There’s nothing like a basket of fresh strawberries to give you the feeling that summer’s on the way. Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits — in fact, ninety-four percent of households in the U.S. consume strawberries, and the average person eats about 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries per year and 1.8 pounds of frozen berries. Continue reading
Just how much chocolate is too much? Or is there even such a thing? Food Network Magazine’s March “chocolate” issue attempts to answer these questions, as it’s packed with every conceivable variation of one of life’s most delicious weaknesses.
The cover alone promises brownies, cookies, cakes and “chocolate-covered everything.” And that’s just the beginning. Flip through the issue, and the content’s sweet enough to give you a cavity—and that’s without getting into the recipes.
There are chocolate-inspired accessories, like calculators, iPhone cases and purses. There’s a chocolate lover’s bucket list, packed with sweet must-visit spots from coast to coast. Perhaps one of the more intriguing is The Spa At The Hotel Hershey (Pennsylvania, where else?), which offers chocolate facials, cocoa baths, sugar scrubs and mud baths.
For the record, I love chocolate (especially when combined with peanut butter), but I’ve eaten myself miserable on it at times. And that’s almost how I felt thumbing through this issue that’s simply chock-full of chocolate.
That’s not to say there isn’t some good advice in here. The handy rundown on tempering chocolate so the end result is smooth and glossy is a must for anyone who wants to try their hand at chocolate coating anything.
Rather than simply melting chocolate on the stove or in the microwave, Food Network Magazine suggests the addition of 2 teaspoons of shortening per pound. Plus, they advise not to necessarily opt for chocolate chips just because they’ll melt faster. Bar chocolate chopped into pieces is actually the better bet.
Once you’ve got the chocolate melted, the magazine proves that there’s no shortage of options to test it out on. Bacon, cheddar cheese cubes, corn chips, licorice, Saltines, popcorn and grapes are just the beginning of what can be made better (presumably) with a layer of chocolate.
For more traditionalists, creativity can still run wild with endless variations of fudge toppings or brownie combinations. The magazine starts you off with 50 brownie recipes in its featured tear-out booklet.
But if all that seems a little tame for your taste, there’s more–chocolate waffles, chocolate coffee, chocolate pasta. Philadelphia is even introducing a chocolate cream cheese that was wildly popular when tested in the German market.
And here’s even more good news for the chocolate lovers among us: A recent study finds we’re more generous and agreeable than those who aren’t as sugar-indulgent. I guess you could say we’re just sweeter.
It’s pretty impossible not to crave chocolate on a day like today–the pinnacle of National Chocolate Month–but indulgence doesn’t have to mean guilty regret.
Chocolate tempts us even more than usual this time of year, what with all that Valentine’s Day candy on the shelves since just after Christmas.
With the sweet stuff so prominently featured just about everywhere, it’s no surprise, really, that February is National Chocolate Month. But don’t think that if you’re (still) sticking to your New Year’s resolutions to get fit or if a restricted diet prevents you from indulging that you can’t get in on the celebration.
Three magazines tackled chocolates and other desserts in their February issues, all with the purpose of offering some seasonally appropriate desserts on the lighter side.
Cooking Light magazine’s February issue took some inspiration from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament format and presented a Sweet 16 Bake-Off to find the “best light chocolate recipe ever” that had been published in its pages in the past 25 years.
Sixteen finalists were culled from the last quarter-century of recipes, and the field was eliminated in a head-to-head showdown until only one dessert was left standing. The top four recipes were published in the February issue, and each boasts 10 grams of fat or fewer per serving.
Among double chocolate ice cream, chocolate-frangelico fondue, Texas sheet cake and classic fudge-walnut brownies, the brownies came out on top. (Though none of the other finalists’ recipes were published in the magazine, the issue was noted so devoted readers can consult their archived copies.)
For even lighter chocolate recipes, Food & Wine magazine featured three from Joy the Baker blogger Joy Wilson. Each of these weigh in at 6 grams of fat or fewer per serving, thanks to her use of lighter ingredients like cocoa nibs and Greek yogurt.
Wilson shares her tips for making chocolate frozen yogurt with caramelized bananas, cocoa-pepper waffle cookies and cocoa nib pavlova with raspberries. Each promises maximum chocolate flavor without the guilt.
Finally, Everyday Food magazine lets readers in on some unlikely ingredients that can help trim fat in desserts like brownies and cupcakes. A triple-chocolate brownie recipe uses pureed black beans as a substitute for some of the butter, resulting in four fewer fat grams per serving.
Not a chocolate lover? No problem. The magazine also includes recipes for vanilla cupcakes with fruit glaze, which uses pureed white beans to get its sweetness. Gingerbread mini cakes are moist—and good for you—thanks to pumpkin puree.
Jena Pincott’s new book unveils the mysterious side of pregnancy through scientific studies that will have you reaching for the dark chocolate.
To say pregnancy is a mystery is a gross understatement. In order to fend off the realm of the unknown, we tend to book-up–or worse, Google-up–reading everything we can get our hands on in an effort to quell our doubts and answer all our questions. So, what’s the problem with that? There are so many answers, from good to bad and very ugly. Worst-case scenarios abound. While pregnant with my twin girls, I finally had to throw out one bestselling pregnancy book and tell the hubs to do the reading from there on out. I was making myself crazy! Sound familiar?
Too bad I missed out on science writer Jena Pincott’s new book, “Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? The Surprising Science of Pregnancy.” According to the December/January issue of Fit Pregnancy, Pincott effortlessly “melds fascinating facts about pregnancy with practical advice.” None of the scary stuff. Love that. Here’s a sampling of some tips from the book:
1. Expect to hate your partner’s smell. Prior to pregnancy his smell subconsciously drew you to him, even to the point of being “a sign of compatibility on a biological level.” Most likely, your sniffer is “now under the influence of progesterone,” which is not only helpful for a developing pregnancy, but is also associated with bonding. Could our noses be drawing us closer to flesh-and-blood kin (our babies) over our dear husbands? Pincott says, “In our ancestral past, parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts may have been more helpful than mates when it comes to childbirth and raising a baby.” Good thing our husbands have evolved.
2. Enjoy chocolate daily. The author–and she’s a scientist!–says pregnant women should eat chocolate regularly because it might help alleviate the baby’s stress in the womb and even “improve his temperament after birth.” So Junior actually is sweeter! Don’t forget, dark chocolate is the go-to for less fat and more health benefits.
3. Embrace the pregnancy dreams and nightmares. We have vivid dreams more often while pregnant, thanks to all those “hormones and fractured sleep cycles.” But relax! There’s a good reason for them. The more vivid the dreams and nightmares, the more our “evolutionary purpose of dreaming” may be working out our stresses due to a major life change. Impending parenthood certainly counts, right? Expectant mothers who dream more also tend to have faster deliveries and a significantly reduced chance of postpartum depression.
4. Push yourself a little bit. While we’re always telling ourselves to stress less, Pincott believes there could be an upside to the pressure. Studies have shown that moderate stress in the second and third trimesters has been “associated with higher cognitive and motor scores in children” compared to those whose mothers had a relatively stress-free pregnancy. In that case, I may have given my girls a leg up in this world.
Don’t be a sucker–get in on the newest version of the petit four on a stick and make your own cake pops at home with these simple tips.
Chances are you’ve seen one of the most popular petite treats popping up just about everywhere lately. Cake pops, the sensation popularized by Bakerella blogger Angie Dudley, have graced magazine covers, been the subject of TV talk shows and created a cottage industry of their own.
Family Circle’s October 2011 issue featured Halloween-inspired pops, while Taste of Home’s December 2011 installment showed an array of treats perfect for the holidays.
I’ve yet to venture into making cake pops, but I’ve been slowly working up the nerve by making the fundamental piece—the cake ball. Read Bakerella’s blog for instructions on how to make them, and it sounds pretty simple, but it can be a lengthy process that requires a good bit of patience.
Now that I’ve made (and attempted to make) the red velvet version several times, I’ll share a few tips to keep in mind should you attempt to make them yourself.
Beware of cake pop makers. You know those contraptions that quickly bake cupcakes and doughnuts? There’s one for cake pops too. And while they are literally cake pops, the handmade versions are better. That’s because there is a can of frosting mixed (by hand–get ready to get messy) into the baked cake, which is then formed into balls, making them melt-in-your-mouth moist.
The process is pretty flexible. Try to tackle the entire project in one day, and it may seem overwhelming. Besides, who’s got the time? If you must, you can spread the steps out over a couple days. For example, bake the cake and let it cool one day. On the next, mix in the frosting, form the balls and let them chill. Finally, coat the balls in chocolate and let them set.
Patience is a virtue, especially when melting chocolate. Bakerella suggests melting the chocolate for the coating in the microwave. But I prefer the use of a double boiler—especially when it works. The key is patience. The water in the bottom of the boiler should be slowly heated over low heat. Then the top pot with the chocolate should be added after the water in the bottom is hot but not boiling. The chocolate will take a while to melt.
Now for the fun part. With the chocolate melted—and no need to re-microwave throughout the process—it’s time to put the finishing touches on the cake balls. For best results, spoon the chocolate over the ball, rather than moving the ball through the chocolate. This helps maintain the ball’s shape while not getting cake crumbs in the mixture. You may also want to invest in a candy-making tool (they’re inexpensive), rather than using a spoon or fork. If you do improvise, clean off the utensil periodically so the finished product comes out smooth.