoided them all my life. Recently they worked their way onto my plate at a restaurant and because I had recently been on a chocolate binge, I opted to try the noxious green vegetable for health reasons. The Brussels sprouts were chopped in half, seasoned, and cooked in a skillet, so they were crunchy instead of the steamed, mushy mess I remember from my childhood, and they tasted nothing like bitter dirt. Dare I say it: I like Brussels sprouts! Even better, my local Safeway has pre-packaged, pre-seasoned Brussels sprouts ready to toss in a skillet and serve.

Candy Bar Maker

My son got this as a Christmas present, and it has become one of our family’s favorite things to do in the kitchen. The kit comes with everything you need (except chocolate) to make decorative chocolate candy bars. You may use white, milk, or dark chocolate, or a combination if you like, and any topping you can think of. We are partial to pretzels and caramel bits or crushed candy canes. My kids are fairly generous with the sprinkles and marshmallows too. But here’s the best part: the sizes of the candy bars you can make are small, so there is a built in portion control. These candy bars are half the size of a regular candy bar or less if you use the minis. It is a really fun way to make a dessert that fits your taste buds, and while the clean up is a bit involved, at least you have something to do while you’re waiting the 20 minutes for the candy bar to harden enough to eat. (Available on Amazon)

 

Annie Lennox’s I Put a Spell on You at the Grammys

I did not watch the Grammys this year, but I have watched Annie Lennox’s spectacular performance of I Put a Spell on You with Hozier several times. Oh my goodness, her voice! It’s smooth like wine and perfectly controlled until she unleashes its full power and knocks you onto your feet. If you love music and great performances, this one will definitely brighten up your day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZEChv1AaOk

 

The Killing, Season 3

This isn’t fun viewing and it won’t brighten up anything, ever. More likely it will bring you down into a state of darkness and depression that requires a hot shower to rinse off the images of atrocities human beings inflict on each other, and themselves. However, this season is good. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are terrific as flawed characters who are also excellent detectives, and Season 3 ratchets up their personal stakes until they are both walking a tightrope. The suspense lies not so much in whodunit, although there is plenty of that, but in whether or not these two characters will spiral out of control or triumph over their own poor choices. These ramifications spill over into Season 4, which I have just started watching. I am not allowed to watch this series too late at night because it is so creepy and disturbing that I don’t sleep well. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this series if you are into flawed characters, detective stories, or excellent storytelling (minus the one important plot twist that was so out of character I couldn’t buy it. Come find me when you’ve finished watching and we’ll talk.). (Streaming on Netflix)

Happy Almost Spring!

EASTER CANDY IS THE BOMB AND I THINK I JUST EXPLODED

April 21, 2014 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences)

Many of our American holidays involve candy, and rightly so. Candy is good! Halloween is the King Holiday when it comes to candy. All the usual candy culprits are in bite-sized form, making it easy for you to convince yourself that even though you ate 50 pieces of candy, it still doesn’t add up to an entire candy bar.

Valentine’s Day, while reputed to be about love, is really the candy companies’ excellent marketing strategy to have a giant heart-shaped box of chocolate-filled morsels of delight signify everlasting love. It works: I know I feel loved after eating a bunch of chocolate…right before I start feeling sick to my stomach.

But the best candy of all is Easter candy. Behold, the Queen of seasonal Easter candy: the Cadbury egg:

 

There have been some hot debates on my local radio station about which is better, the Cadbury egg or the marshmallow peep. Seriously? How is that even a contest? I don’t like Peeps, probably because I’m not a huge fan of marshmallow. They are made of sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. In other words, they are a bland vehicle for a sugar high.

I love the entire Cadbury egg line.

 

These are filled with white chocolate and they are divine.

A hollow egg filled with Cadbury mini eggs. (I use the term “filled” loosely. This is a perfect example of truth in advertising. The picture on the box shows four mini Cadbury eggs, and the inside of my sons’ eggs had exactly four mini Cadbury eggs inside. If you ask me, that leaves an awful lot of empty hollow space that could have been used, say, by being slightly more generous with the mini Cadbury eggs.)

They are made with milk chocolate, sugar, and corn syrup, and I can attest to the fact that milk chocolate tastes worlds better than gelatin.

Jelly beans I can live without, but these Hershey chocolate eggs in a candy-coated shell are to die for.

I can eat an entire bag of these all by myself. It’s sad, really. But they are so good!

Whoppers’ Robin Eggs and Hershey’s Solid Chocolate Eggs are classics.

 

People celebrate Easter in different ways, but I spent Easter at my local Safeway buying discounted Easter candy to stash away for emergency purposes. And I will have to stash it away because after all the Easter candy I’ve been “sampling” all week, I’m going to need to go on a cleanse.

I hope you all feel as satisfied/vaguely ill as I do after indulging in all the fabulous Easter candy!

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

March 17, 2014 in Book Reviews, Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Random Thoughts


 

I’m not Irish, but sometimes I wish I was. Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy (immensely successful Irish authors) are my idols, and I’ve read every one of their novels more than once. I am in love with the way the Irish speak, with their “your man” and their “fecking” and the lovely lilt at the end of their sentences.

Over the weekend I was delighted to find myself sitting by a large Irish family from the opposing team during my son’s lacrosse game. It was like being surrounded by a bunch of chatty leprechauns! I spoke in an Irish accent all the way home, to the absolute delight of my children.

Kids: “Mom, come on! Stop it!”

Me: “No way! It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be talking this way all weekend. Now stop your fecking complainin’ or your man won’t be getting a Shamrock Shake.”

(I’m not entirely sure how bad a swear word “fecking” is in Ireland. Perhaps I should look into that.)

So it should come as no surprise that I love St. Patrick’s Day. A holiday centered around the color green, clever little leprechauns, vibrant rainbows with shiny pots of gold at the end, four-leaf clovers, lots of booze, and Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s—as a holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is magically delicious!

Here are a couple of things Irish that I love and I hope you do too!

Marian Keyes is a master at blending despair with humor. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels, but my personal favorite is Rachel’s Holiday. Rachel’s “holiday” is actually a stint in rehab after a near overdose. It may sound heavy, and it is, but just like real life, there are shining moments of humor, humanity, and triumph.

While Marian Keyes loves a modern Irish heroine, Maeve Binchy’s heroines are firmly planted in the past, trying to balance their strict Irish Catholic upbringing with the passion they feel for the boy next door. Unwanted pregnancies, alcoholism, and forbidden love are some of her favorite themes. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels either, but Light a Penny Candle, a poignant tale of two girls and their enduring friendship, still stands out in my mind as one of her best.  

“Fiddle-de-fizz ‘tis magic, it is!” Ten Lucky Leprechauns is a charming counting book filled with the magic of leprechauns, rainbows, and friendship just perfect for your wee ones.

How cute are these? These mini brownies with a surprise pocket of gold sprinkles inside will definitely be part of our St. Patrick’s Day’s festivities! If you haven’t visited Courtney Whitmore’s Pizzazzerie.com yet, you are in for a treat! She has loads of wonderful desserts and decorating tips for any event.

I am in love with  Martha Stewart’s Leprechaun Trap! It is eye-catching and I bet it tastes delicious. It also looks like it would take all day to make. The jury’s still out on whether or not I will make this or take a nap instead.

Need more ideas? Check out my St. Patrick’s Day Pinterest Board!

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

 

 

 

 

THE SEATTLE WINE AND FOOD EXPERIENCE

March 7, 2014 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences)

My mom and I recently attended Seattle’s Wine and Food Experience at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, which, by the way, is not mentioned on any map on the Seattle Center premises.  But that’s ok. Thanks to a string of helpful (and equally perplexed) employees, we made our way to the entrance. Our reward? A wine glass of our very own! Yes, this was going to be a very nice afternoon indeed.

Hailed as a showcase of food and wine from the Northwest, this tasting event featured wines, spirits, and beers of the region, cuisine from local restaurants and hotels, and specialty items from regional businesses. (It also inexplicably featured Stella Artois which originated in Belgium, but I guess if you are prepared to sponsor the event, they don’t care where you come from.)

It didn’t take long for me to figure out two things:

1)    You could get hammered at this event in the blink of an eye.

2)    My mom and I could not be more different in our food/wine tastes.

Unless you were planning to spend the night under one of the vendor booths, there was no way you could try all the wines. There were 38 different wineries representing Washington alone (not including Woodinville, the featured wine region), and each winery had multiple wines to choose from: Cabernets and Pinot Noirs, Rieslings and Chardonnays. I’m a red wine person, so my strategy was to only taste award-winning red wines from vendors that didn’t have long lines. My mom basically drank every Riesling in sight because she wasn’t driving. It worked well, until we got to the Spirits aisle.

Skip Rock Distillers were making honest-to-goodness cocktails with their vodka! My mom went for a Bloody Mary while I had a Moscow Mule, made with potato vodka, lime, and ginger beer. It was tasty. I also tried a shot of Pacifique Absinthe. I was feeling great in the Spirits aisle!

I also had to drive us home, so I needed to eat. Luckily, at the end of the Spirits aisle stood a little booth called Top Pot Doughnuts which launched us into a new aisle: Desserts! I had come home. My mom, however, was full.

What? Full? But there’s always room for dessert! And these desserts were sublime (except for the bacon topped cheesecake). Herein lies the big difference between my mom and I foodwise. She could have camped out at the potato entrée booth the entire afternoon, or at Tim’s Cascade potato chip display where they were giving out bags of chips, or at the Washington Beef exhibit where she nearly swooned over a Beef Bourguignon. My swoon moment came from J.W. Desserts (previous owner of Amazing Cakes), where they were giving away these rich, creamy chocolatey squares of ecstasy. My mom wouldn’t eat hers! I couldn’t decide whether to be aghast or thankful that she gave me her sample. There are just some things I will never understand.

Our tastes did overlap in one crucial area: cheese. No one had a better, more comprehensive cheese display than good old QFC. They had mounds of cheese samples on elevated tables spread around their display area. Not only was it beautiful, it was delicious. Plus they had water! Boy, did I eat a lot of delicious cheese.

Next year when this event comes around again, I highly recommend it. It was a fun and filling afternoon and I have a whole new list of local businesses and restaurants I can check out further and new recipes to try.

Next time, though, I won’t be driving.

KIDS CAN COOK!

November 28, 2013 in Adventures in Parenting, Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences)

I have entered a new era in the world of parenting: my thirteen-year-old son has learned to cook—by himself. (My youngest son is his sous chef.) Meaning, he can be in the kitchen and I can lie down on the couch and take a nap because I don’t have to hover over him every second making sure he doesn’t mess up the recipe or light himself on fire.

This is an amazing milestone, for both of us. If he is displeased with the lack of “good” special treats in the house, he can whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies himself, and I don’t have to stop folding laundry or pull myself away from helping someone with their homework to help him. And he cleans up after himself! It really is a miracle.

Sure, there have been some missteps. He learned the hard way that there is a difference between baking soda and baking powder. He over-baked his first batch of cookies, rendering them flavorful, yet very hard to bite into. When making a batch of No Bake Cookies that were only supposed to boil for one minute, he learned never to walk away from a boiling pot to wrestle a sibling to the ground. He continued to get better, but even when he did everything right, he still said “Why aren’t these as good as yours?”

But I coached him along (from the couch), teaching him my tricks: how to defrost butter fresh out of the freezer, how to turn on the oven, how to start with wet ingredients and then mix in the dry, and how to start the electric mixer on a slow speed when adding dry ingredients so that flour doesn’t explode out of the bowl and all over the kitchen. And most importantly, I didn’t get up from the couch! The kitchen was his domain. He could ask any question he wanted, but the ultimate act of cooking was his and his alone.

His most recent batch of chocolate chip cookies was spot on, and the snickerdoodles he made last week were–and this is the truth–better than mine. They were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with the perfect amount of cinnamon…divine.

This year, I told the kids I was going to give them each a cooking job for Thanksgiving dinner, and my oldest actually said “Great!” I’m going to give him the job of supervising my younger two as they make these treats:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’m also going to take it a step further and teach him how to make the granddaddy of desserts: a Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake! (Don’t worry; we’re having pumpkin pie too.)

Wishing you all a warm Thanksgiving filled with family, loved ones, and great food made by dedicated cooks!

 

 

MY FAVORITE THINGS, NEW YORK STYLE (Part 3)

November 25, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Reflections on Pop Culture

Inspired by Oprah’s List of Favorite Things and my recent trip to New York City, here is Part 3 of My Favorite Things—New York City style—just in time for your holiday shopping! (Read Part 2 here. )

Most Fascinating Clothing Store I’ve Ever Been To: UNIQLO

I’ve never heard of UNIQLO, but my sister had and was curious, so we popped into their SoHo store to take a look. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s more than a clothing store: it’s a whole new way of looking at clothes. “UNIQLO clothes are MADE FOR ALL–highly finished elements of style in clothes that suit your values wherever you live.” Every item comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns and styles, so that anyone can create their own look, whether it be one that matches or one that is a no-holds-barred display of color.

And they have everything, from leggings, undergarments, and pajamas to skirts, dresses, and jackets, and many of their clothing staples are neatly packaged into little plastic bags, just perfect for wrapping and placing under a Christmas tree. With so many choices available, a gift card might be the way to go so that the person on your Christmas list gets exactly what they want, like this little skirt that I was enamored with:

It’s reversible, and they suggest pairing it with leggings and boots…how cute would that be? Here’s the best part: it’s only $29.90! All of their clothes are reasonably priced.

You do have to sign up to browse their online store, but it’s free and it’s worth it to see what they have available for women, men, and kids.

Favorite Restaurant: Restaurant Marc Forgione

Tucked away on a little side street in TriBeCa, Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s restaurant is a warm, homey, candlelit fairyland. The décor is simple yet charming, our waitress was a pure delight, and the food…whoa, baby. Think high end fine dining without the pretentiousness.

We were invited to try several amuse bouches during our meal, and you’ve got to love a restaurant that offers their upscale take on an everything bagel (sooooo good) and a Dorito.  When our waitress announced that Marc Forgione himself made our starters, we almost fell out of our chairs!

The Chicken Under a Brick dinner that my sister and I shared was deliciously moist and flavorful and I’ve never had roasted potatoes as good as these ones: crispy on the outside and perfectly done on the inside…divine.

Then along came dessert…my God, the dessert! We ordered two: a  rich, chocolatey riff on the popular S’mores treat, complete with a toasted marshmallow on a stick, and a Bananas Foster cheesecake that was…wow.

I can’t imagine a future trip to NYC without a visit to Marc Forgione’s Restaurant, but in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for his cookbook, releasing April 2014. What a great gift for the foodie in your life, plus it contains the Chicken Under a Brick recipe!

Favorite Part of Central Park: My Dad’s New Bench

No one loved New York City more than my dad. Even though he lived in California, he made it out to NYC twice a year, every year. He saw shows, movies, and museums, he ate at simple delis and fancy four-star restaurants, and he roamed through bookstores and music stores. But every morning before he did any of the above, he would run on the city sidewalks, weaving through the pedestrians on his way to Central Park. There he would settle into his rhythm, chugging along through the trails and around the Reservoir, looking like he could run forever. I know, because he’s kicked my ass around the Reservoir more than once.

With how much our dad loved the city, my sister and I couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to remember him than by adopting him his own bench in Central Park. After spending half a day traipsing through the park trying to find him the perfect bench, we ended up selecting first one we saw: a great location where you could sit and look into Central Park, watching joggers, bicyclists, and dog walkers pass by between the bench and the lake, and knowing that all you have to do is turn around to see the iconic New York skyline. He would have loved it.

Thank you, Sister, for a fabulous New York trip!

MY FAVORITE THINGS, NEW YORK STYLE (Part 2)

November 22, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Random Thoughts, Reflections on Pop Culture

Inspired by Oprah’s List of Favorite Things and my recent trip to New York City, here is Part 2 of My Favorite Things—New York City style—just in time for your holiday shopping! (Read Part 1 here.)

Favorite New Way to Eat a Sandwich: Tartines

New York is the home of a delightful soup, salad, and sandwich shop called Le Pain Quotidien (Our Daily Bread). But these are not your ordinary sandwiches: these are tartines, open faced sandwiches topped with delectable flavor combinations and presented in the shape of triangles, like mini pizza slices. The Prosciutto, Pear, & Fig was a standout, and the Roasted Turkey & Avocado was brought to an entirely new level with the addition of a spicy mustard. I may never eat a regular sandwich again.

They have an online store with their cookbook and sweet and savory spreads, as well as a recipe section: let the cooking begin!

Most Powerful Scene in a Movie

Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, is based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. It is an intense, suspenseful, and terrifically acted movie that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. But the most honest, heartbreaking, and powerful scene came at the end of the movie when the ordeal was over. Tom Hanks should win an Oscar for that scene alone: the quietly devastating and ultimately human response to surviving a horrific event.

Favorite Place to Find Reasonably Priced Books for Kids: Scholastic Books

As a child, I lived for the Scholastic Books flyers that my teachers would send home, heralding books for only $1 and complete book collections for less than retail price. To this day, I am the most excited person in the house when my own kids bring home their Scholastic Book flyers. So when my sister and I were strolling along in SoHo and came across a real life Scholastic Book store, I just had to go in. Picture Books, New Readers, Chapter Books, Young Adult, Teen…it’s all there, along with puzzles, music, toys that stimulate creativity, and a lot of Harry Potter merchandise. It was fantastic! But you don’t have to travel to NYC to get these kind of deals: shop online for your books, toys, and games, and enjoy Free Shipping on online book orders over $25 now through 11/25/13.

Favorite Shoe Display: Converse Store in SoHo

I have never owned a pair of Converse shoes in my life, but this display made me want to buy three pairs: red, white, and blue. Visiting Converse’s store on Veteran’s Day and seeing this homage to our country took my breath away.

Did you know you could create your own Converse shoes online? Custom Converse lets you choose from a variety of colors and prints to design every portion of your shoe, right down to the color of the eyelets. A gift card for Custom Converse shoes would make a terrific gift for your hard to please, fashion forward, creative children!

Click here for Part 3 of My Favorite Things!

MY FAVORITE THINGS, NEW YORK STYLE (Part 1)

November 20, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Reflections on Pop Culture

Inspired by Oprah’s List of Favorite Things and my recent trip to New York City, here are a couple of My Favorite Things—New York City style— just in time for your holiday shopping!

Favorite Nut-Free Treats for the Holidays:

Vermont Nut Free Chocolates Advent Calendar  (This isn’t technically New York, but I figured Vermont  was close enough!)

It is so difficult to find nut free treats that when I discover a new one, I practically jump for joy. Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, one of my go-to nut free chocolate sources, is now offering a nut free chocolate advent calendar! Behind every door from 1-24 lies a perfectly safe and delicious chocolate treat for your nut allergic child…or for you! Available in milk or dark chocolate.

Eleni’s in New York

Oprah had Eleni’s “Color Me” treats on her Favorite Things List this year because of how whimsical they are, and I have them on my list because they are a completely nut free bakery. I discovered Eleni’s on my visit to Chelsea Market in NYC. I was enamored of the beautifully decorated cookies (plus they had samples!), but when I turned the box over and saw the “Nut Free” on the label, I nearly swooned.

And they ship! I brought these ones home for my kids as a souvenir:

Favorite Candy Display: M&M World, Times Square

On the 2nd floor of M&M World, three walls (three walls!) are lined with colorful tubes housing every flavor and color of M&Ms you can imagine. It is a feast for your eyes as well as your mouth! All you have to do is get a bag from an employee and you are free to wander from tube to tube, filling your bag full of M&M treats. I went crazy, picking plain, peanut, almond, peanut butter, mint, and pretzel in both milk and dark chocolate, and I went with an Easter-ish pastel color scheme. After you pay, all you have to do is tuck your M&M bag in your purse and then you can sneak M&M’s anytime you want…while watching a movie, while strolling through MOMA, or while watching a Broadway musical or two!

You can even personalize your own M&Ms right there in the store or online. You’d be amazed at the number of different personalizations you can do, including your favorite NFL team.

If that’s not enough, they had an overwhelming selection of Apparel, Candy Dispensers, and stuffed M&M’s to suit anyone’s fancy. If you have kids, this may be the place for you to get all your Christmas shopping done. If not, there’s always Hershey’s Chocolate World. Anyone need a Hershey’s throw blanket?

Click here for Part 2 of My Favorites List from New York City!

OPRAH’S LIST OF FAVORITE THINGS 2013

November 16, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Reflections on Pop Culture

 

Oprah’s List of Favorite Things 2013 just came out. I love to look through it every year (especially since she always sponsors a chance to win them all!), but I think it’s fair to say that Oprah and I have different tastes. For example, this straw purse? I love the beach more than anyone I know, but I’m still not seeing the charm.

Or how about this photo of your pet on a throw pillow? Um…no.

But for every one of Oprah’s favorite things that has me saying “What? Really?”, there is another that makes me sit up and say “Ooohhh, that’s awesome!” Here are my Top 4 Favorite Things from Oprah’s list of 60:

1)    The Present Cake

This is right up my alley: chocolate cake with salted caramel truffle cream decorated as a perfect Christmas package. What’s not to love? If you check out their website, they have other goodies too, like cakes and cupcakes, and this whimsical Caramel Apple Cake (yes, this is a cake!).

2)    iPhone cases that will charge your phone? That is genius! And these battery cases are not just for iPhones: Mophie has them for iPads and iPods too. Anyone else think this is a wonderful stocking stuffer idea?

3)    Sarabeth’s Tomato Soup and Biscuits I’m not a huge fan of tomato soup, but after my recent visit to Sarabeth’s Restaurant in New York, I am definitely a fan of their food! I had a delicious Chopped Market Salad with chicken and my sister and I shared a basket of muffins in a variety of flavors that were absolutely delicious! How could you go wrong with a restaurant that has Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes and different sizes of porridge available: Baby Bear, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Big Bad Wolf?

4)    Sprinkle’s Cookie Dough in a Tube is from Sprinkles Cupcakes, the world’s first cupcake bakery founded by Candace Nelson, host of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. I’d love to try her cupcakes, but since her stores are nowhere near me, I suppose I’ll have to settle for her cupcake mixes (also available at Williams-Sonoma) and cookie dough in a tube. With flavors like Salted Oatmeal Cornflake and Fudge Brownie, I just might be ok.

Inspired by Oprah, I’ll be serving up a list of my own favorite things, just in time for the holidays…stay tuned!

 

 

 

SCHARFFEN BERGER’S CHOCOLATE ADVENTURE CONTEST

October 10, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences)

 

Do you like chocolate? Baking? Creating new delectable confections in the kitchen? Then here’s the contest for you!

Scharffen Berger is sponsoring their annual  Chocolate Adventure Contest and this year’s challenge is to Create A Bar.

Their definition of a “bar” is wide open: baking bars (like brownies or layered bars), no bake bars, cookie-based bars, ice cream bars, chocolate bars, or even chocolate bark are acceptable.

The bar must contain a form of Scharffen Berger chocolate (chocolate bar, chunks, cocoa, or cacao nibs), and at least one of the these adventure ingredients:

  • Bourbon
  • Oat Flour
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Carrot
  • Pomegranate
  • Peppercorn
  • Hibiscus
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pandan Leaf or Extract
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Fresh Croutons or Crostini
  • Coconut Milk, Cream, Butter, or Oil

Hmm. Anyone else think these ingredients are better suited to a savory appetizer? I’m thinking a little olive oil, some ground peppercorn, maybe some toasted sesame seeds on a nice crostini…

But no. We’re here for bars.

Last year, I attempted this contest and failed miserably (read about that here), but a lot of my problems stemmed from the fact that I waited until the last minute. This year, I have a new strategy. I’m starting early, I’m going to do a lot of research (what exactly is Pandan Leaf?), and I’m going to step out of my comfort zone (instead of using the safe turbinado sugar and oat flour).

If you need to be inspired, check out the fabulous Bakerella’s blog. She’s a judge again this year and she gives a beautifully photographed send-up of the contest.

And if you need more incentive, there’s a $25,000 prize on the line for 1st Place!

The deadline is Jan 2, 2014, so there’s plenty of time to join me on this Chocolate Adventure. Let me know if you’re up for the challenge!