Daily Tidbits

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good Chocolate

As I sit here drinking my morning cocoa, I must confess…

My husband says that I am a chocolate snob. I am. I love chocolate. I always have. And I will eat chocolate, anytime, anywhere, and pretty much any brand. Well, not exactly any brand because chocolate from Kazakhstan wasn’t very good. I won’t eat it again. I haven't been to Kazakhstan, my former boss traveled the world on business and every time he came back from a trip, he brought me chocolate. And just to clarify, chocolate is different depending on where it’s made. If you buy Cadbury in America, look on the package. If it says, “Manufactured in Hershey, PA” it will NOT taste like true Cadbury chocolate. It will have Hershey overtones. Trust me. Not that Hershey's isn't good.  It is.  But, if you want Cadbury, you don't want it to taste like Hershey's.  I buy Hershey's when I want Hershey's. I don't buy Cadbury when I want Hershey's. Funny side note: I picked up Cadbury Chocolate Bunnies at Wal-Mart this past Easter.  My son took one bite and said, "Mom, this doesn't taste the same." I hadn't said anything and the package looked the same.  But, he knew.

European chocolate is different. Cadbury that is manufactured in England tastes better than that manufactured in America. The same goes for Kit Kat bars. The Kit Kats you buy in Europe are darker than the ones made in America. I have taste tested them both, you can trust me.  I enjoy both, as well.

Moving on: I particularly love hot cocoa. It’s my indulgence. I love a cup of hot cocoa in the morning, and sometimes in the evening. Now this is where the snob part comes in: I must have Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Chocolate. It’s absolutely divine, especially when you top it off with a splash of real whipping cream. I am from Northern California; I love San Francisco and Ghirardelli Square. (Scharffenberger is good too…) In California, I could buy this cocoa at the grocery store. In Idaho, for along time the only place I could find it was Cost Plus Imports. Before I discovered that Cost Plus sold it, I would have my sister get it for me as she could get it at Harmon’s in Salt Lake. As that wasn’t always an option, I was on a quest to find a different, yet suitable hot chocolate. Other than making it myself, with shaved, good chocolate, I wasn't successful. Now, my local Wal-Mart sells it, which is much more convenient.

For awhile, I had an expensive alternative. Starbucks used to sell what they called, “Chantico, a drinking chocolate.” It was like drinking a melted chocolate bar; it was similar to a true Italian hot chocolate if you’ve ever been to Italy. It was expensive and small and I could only get it if I was in Boise. But, it worked. Until they discontinued it. I haven’t been to Starbucks since. So, onto my quest.

And let me tell you, there are so many inferior hot cocoas, it’s amazing. People up here rave about Stephens and how good it is. Here’s the truth: if you put Swiss Miss in one cup and Stephens in another and didn’t tell someone which was which, they wouldn’t be able to tell. The problem with these “gourmet” cocoas is that they put too much powdered milk in the mix, thinking that it makes a “creamier” cocoa. It doesn’t. It makes a watered-down cocoa or a milked-down cocoa. The thing that is so great about Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate is that it doesn’t add powdered milk. It is only sweetened ground chocolate and cocoa and you make it with milk not water. When you add a splash of real whipping cream it is an absolutely divine taste experience. And, as I am in the process of trying to lose weight, I still won’t give it up. Ever. I have a ½ size mug and I’ve figured out how to make my cocoa and have it only equal 4 Weight Watcher points.

My boys have inherited the chocolate thing too. Their grandpa always had a stash of mini Snickers bars in his home office and they loved getting chocolate from Papa. They don’t like hot cocoa (the sacrilege), but E loves Cadury Mint Aero bars, Hershey's Mr. Goodbar, Ghirardelli Mint Chocolate. J loves M&Ms, Nestle Crunch and Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffles.  I think he's the only child in his elementary school who gets truffles in his lunch box.

We would be a true chocolate family, except for the fact that my husband can’t eat chocolate—he’s allergic. But, that means more for the boys and me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The What's for Dinner Solution?...Review

About the book:
For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

I don't know any woman responsible for a home who hasn't, at some point in her life, stood in the middle of her kitchen at 5:30 and wondered what she was fixing for dinner.  I think this scenario happens to most of us on a very regular basis.  I'm a fairly organized homemaker who plans menus, and I still hit 5:30 on some days and have no idea what I'm doing.

Kathi Lipp has put together a terrific resource for not only the experienced cook, but also the novice.  She has a very straight forward way of writing and the book is short and easily read in one or two sittings, or by chapter.

In a nutshell, we're better cooks when we take the time to plan and organize.  It's as simple as that.  It's not new information.  It's not the proverbial light bulb.  It's something we all know.  Here, however, Kathi gives us solid ideas and ways to be more organized and on top of things.  With chapters covering grocery shopping and shopping strategies, using your slow cooker and your freezer, organizing your kitchen and pantry and planning for leftovers, Kathi shares tips and tricks and lots of family-friendly recipes.

As I read this book, I noticed a lot of things I already do (planning menus according to my family's schedule, using my crock pot and freezer cooking) and I discovered a few new helpful hints and suggestions, as well as more than one recipe I want to try out.

I think this would be a great gift for any cook/homemaker, and it would be a terrific resource for someone out on their own for the first time.  Wrap it up with a dish towel and casserole pan for a cute presentation.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kathi Lipp here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here
Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Recipe Finds

Pinterest is evil.  I'd just like to go on record and say that.  I have found so many great ideas and so many new recipes to try.   These are just a few of the new ones I've discovered...

Homemade Ho Ho's  These look dangerous and delicious.

Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake

Ciabatta Bread

Healthy Breaded Shrimp

Southern Chicken and Corn Chowder

What new recipe are you excited to try?