b*eats :: chocolate, again

Chocolate. Remember how I was going to eat a whole bunch of it? I think I said I would try two varieties per week for the next two years in order to reach my goal of tasting my way through 200 varieties of dark chocolate. Yes, that was my intention. Let’s not mention the fact that months have gone by and I haven’t tasted a bit of dark chocolate. Don’t be misled, thinking that I’ve been on some sort of health kick. Not the case. Instead, I came to realize rather quickly that tasting dark chocolate and reporting on it meant that I had to photograph it and take notes on it. So much for the bliss of absently nibbling on bars of dark chocolate when I had the craving. Getting out a camera and notepad? Way too much work. So, I’ve had a stack of chocolates sitting in my cupboard all summer. Untouched. OH, the power of laziness!!

Well, my lovely apprentice former intern, Laura, visited me this weekend. And she brought me a beautiful little gift. It was wrapped with care, and tucked inside were two bars of dark chocolate and a sweet little note. Oh, how I miss seeing this girl on a regular basis!! Anyways, she prompted me to pick up the chocolate journey again. How could I refuse? Today, I am pleased to announce that I am two varieties closer to the end goal. Notes below, and a heartfelt thanks to my lovely Laura for the chocolate and love!

NO. 7 //  CHOCOLATE: Republica Del Cacao, Single Origin Dark //  FROM: My lovely Laura!  //  COST: gift  //  DARKNESS: 67%  //  TEXTURE: smooooth   //  TASTE: enchanting! complex. satisfying  //  RATING: 8  //  NOTES: What a fantastic dark chocolate. Truly excellent! This could be my favorite so far. It ends on a perfect note. Not too bitter, but dark enough to as to not seem overly sweet.

NO. 8 //  CHOCOLATE: Scharffen Berger, Nibby, Dark Chocolate with Coated Cacao Nibs //  FROM: My lovely Laura!  //  COST: gift  //  DARKNESS: 62%  //  TEXTURE: chunky, crunchy, almost grainy  //  TASTE: Interesting! Hint of bitter, but not overwhelming.  //  RATING: 5  //  NOTES: The main thing I noticed while tasting this dark chocolate is the texture. It is such a predominate feature, you can’t help but focus on it! This chocolate had a variety of notes to it… rich, almost carmelly, but still mature. I felt that it would be good with a cup of coffee.

b*eats :: good food

Thanks to my parents, I really like good food. Growing up, my mom always had a great meal on the table at dinnertime, and on frequent occasions my Italian father whipped up things like homemade spaghetti sauce, garlic bread, chicken cacciatore, and calamari. In college, I took a literature of food class, and loved every minute. Books upon books about food, and a plethora of papers on the topic. In my adulthood, I find myself more and more intrigued with food, as well as the topic of nutrition.

Recently I have been coming to terms with the fact that an appreciation for gourmet food is quite different than an appreciation for wholesome food. Lately, I’ve been trying to find the balance between foodie and healthy eater. About three or four months ago, I read Ultimate Metabolism, and really started to change the way that I eat. I began to focus on good foods–healthy, whole, real, clean foods that can be found in nature (nothing made in a science lab). Over the past few months, I’ve read even more books and articles and guides on nutrition. All of this reading and educating has caused me to make a fairly drastic shift in the way that I view food. I’ve cut sugar, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, carbs, grains and most dairy. Yeah, I know, you’re probably wondering what is left to eat. I focus mostly on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean meats. I use coconut milk in smoothies, and add fresh grated cheese to salads. I make farm fresh eggs for breakfast a couple times a week. Lunches are often salads, or avocado with some smoked fish and a hard boiled egg. For dinner, I add meat to a big veggie stir fry, or grill a small steak and serve it with steamed broccoli and a fresh salad. Snacks are made up of raw nuts mixed with raisins, or a piece of fruit.

Part of the reason I made this drastic shift was because I had been having some major issues with my skin. I went from fairly clear, to really broken out over the course of this winter, and I wanted to see what I could do to clear it up as naturally as possible (no thank you, accutane). I’ll write more on that topic another time. For now, let me just say that all these changes have left me feeling great. My skin is improving, I have more energy, I never feel hungry because the things I am eating leave me feeling satisfied, and I’m slimming down. The more I learn, and the more I eat this way, the more I am convinced that our bodies were not made to handle the garbage that we so often put in them. So much of the American diet is loaded with sugar, products of corn, chemicals, pesticides, genetically modified plants and hormone-loaded products of animals. It’s no wonder that we have health issues. Our bodies don’t have a clue what to do with all this stuff, because we weren’t made to process it.

I could go on and on about this topic, and perhaps I will in another post, but for today, I just want to leave you with a few of my main “philosophies of food” that I try to stick to. Maybe they will help in your own quest to become a healthy eater!

- eat close to nature (if God made it, it’s probably good for you)

- avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, caffeine, alcohol, most grains and dairy with added hormones

- bulk up on veggies, fruits, and lean meats!

- if you can find it locally and organically, do so

- if you can grow it, even better

- try to eat in season. shop farmer’s markets!

- vitamins, taken them

- water, drink it

- eat only when you are hungry, and stop when you are full

- snack often

- figure out what works for you. i’ve found that i don’t tolerate grains or dairy well, so it was easy to cut them from my diet.

- remember how horrible you feel when you eat junk next time you are tempted to reach for it.

- splurge!! when you cheat, do it thoroughly (think homemade ice cream). don’t feel guilty when you do.

- move your body, frequently

- get plenty of rest

- enjoy mealtime! eat with friends and family. savor your food. eat slowly. don’t become a prisoner to a diet. instead eat all in moderation, with your main focus on clean, whole, fresh foods!

b*eats :: more chocolate

So I’ve been eating more chocolate. Of course. I’ve shortened my reviews a bit this time, in an effort to not spend the next eight years on this dark chocolate journey. I’ve been focusing on organic darks, and have been finding most of these at small co-ops. I have gotten some awesome recommendations from you guys, and I do plan on ordering a few of them online in the next week or so. I’m up to five chocolates now, so only 195 to go! More recommendations are welcome.

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NO. 3 //  CHOCOLATE: Theo & Jane Goodall Organic Dark Chocolate //  FROM: Cook County Co-Op, Grand Marais, MN  //  COST: $4  //  DARKNESS: 70%  //  TEXTURE: velvety smooth   //  TASTE: bittersweet, a “comfortable” dark  //  RATING: 6  //  NOTES: This was a good, basic chocolate. I found it to be lighter and sweeter than the 70% Green & Black’s chocolate I tasted last. This one would be a great go-to dark chocolate for your daily “taste”. It has a sweet aftertaste and yet is a true dark. Nothing thrilling, but a good, solid chocolate.

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NO. 4 //  CHOCOLATE: Dagoba Lavendar Blueberry Tasting Square //  FROM: Harvest Moon Co-Op, Long Lake, MN  //  COST: $1  //  DARKNESS: 59%  //  TEXTURE: thick and creamy with fine bits of dried fruit   //  TASTE: distinct lavender taste… almost herbal or medicinal tasting, calming, rich and soothing, don’t notice the blueberries until the second taste.  //  RATING: 8  //  NOTES: This chocolate was entirely surprising and completely divine! A very unique combination of flavors. “Tasting” lavender is incredible, and I found it to blend well with the chocolate flavor. The blueberries were secondary, but rounded out the chocolate so it ended on a fruity note, instead of truly herbal. A great chocolate!

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NO. 3 //  CHOCOLATE: Dagoba Xocolatl Tasting Square //  FROM: Harvest Moon Co-Op, Long Lake, MN    //  COST: $4  //  DARKNESS: 74%  //  TEXTURE: smooth, yet grainy with fine bits of cocoa nibs and chilies   //  TASTE: spicy! surprisingly hot. first taste is warm. //  RATING: 5  //  NOTES: Distinctly spicy! The chocolate is dark, and the cocoa nibs and chilies make for an exotic combination of bitter and hot flavors. Fun to taste, but definitely not a favorite for me.

All for now dears… Happy Friday, and Happy Memorial Day Weekend!! Go grill something and take time to relax and play. And if you’re in Minnesota, stay dry and warm (insert grimace here). Cheerio!

b*eats :: culinary adventures

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It all started with a trip to the farmer’s market. It was the first market of the season, and I was surprised to find a nice selection of produce. Into my basket went a head of red leaf lettuce, bok choy, parsnips, asparagus, raw honey, farm fresh eggs, and a morel mushroom. Many of the items I purchased were picked fresh from that farm that morning. The only way to describe their appearance was “dewy”. They were practically glowing! Once I arrived home, I thumbed through my favorite cookbook gathering ideas for a farm-to-table meal.

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The mushroom was sauteed in olive oil, along with garlic and a touch of parsley. Meanwhile, on another burner, onion, garlic, roma tomatoes and olives were simmering. These would later be used to top two thin, pan broiled steaks. The red leaf lettuce was chopped and tossed with tomatoes, olives and a touch of parmigiana-reggiano cheese. The asparagus was first boiled, then cut and wrapped with prosciutto and finally topped with thin slices of the parmigiana-reggiano cheese. The bundles were broiled until the cheese had a slight touch of golden brown.

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Everything was then plated and served. Each flavor-packed bite was savored, and this meal proved once and for all the absolute superiority of quality, organic, fresh produce. The salad was crisp, light, and yet rich in taste. The mushroom and the steaks too, were delicious. However, it was the asparagus that stole the show. Something about the prosciutto and the cheese made the asparagus come to life. I have no words to describe it, but I can tell you that it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

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Every good meal must end with dessert, and this one was no different. In keeping with our Italian theme, we opted for gelato… coconut gelato, made in Italy. To say it was divine would be an understatement.

And thus, another culinary adventure came to an end, with a sink full of dishes and our bellies full of good food.

b*eats : fave food blogs

It’s no secret that I love to eat well. At home or abroad; my kitchen or yours; healthy or not so much; take out or dine in; fresh or fried–good food is well worth the pursuit, and I will try anything at least once. Discovering a great restaurant or trying a new dish is almost more exciting than getting new shoes (I said almost). Tasting, savoring and delighting in delectable cuisine is a hobby an obsession.

Put together my devotion to good food, my appreciation of deliciously styled and shot photos of good food, and my delight in a well-written blog about good food, and you get the following list. These are six of my very favorite food blogs. Some are written by food stylists or food photographers. Some include recipes. Some don’t. Some are written by foodies. Some are written by people who know how to make magic happen in the kitchen. Every one of them will make you hungry. So don’t even think about perusing these before your lunch break. I gave you fair warning!

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: WHAT KATIE ATE :
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: TARTELETTE :
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: B’S FOOD AND WINE JOURNAL :
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: PICTURES & PANCAKES :
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: CANNELLE ET VANILLE :
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: SUNDAY SUPPERS :
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