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Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

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For the last several years, I’ve done a series of chocolate posts for the month of February. Expected? Absolutely but the month that contains Valentine’s Day and sometimes Fat Tuesday always seems to say “chocolate” to me. It’s funny because as I’ve stated a few times before, I’m not much of a chocolate eater. Shocker, I know as I lean more towards the vanilla, caramel and fruit end of the spectrum. All the same, as this February approached, my thoughts turned to … you guessed it … chocolate. In this case, it was marshmallows.

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It’s that happy time of the year where, if you’re lucky, leftover Halloween candy rains down upon your head. I don’t get many trick-or-treaters to my city apartment; in fact I get zero; so I don’t really have to deal with the conundrum of figuring out exactly how much candy to buy every year. So many unknown factors build up to one big question: how many kids? Weather factors in, certainly, and that can be very unpredictable in some parts. Neighborhoods also age – what might have been an endless stream of kids one year, can turn into a trickle as those kids grow up and become too cool to knock on doors for candy. The struggle is real, my friends because god forbid you run out of candy.

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When I was a kid, every couple of summers we’d visit the grandparents in Chicago and sometimes, we’d pile into my grandma’s car and visit her mother in Cleveland. We’d drive through toll roads and eat lunch at truck stops, both very exotic things to this little southwest girl. We’d stay in the house that my great grandfather built, in the unfinished second floor, in a bunch of bedrooms in beds piled high with hand made, soft and cozy quilts. We’d run around like lunatics and laugh with an enormous extended family, something we didn’t have back in Arizona. We’d eat giant piles of amazing foods from her Czech heritage – kuchens, dumplings and her legendary apple strudel, which she would hide from our greedy mouths. Once my great uncle and I found 12 beautiful strudels hidden in the clothes dryer. She’d greatly underestimated our detective skills. We each had nearly demolished a whole strudel a piece when she caught us on the basement steps, crumb covered faces and sheepish grins. Despite her stern reprimands, I think she got a kick out of the whole thing. I also have distinct memories of eating chocolate tapioca pudding on the front porch swing. Nothing fancy – it was right out of the Jell-O box – but oh, was it good.

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I have a banana problem. Maybe you do too. I frequently buy a few and never get around to eating more than one. So why don’t I buy them just one a time? Who knows. Maybe somewhere deep in my subconscious, a single banana is a sad, solitary thing. Maybe it needs a friend. Instead, I let the extras sit on the counter, first spotting then slowly turning from brown to darker brown and perfuming the kitchen with their sweet, cloying scent. Yep. Welcome to my life. Then, when I get around to it, I’ll peel the squishy things and pop them into a Ziploc which is shoved mercilessly into the freezer to deal with at a later time. Which is when the fun starts because now they’re ready for banana bread at the drop of a hat. And I do so love banana bread. Which is also great because guess what?? It’s National Banana Bread Day! YES! Another weird wacky food holiday on my recent list of weird wacky food holidays!

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In my search this month of “food holidays” I learned, among other interesting facts, that today is National Chocolate Mint Day. Hooray! Who even knew we needed such a thing? The Chocolate Mint Council? The US Mint Growers? I’m baffled by how these things come to be and I spent many years in corporate advertising. I know more about promotion than the average Joe and I still can’t figure this one out. But if this means I can make chocolate mint ice cream to celebrate under the pretense of some nationally designated day, then damn straight I will. Why not? I’ll add it with National Cream Cheese Brownie Day to my list of important February days to remember. You should too. Put that into iCal right now so you don’t forget.

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I’ll be honest. I’ve been working on this recipe on and off for several years and it has aggravated me to no end. Originally, I wanted to use some excess Mexican chocolate I had on hand and having done hot chocolate, cookies and popsicles I thought a poundcake would be a wonderful addition. Sure. Guess again. According to my notes I worked through six different recipes, all of them duds. Terrible. I used up all the chocolate and then had to buy more. I wasn’t alleviating a problem, I was creating one. In frustration, I shelved it for almost a year.

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I have a fascination with candied citrus. It’s delicious, particularly when well executed and dipped in dark chocolate. I credit this to my Grandmother. She loved strips of candied orange rind but only the real stuff – no terrible orange jelly strips in cheap, waxy chocolate for her! Oh no, it was the expensive, slowly candied rind dipped in high quality dark chocolate or nothing. On my visits to Chicago, we’d wander down to the basement of Marshall Fields and find our way among the beautiful candy counters, looking for just the right treats. Oh how I miss Marshall Fields and their beautiful candy department! It’s just not the same these days, not even close.

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