July 3, 2015

Links I Like: 7.3.15

Happy Friday! It's official...Seattle had the hottest June on record, a record that was last broken in 1969. I do NOT want to see my water bill! I'm going camping this weekend (to the Oregon Coast, where it will blessedly be in the low-to-mid 70s) and I fully expect to have ripe tomatoes when I get home. Crazy! Here are this week's links:

Finally, I don't have kids, but I thought that Jamie Oliver's Family Food Tube YouTube channel was fun, with useful tips for feeding quality food to babies and children. Actually, I might make Jools Oliver's recipe for Crunchy Fish Fingers myself! (Even though I would serve it with more broccoli and less potato.)

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July! I'm taking a blogging holiday Monday, so see you Tuesday!

July 1, 2015

2015 Cookbook Challenge: June Wrap

In spite of being conspired against by a broken, morse code-emitting stove and a spate of I-live-in-Seattle-for-pete's-sake-I-SO-did-not-sign-up-for-this heat wave that appears to be without end, I did an OK job of cooking from my June picks for my cookbook challenge. Not as OK as I planned, but, like I said, I have a broken stove and it's HOT out.

Of the three books I chose, I had only cooked from one, Amy Pennington's Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen. Last month, I was happy to cook from it more, and it has confirmed it's place as one cookbook I would take with me to a desert island. I made:
  • Spiced Kibbe with Herby Yogurt Sauce
  • Apricot-Chickpea Salad (this is my new potluck go-to recipe!)
I'm not removing the sticky tags until I have a chance to make:
  • Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake
  • Spiced Yogurt Chicken
  • Carrot-Coconut Milk Soup
  • Lentils with Mint and Beets
  • Vanilla-Quinoa Pudding
I almost made her Perfect Roast Chicken for the millionth time, but, again, my oven broke, so I had to make crockpot chicken instead (the chicken was already defrosting in the fridge).

From Greg Atkinson's West Coast Cooking, I made:
  • Arroz con Pollo (although next time I'll make it with about half the amount of rice)
  • Golden Pumpkin Waffles (these were really, really good!)
  • Vanilla Stewed Prunes (great on oatmeal)
I did not get around to making:
  • Chai tea
  • West Coast Breakfast Bars
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Orange Chicken for a Crowd (which I hope will become a casual entertaining go-to)
  • Crystallized Ginger Shortbread

Where I totally fell short this month was with Jamie Callison's TThe Crimson Spoon: Plating Regional Cuisine on the Palouse. I will slip in some of these recipes during the rest of the Washington harvest season.

Next week I will reveal my July picks. Not surprisingly, they feature a lot of recipes that either don't require cooking (salads) or can be cooked on the outdoor grill (although I do have a new stove on order).

June 30, 2015

Why I Buy Fair Trade Chocolate

I love chocolate. Especially high-quality dark chocolate. (Don't even talk to me about white chocolate. That isn't chocolate.) However, there are three things that make me sad about chocolate.
  1. Chocolate doesn't count as a vegetable (even though it is full of phytonutrients).
  2. Much of the glut of mass-produced chocolate out there replaces some or all of the pricy cocoa butter with vegetable oils and polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR)
  3. Child labor, trafficking and slavery are rampant in the Ivory Coast of Africa and other areas of Africa, Asia and Latin American where most cacao beans are grown. (Learn more about "Chocolate's Child Slaves" on the CNN Freedom Project website.

Because it feels wrong to enjoy something as decadent as good chocolate when child slavery lies at the other end of that particular food chain, I am choosy about my chocolate. My most frequent go-to is Theo Chocolate, because it's delicious, it's local, it's organic and it's fair trade (which means the people who harvest the cacao beans are paid fair wages and there is no child labor).

Back in February, I went on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (aka, the center of the universe). I learned a few important things about tasting chocolate, including:
  1. Let dark chocolate melt in your mouth. One reason some people don't like dark chocolate (crazy!) is that it contains more tannins, which can taste bitter. When you chew the chocolate, the tannins are released abruptly. When you let it melt in your mouth, you get less bitterness, more complex flavor.
  2. When you are eating chocolate that contains fruit or nuts, you want to chew it so that the flavor of the chocolate and it's add-ins combine in your mouth. 

Also, did you know that chocolate doesn't have as much caffeine as you think? The reason it can be stimulating is because the polyphenols in chocolate act as vasodilators (i.e., they dilate your blood vessels, in your brain and elsewhere). In fact, our tour guide says he'll have a little dark chocolate in the morning, instead of coffee, before he works out to get an gentle energy boost.

Follow the chocolate pipeline!