Thursday, July 29, 2010

Slavery-free chocolate

Just popping in briefly to share a couple of useful links. Recently, the public has grown more aware of child slavery practices used in cocoa production. You can read about child labor and chocolate here.

The news is deeply saddening. But we can help by buying only chocolate that uses fair-trade practices -- or, in a pinch, chocolate that is labeled "organic." Organic farming subscribes to its own set of labor-monitoring laws. Also, there are no known "organic" chocolate farms in the Ivory Coast as of now, and that is where the majority of child slavery reports is coming from.

So please, buy slavery-free chocolate. It's a little more expensive, but it tastes better than that Hershey's muck, which is mostly sugar anyway. If we look at chocolate as an occasional treat rather than a daily requirement, it is easy to treat ourselves to only the best varieties for our tastebuds, our bodies, and our consciences.

This page has a huge list of corporations and their statuses on use of slave chocolate, and this one has a list of fair-trade and organic chocolate producers, where to buy them, and the products that they make.

Say no to slave chocolate. If I can turn my nose up at that bowl of Snickers and Milky-Ways in the break room at work, believe me, ANYONE can.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

And I'm back

Hello, phood phriends! I'm back after a bit of an absence and hoping I can get it together enough to post in here semi-regularly again. My long dry spell had to do first with having four jobs and a class and having no time to cook anything really special beyond my old stand-bys (stands-by?), much less to blog about it, and second with moving and having no internet connection for a few weeks. But I've unloaded the camera and I hope I'll have enough stuff backed up to write about for a while.

I'm going to start off by cheating, with a recipe I got directly from a book Brian gave me for my birthday, but it's a book I strongly recommend and a recipe you've GOT to try, at least if it ever cools down enough to turn the oven on again. (I haven't baked anything for weeks...sad!)

The book is Savory Baking by Mary Cech (Chronicle Books, 2009) and everything in it looks fantastic. So far, I've only tried this recipe but I'm thinking when it gets cold again I'll try to power through them all. The recipe:

Peppered Pear and Goat Cheese Scones.

Makes about 6.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspons salt
1 1/4 teasoons freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium pear, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
4 ounces goat cheese, broken into large walnut-size pieces (the high-quality real goat cheese was delicious, but in a lower-budget time I've used good old Athenos feta and had similarly good results - I just reduced the salt to something like 3/4 teaspoons, since that stuff is pretty salty. --LC)
1/2 cup whole or low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. (I just used nonfat cooking spray and it worked fine. --LC) Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir together. Add the butter and break it into pea-size pieces with your fingertips. Sprinkle the pear pieces and crumbled goat cheese over the top of the flour mixture and gently toss together, being careful not to break the cheese into smaller pieces.

Soften the yogurt by whisking in the milk. Pour the yogurt over the flour mixture and gently blend the ingredients together with a spatula, being careful not to break up the cheese. The dough may look slightly dry, but it will produce a moist scone. Divide the dough into six equal mounds on the baking sheet, leaving about a 1-inch space between each to allow for slight spreading. (Please note -- "slightly dry" is an understatement! When I made these the dough seemed like a loose, crumbling aggregate of component parts. Don't worry! Just pile them together as best you can and they will magically turn into delicious, moist scones in the oven. --LC)

Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Place the baking pan in the center of the oven and bake until lightly brown, about 25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Enjoy these on the next cold day! They're AMAZING. I served them with bean soup once and it was a really nice accompaniment. Thanks again to Mary Cech. Please check this book out.