Eat a Bit of Chocolate – Self Care Month Day 14

 

We have a tendency to confuse self care with “Treat Yo’Self!!” and so today’s advice comes with the disclaimer to pay close attention to the “bit” part.

It’s well known that chocolate contains chemicals that make us feel good. Many people, when surveyed, say they’d choose chocolate over sex. And a little something sweet, especially if it makes us feel grateful – for the treat, or for the person who gave it to us, or just the experience of eating it – is certainly a good thing to do for ourselves.

However (sorry…), sugar has been linked to inflammation in the body, plus cavities, weight gain (from the inflammation), and even depression. That’s right, the candy that makes us feel good when we eat it not only makes us crash an hour later but could be contributing to a bigger long-term funk.

So have your chocolate today (or tomorrow when all the V-day chocolate is half off!!), but do it in moderation, savouring each piece and feeling gratitude for the experience.

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Awesome Thing – Soma’s Birch Branch

soma_branch

Two secrets that I will admit to you about today’s awesome thing – I have been known to break into the log song while cutting slices of this delicious treat.  I have also been known to cradle it in my arm like the log lady from Twin Peaks (timely, huh?), except you can’t do that for too long because it will start to melt.

Alright, technically, the folks at SOMA Chocolatemaker consider this treat to be a branch because the mould was made from a birch tree branch from the forests of Lindsey Ontario. Either way, it’s one of the coolest chocolate treats you’ll come across.

Filled with a sour cherry jelly and hazelnut crunch, it’s a really lovely and unique creation that typifies the quality we’ve grown to expect from SOMA. And given that it might cause you to break into song, it definitely qualifies as awesome.

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Awesome Thing – SOMA’s Calamansi Lime Chocolate Bark

soma_lime

How does that song go? You put the lime in the coconut… If lime and coconut are your thing, then this chocolate bark might also be for you. The awesome folks at SOMA Chocolatemaker have come up with this great combination, pairing the sour/sweet duo of the calamansi lime (sour juice and pulp but a sweet peel) with the sweetness of milk chocolate and roasted coconut. The touch of salt rounds it all out for a treat that exquisitely balanced.

Why it’s awesome: because it’s an interesting flavour combination that uses unique ingredients.

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When Even Your Food Tries to Food Shame You

cupcakeWandering through the frozen food aisle of the supermarket yesterday, I spied something that made me livid. And the more I think about it, the angrier I become.

A selection of frozen cupcakes, most with cute and reasonable names until we got to… Cheat Day Chocolate Cupcakes.

I know, it’s supposed to be cute. Funny, even. It’s supposed to play into the idea that these are so good, they’re worth cheating on your diet for.

My issue is more the assumption that you’re on a diet.

Because. We’re. All. Supposed. To. Be. Always. On. A. Diet.

And therefore, if you are eating a stupid cupcake, then you must be cheating. Because “good” dieters don’t eat chocolate. Or cake. It’s too decadent, sinful, etc. etc. etc.

A “good” fatty, hell a “good” woman, must at least demonstrate some level of guilt and remorse when eating a bit of cake or chocolate (Or both!!). To fail to do so means that you’re just not making the effort. To fail to do so means that you might not have been sufficiently brainwashed by the $60 billion diet industry and might be so audacious as to have some remaining self esteem that isn’t totally tied into making you feel like shit about yourself so you will buy more crap – more diet drugs, more make-up, more clothing, more cupcakes… in the misplaced hope that this will be the thing that does the trick and makes you love yourself.

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Lucky Dip – May 6th – Six Cool Food Things

Unelefante-Chocolate-Packaging-Mexico-AChocolate inspired by Jackson Pollack? These beautiful pieces of edible art are from Unelefante in Mexico. [Via KNSTRCT]

Das-Kochbuch-0111Can’t keep track of your best lasagna recipe? How about this one that’s printed on the pasta? [Via BoingBoing]

The story of Sweeney Todd the barber and the little pie shop next door is just fiction… or is it? In the 1380s, Paris had an evil barber/butcher combo that were brought to justice because of a dog waiting for its missing master. [Via Messy Nessy Chic]

Cristina-Burns-photography-12The sweetness of death… skulls, candy and flowers by Cristina Burns. [Via Dangerous Minds]

dali_lesdinersdegala1Before that Surreal Gourmet guy, there was the real surreal gourmet. Salvador Dali’s very rare cookbook. [Via BrainPickings]

spoonsMore skulls and sugar, this time for your coffee – sugar skull spoons. [Via This Is Colossal]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

In Toronto:

Keriwa Cafe (1690 Queen Street West) had updated their website. All the better to see their monthly menu updates.

Chef Justin Cournoyer’s new restaurant Actinolite (971 Ossington Avenue) opens to the public tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28th) serving up a menu with Spanish, Portuguese and Italian influences.

Basilio Pesce of Oliver & Bonacini has left Biff’s Bistro (4 Front Street East) to open his own restaurant in Parkdale.

Mabel’s Bakery (323 Roncesvalles Avenue) is expanding with a new location coming to 1156 Queen Street West.

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

In Toronto:

Chef Anthony Rose announced yesterday via The Grid that he’ll be leaving The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) at the end of the month to open a place of his own. Darren Glew, who has been at The Drake for the past five years, will take over the kitchen.

Simple Bistro (619 Mount Pleasant Road) had rolled out a new spring menu. Chef Matthew Cowan is offering up lots of tasty local fare such as rainbow trout, Grey County rabbit with prunes (put this in my belly now!), venison tartare and mushroom crepe. And brunch offers something called “The Cure” which is not Fat Bob singing Lovecats, but looks instead like the ultimate fry-up with eggs, bacon, sausage and duck confit hash.

Emma’s Country Kitchen (1108 St. Clair Avenue West) is not open yet, but hopes to be serving salads, sandwiches, soups, brunch and pastries to the folks of Corso Italia within the next couple of months.

The folks at Slow Food Toronto are looking for volunteers to help out at The Green Living Show (April 13th – 15th) at the Farm Fresh Fare area they run each year. People who help out and work a 3-hour shift will get a free pass to the show and some food tickets to try some of the food prepared by local chefs.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, February 20th, 2012

Welcome to the revamped Lucky Dip column in which I will be bringing you a daily selection (Monday to Friday) of local food news, upcoming events and links to local and international food news stories. Quantity of content will vary by day (thus the “Lucky Dip” name – you get what I scoop up), but I’ll try to ensure a little bit of everything.

If you enjoy the Lucky Dip posts, please help spread the word by sharing the link via Facebook, Twitter, etc. And if you have info on local restaurant news or events, I’d be very appreciative if you’d send it my way by visiting my Contact Page. Cheers!

In Toronto:

Caplansky’s Delicatessen (356 College Street) is closed this week from February 20th – 24th for renovations.

The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) has hired Chef Michael Smith (no, not that Michael Smith) as their new Executive Chef. Smith has previously worked at C5, and is in the process of revamping the various menus at the hotel.

Coming soon – This End Up, a new restaurant at 1454 Dundas Street West that will be serving sandwiches and cocktails. What? You need more than that?? Watch for their opening in March.

Both chef Carl Heinrich and butcher Ryan Donovan have announced they’ll be leaving Marben (488 Wellington Street West) (wait, who’s left to run the place?) to open their own restaurant somewhere in the west end. Heinrich is set to take part in the upcoming season of Top Chef Canada.

The Construction Site has opened a second location in Sherway Gardens where they’re spreading the grilled cheese love.

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Wait now… people lined up to get into a grocery store? And they weren’t even giving away anything good like a free turkey? And there wasn’t anything like a natural disaster or an alien attack about to happen? Toronto really has turned into a city of consumer-driven sheep, hasn’t it? [The Grid]

I am utterly over the cupcake trend to the point of annoyance. And I never got into the Star Wars thing… but this cupcake is allowed to exist because it cracks me up. [My Food Looks Funny]

Why we’re all over the daily deal sites and why you should support local indie restaurants, just because. [Bon Appetit]

Nutty as a…? Grandma Deb’s might be the benchmark of fruitcake, but I’d still pit mine against all comers. (Actually, if you can get your hands of a piece of fruitcake from the recipe Chef John Higgens used at Buckingham Palace – THAT’S the benchmark of fruitcake.)[Toronto Star]

The interesting history of Vernor’s gingerale. [Serious Eats]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, November 7th, 2011

Regularly, I go to bars and yell at servers about what constitutes a martini (hint – it ain’t blue!), but referring to the “martini list” as “the children’s menu” is a stroke of snark so brilliant, I bow down to its greatness. [National Post: The Appetizer]

What’s that? Your factory-farmed pork was not raised humanely? Go figure. [Chicago Tribune]

That’s not a spicy meatball… Rod’s balls are a little flat and bland for Amy Pataki. [Toronto Star: Toronto.com]

If truffles seem extraordinarily expensive this year, it’s because they are. [Guardian]

Better living through chemistry, chocolate version. Scientists in Guelph might have found a way to make chocolate not so fattening. [Globe and Mail]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Congratulations to my friend, colleague and mentor Jennifer Bain, for winning the Best Newspaper Food Column in the Association of Food Journalists Awards Competition. A well-deserved win by an outstanding writer. [Toronto Star]

Those vegetables in your dinner may have been harvested by a child. Don’t believe me? Watch the trailer for this new documentary. [Village Voice: Fork in the Road]

Don’t shit where you eat – and by that I mean don’t treat restaurant servers poorly. And if you just can’t help yourself, then at least remember to pay cash before you steal the tip jar and tell the waitress she’s fat, since if you use a credit card, you just might find your personal info plastered all over the intarwebs. [Globe and Mail]

Dear marketing companies – can we please get past this idea of products like beer and soda being for “girls” or “boys” only? Leaving aside all of the issues with diet soda in general, a product marketed just to men is as lame-ass and douchey as that shitty pink beer meant for women. As consumers, we’re above it. This little “girls stink/boys are dumb” game you’ve got going is insulting to everyone – and isn’t making you look particularly brilliant, either. [Toronto Star]

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Why are bartenders waging war on vodka? Because it’s for people who can’t handle the taste of real, better spirits. And if that makes me a booze snob, then I’m okay with that. [Globe and Mail]

Are you so obsessed with food that you need to think about it while playing board games? Have at it, kids – board games for foodies. [Bon Appetit]

The Boston molasses disaster? You never learn about the cool stuff in history class, do you? [Smithsonian.com: Food & Think]

“Virgin rape oil” – is not actually a bad thing, it’s just a really lovely type of organic canola (once known as rapeseed). [Globe and Mail]

You know what the sad thing about the “maggot melt” is? It’s probably made with some crap plastic cheese instead of a nice stinky raw cheese that is supposed to have maggots in it. (Also, those really look a lot more like mealworms than any maggots I’ve ever seen.) [CNN: Eatocracy]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Is there a difference between grocery carts fitted with iPads and a handwritten list? Will the iPads make for too much distraction and accidents or is it just an easier way to get the shopping done? [Globe and Mail]

Food snobs will finally get the chance to really compare Ladurée macarons with ones made in North America. The French pastry shop has opened a location in NYC, with the iconic cookies being imported from Paris. [New York Times]

Easy cheesy – Toronto chefs are getting into making their own cheese. [Toronto Star]

This is what happens when you don’t let your kids have junk food occasionally – they become obsessed over things like cereal fun packs. [Serious Eats]

Do you have an inner vegan? Sure you do – eat some nuts and take baby steps. [National Post: The Appetizer]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, August 29th, 2011

“First you get the sugar, then you get the money…” I once passed up the opportunity to ride from Toronto to New Orleans on a molasses barge. Should have done it. Life aboard a boat full of sugar sounds pretty sweet. [National Post]

The hipster barista takes himself very, very seriously. Especially when you turn him into a meme. [Eater]

Just when you had your coffee to sugar to cream ration perfect – Tim’s goes and changes the cup sizes. Rather, they’re getting rid of the small 8 oz cup and adding a 24 oz cup. You people and your huge things of coffee freak my shit right out. Seriously. [Toronto Sun]

Remember the mess that was “new Coke”? Twinings is set to do the same with a “more wonderful” Earl Grey tea. Nobody is amused. [Telegraph]

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Golden Tap Awards. [Canadian Beer News]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, August 1st, 2011

If you’re one of the millions of people who tried to get a reservation at El Bulli and never could, looks like you’re outta luck. The current incarnation of Ferran Adria’s restaurant is now closed. [Toronto Star]

No dogs on chairs! Marco Pierre White has been buying up pubs across the UK with plans to turn them into authentic ale and cider houses. The locals of one such pub, in business since 1420, are unimpressed by his move to stop selling Strongbow and Foster’s. Among the other things he’s banned – swearing, tattoos and dogs on chairs, making “down pub” right boring innit? [Caterer Search]

Does your server know enough (and by that, I mean “anything”) about beer? [Toronto Sun]

More on kids being banned from certain restaurants – seems the trend is spreading. Other things I’d like to see banned from restaurants: guys who don’t remove their hats indoors; large groups of shrieking women; hipsters. [Bites]

A lot of folks are calling foul on McDonald’s addition of apple slices to all Happy Meals. But you know who thinks it’s a great move? Apple growers. [Chicago Tribune]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Would ketchup on steak be a deal-breaker in a new relationship? How about if they won’t eat blueberries? [Globe and Mail]

That brings a whole new meaning to “franks and beans” – a worker at a Heinz factory in the UK loses a finger in some machinery. [Food Manufacture UK]

Eat fruit, it’s good for you. [Globe and Mail]

Oh, no they didn’t… Cadbury UK (which is owned by Kraft, which is owned by cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris) has run an ad that references model Naomi Campbell and compares her to chocolate. The ad has been pulled to avoid a racial backlash, but expect some lawsuits in the near future. [The Independent]

A history of whisky (part 1) in Toronto. [Toronto Standard]

Food prices will double by 2030. Before you start whining about the price of corn flakes, think about how this will affect the 44 million people who have been pushed into poverty just in the last year. [The Guardian]

Archaic liquor laws in Utah are hurting restaurants, where not every customer is Mormon, and some of them might want the occasional drink. [The Salt Lake Tribune]

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Flowers and Chocolate

I actually came across these dark chocolate and floral bars well before Valentine’s Day, and if I had my act together, would have posted about them before now. The collection is by Belgian chocolatier Dolfin and is called The Parfums d’Eden. It features 4 different flowers (rose, violet, verviene [lemon verbena] and orange blossom), offered in 30g bars of 60% chocolate.

We found these at Aren’t We Sweet in St. Lawrence Market, but they should be available wherever Dolfin chocolate is sold.

All of the bars smelled and tasted strongly of the included flower, although I didn’t get a lot of lemon either on the nose or the tongue with the verveine. In fact, the dried flowers within the chocolate had an almost tobacco-like taste and smell. No sign of lemon whatsoever. I wasn’t familiar with verveine as a flower – didn’t know it was “verbena”, so imagine my surprise to discover that the flavour is meant to be lemony.

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Bounty Bar Cupcakes

Working on the theory that everything is better with coconut, I came up with these the other day. They’re meant to resemble an inside-out bounty bar. Flavourwise it works, but next time I’ll incorporate more coconut right into the buttercream frosting.

Bounty Bar Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugar until smooth then add egg and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Blend flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa in a separate bowl. In a measuring cup, mix milk and coconut milk together. Alternate small amounts of  the flour mixture and the milk until fully incorporated and smooth.

Line a cupcake pan with papers and fill each approximately 3/4 full. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Coconut Buttercream

1/4 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
coconut milk

Combine butter and icing sugar and enough coconut milk to create a thick but spreadable icing. Spread onto each cupcake and then sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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Experimentation

The flavour combination of dark chocolate, dulce de leche and sea salt is not new. You might even say it’s a bit passé, but it could also be one of those things that become a classic, like chocolate and mint.

I had wanted thimble (aka. thumbprint) cookies, but I was also craving chocolate. And when my pal David at Circles and Squares Bakery tweeted about making dulce de leche brownies, the idea hit me.

This first batch is really a prototype – I made one pan and put the caramel into the thumbprints first, before baking, as you do when making the regular version with jam. This created a big oozing mess of melted caramel. Filling the prints as soon as the cookies come out of the oven works better – it melts just enough to smooth out, without creating too much of a river.

I also used 100% cacao chocolate, because that’s what I had on hand. It’s not readily available, but I don’t think I’d go below about 80% or the cookie will be way too sweet – otherwise the amount of sugar would have to be adjusted. And, I cheated and used dulce de leche from a jar, but the caramel is not hard to make.

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Proof of My Insanity

Go big or go home. Not my life’s philosophy, but apparently one I follow when baking.

See, I got a freezer, right? And not eating meat, I needed something to put in it. I filled it up somewhat with summer delights; fiddleheads and berries and pesto and tubs of peach chutney. But my original plan for the thing included cookies. I could start making Christmas cookies in September! Thus saving me from running around frantically in November to get everything done.

It was a great theory, but what actually happened was that I had all that extra time on my hands and so made more… much more. Ironically we found homes for most of it and now have a happy postman, building superintendent, co-workers, friends and relatives.

Cookies: clockwise from the top: chocolate coffee crinkles, zimsterne (a rolled meringue cookie with almonds and hazelnuts), white chocolate cranberry and pistachio biscotti, honey sand balls (a shortbread sweetened with honey and studded with walnuts), pfefferneusse, chocolate orange icebox cookies and eggnog shortbread squares. In the centre: zesty lime and coconut shortbread.

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