Monday, April 20, 2009

Calculate Your Age Using Chocolate Math!

Here's a nifty little test for you to calculate your age using chocolate math.

1. First, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (more than once but less than 10)

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50 -- I'll wait while you get the calculator

5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1759 ...
If you haven't, add 1758.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number

The first digit of this was your original number
(i.e., how many times you want to have chocolate each week).

The next two numbers are...YOUR AGE! (Oh YES, it is!!!!!)

Monday, April 13, 2009


Scanning our pantry needs, I noticed a dust-covered jar of nonpareil capers. My first reaction was of disgust. It wasn’t the little nodules floating in murky liquid that turned me off. I happen to really like capers. It probably should have been the amount of dust collecting in my pantry, but that wasn’t it either. The leading “nonpareil” made me immediately think of chocolate. Chocolate covered capers lack appeal.

After trying to recall the culinary experiment that prompted a caper purchase, I then started to think about the word “nonpareil”. That’s one of those words that my brain mumbles. It’s kind of like the first time I saw Hermione Granger’s name in a Harry Potter book. My brain just acknowledged it and moved on. I decided I’d try to say “nonpareil” out loud. My seventh grade French teacher would have been horrified.

Pronounced, non-puh-rel, the term is defined as “having no equal” and also as the round, chocolate candy covered with sugar beads. The origin of nonpareil candy dates back to the late 1700s, when they were a cake decorating item. Today they are a candy in their own right and available in a variety of chocolates and colored sprinkles.

Unparalleled is a bold title for such a simplistic candy. But considering its 250+ year history and very subtle evolution, it certainly seems deserving.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Are You Nuts!?!

Do walnuts in a chocolate chip cookie ruin or complete it?

The marriage of chocolate and nuts would cause some people to yell, “I object!” I recall debating the union at a very early age with my grandmother. Walnuts were a staple item in all of her homemade desserts. I thought they tasted terribly bitter. If I had a nickel for every time she said, “Eat around them…”

Dr. Mehmet Oz, professor of surgery at Columbia University and a regular on the Oprah Winfrey Show, explains that kids have more taste buds which are highly sensitized. A child’s 10,000 taste buds favor bland and sweet foods, finding other foods to be bitter. This is one of the body’s evolutionary safety mechanisms for avoiding poisons found in nature. I wish I had known this as a child. My grandmother might have made nut-free cookies had I been able to argue poison avoidance.

My 3,000 adult taste buds now seek chocolate with hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and other fruit and coconut combos. I still don’t enjoy a walnut and on principle, won’t eat around one.

You'd Eat (Blank) if it Were Covered in Chocolate

In a previous blog I mentioned that I’m the amazing mother who arrives at events with a chocolate fountain rather than boxed cake. That’s not exactly how I described myself; however, I do secretly think that I’m deserving of tights and a cape.

The game of identifying a different and exceptional dipping item is played at every fountain event. We have found that strawberries, crispy rice cereal treats, animal crackers, pretzels, nutty granola bars, and peanut butter wafer cookies are crowd favorites. This past holiday season, we added candy canes and skewered gummy bears to the list.

It’s not as difficult to identify items that taste good as it is to find items that will properly hold the chocolate and maintain original form. Fruits such as pineapple, mandarin oranges, bananas, and maraschino cherries are delicious covered in chocolate. That is, they would be, if the warmed chocolate would stay on the items.

Other items, such as homemade cookies, tend to disintegrate if dipped directly in the flow of the fountain. This is doubly problematic since you lose your dipping item, and its remnants clog the fountain mechanisms. If you have your heart set on dipping cookies or other fragile items, you may opt for a traditional fondue pot instead of a fountain.

Van Otis is happy to suggest additional dipping item ideas. This is also great party conversation and typically will generate some surprising suggestions.

What dipping items would you recommend?