Category: Food glorious food

Choffy – Delicious Brewing Chocolate

Choffy 100% Ground Cacao Beans When you open a bag of Choffy the delicious aroma of chocolate tickles your nose. It’s not a super sweet smell, but rich and decadent like the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted. Choffy is 100% premium cacao beans that are roasted and ground. It brews like coffee, but it tastes like a grown up hot chocolate. It’s not sweet (unless you add sweetener), but it sure scratches that chocolate itch.

I first read about Choffy on blog, that was doing a giveaway of Choffy. I was so intrigued, I didn’t even enter the contest, I went straight to the distributor’s site and ordered a bag. Yummmm. I’ve been drinking it both hot and cold for a few years and I decided it was a product I could really get behind, so late last year, I signed up to become an Independent Choffy Distributor (you may have seen references to Choffy on my DreamBoard and my 2014 Goals).

Choffy doesn’t have any of the negative side effects (that hard crash or the jitters), of caffeine and there are only 40 calories in a 12oz cup! You can fulfill that craving for chocolate without going over board on calories. Choffy is naturally high in anti-oxidants and can even improve your mood. Don’t take my word for it, visit the Choffy website for more information on the science behind the health benefits of cacao and Choffy.

There are several blends of choffy including Ivory Coast, IC Dark, and VoltaThere are several different brews of Choffy. My favorite is the IC Dark made from cacao beans grown on Africa’s Ivory Coast and the new Volta made from beans grown in Ghana. Choffy can be brewed in a drip coffee maker with a gold filter, but for the best experience I recommend using a French Press (you can pick one up from Amazon for around $10 or why not pick up a thermal french press?). Choffy retails for $15.00 per bag (Volta is $16.50, but oh is it worth it). If you are local to me, I keep stock on hand so shipping fees are less because I order in bulk, if not, shipping is just $5.75 for up to 3 bags. Just visit http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order and with a few clicks of the mouse, your Choffy will show up at your door in just a few days.

Here’s my recipe for the perfect cup of Choffy.

Ingredients:

4 Heaping tablespoons of Choffy in a Choffy Tumbler Press

16 oz. boiling water

A healthy splash of vanilla (about a teaspoon)

A pinch of salt

A 1 teaspoon of raw sugar

A splash of milk

Directions

Add the Choffy to the Tumbler Press and set the water to boil.

Add the boiling water to the Choffy and let it brew for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, sugar and salt to your favorite mug.

When the Choffy is ready, add it to the mug and stir.

Add the milk to taste.

Enjoy!

Have questions? Please contact me at lee.laughlin@gmail.com or visit my distributor page http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order.

Plan to Eat – Making my life easier every day

I am a planner. Some might say to the extreme, and now that I have a son who appears to have inherited the same tendency, I can see where this is sometimes frustrating for those close to me. *ahem* However, there are times when this trait comes in handy. The kids are heavily involved in karate (including weapons training), Cub Scouts, Student Council, Chorus and numerous volunteer activities. I take a kick boxing class 2-3 times a week and my husband is rarely in the door before 6:30pm. Fish’s food sensitivities make it hard to eat out, so if we are going to eat anything other than breakfast for dinner, I have to plan ahead.

Meal planning is not new to me, I’ve done it in various forms for years. Through Tsh at The Art of Simple (formerly SimpleMom.com) I found PlanToEat.com and that has radically changed my meal planning and grocery shopping for the better.

With PlanToEat, I can keep all of my recipes in one location. I can input recipes manually to capture those handed down on recipe cards and, there is even a handy clipping tool for my web browser so I can snag all the mouthwatering recipes on the Internet. I can also easily share them when people ask for recipes.

Yes, there are lots of recipe sharing platforms out there, but Plan To Eat is so much more! It makes my shopping list for me! Once I select the meals I’m going to make, I can click to the shopping tab and see everything I need to create those meals. I check off the items I already have in my pantry (olive oil, salt pepper etc.) and add the items not tied to a recipe (e.g. Gluten Free Chocolate Chex or toilet paper) and voila! I have shopping list. It’s web based, so I can access it from my iPhone. I bring it up in the parking lot just in case the store has bad cell service. If PTE can’t access the Internet, it will check off items as you put them in your cart and delete them from the list when signal is regained.

The cost is $4.95 a month or $39 for a year. (see below for a special offer), but my sanity says it’s money well spent. I also like the fact that I’m supporting a small business. Really small. Plan to Eat is run by husband and wife team Clint and Lisa, they live with their four children in the Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about them and their business philosophy at the web site http://www.plantoeat.com

I wish the shopping list would include bargin shopping features (i.e. pricing tracking by store), but I’ve been impressed with their response to questions and requests for new features, so I’m happy to stick with it.

There is a 30 day free trial (they don’t even ask for a credit card *gasp*), so you an try an out to see if it is fit for you.

Do it! Do it now! Take a look at PTE now, because starting November 29th, they’ll be offering 50% off annual subscriptions. That means 12 months of Plan To Eat is just $19.50! The special rate will be available until December 2nd.

I believe in this program enough to sign up as an affiliate so if you click that link above and sign up for PTE I’ll get a little thank you from them too :).  Check it out and happy meal planning!

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Huzzah! It’s BLT season

Oh how I love the end of August and beginning of September. I LOVE fresh tomatoes. Really big, red, juicy, fresh tomatoes. Ours acquired a bad case of horn worms this year, but I digress. Ever since I read Harriet the Spy, I’ve loved tomato sandwiches with mayo. I love tomatoes with mozzarella, in a salad, or with just a little salt. But, by far, one of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes is in a BLT.

Turns out I was doing it wrong. I saw first saw this Life Hack on the Buzzfeed List 22 Things You’re Doing Wrong, but it’s worth noting it originated on Life Hacker

Last week I finally remembered to try the Bacon Basketweave method of BLT making.

Before cooking and after cooking pictures of 3 pieces of bacon woven together.

Pros

  • A much neater sandwich
  • No escaping bacon
  • Bacon in every bite

Con

  • It takes longer to cook bacon in the oven than in a frying pan.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

The bacon weave on top of fresh tomatoes and lettuce on lightly toasted white bread with a swipe of mayo

Ruth’s Brownies

Two of the best brownies on a plate next too a glass of milkEveryone has recipes that represent their childhood. My crispy baked pork chops are a riff on the Shake ’N Bake Pork chops I loved growing up. There’s also a baked chicken recipe that I’ll share soon, but the quintessential “treat” when I was growing up was my mom’s brownies. Everyone loved them! They are chocolately and moist and more a fudgier brownie as opposed to the more conventional cake brownie. As a matter of fact, in a classic case of only wanting what you didn’t have, I used to PLEAD with her to buy brownie mix in a box. I wanted the cake style brownie. Eventually, I had my fill of cake brownies and I wised up. I know this recipe by heart. It’s THAT good and THAT easy.

My mom got the recipe from her sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, who was also a close friend of my paternal grandmother. Did you follow that? That woman was also named Ruth. So, here you have, Ruth’s Brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real stuff PLEASE)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional – I NEVER get to add walnuts because the people around me equate eating nuts to eating bugs. I think they add something, especially if you have a few minutes to toast them before adding them to the chocolate, but it’s up to you.).

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Grease an 11×13 pan
  3. Place butter and chocolate in a pan on medium to low heat until both are completely melted.
  4. Add sugar, mix until blended
  5. Add flour, mix until blended
  6. Add eggs, mix until blended
  7. Add vanilla and salt, mix until blended.
  8. Add walnuts (if using).
  9. Pour into greased pan
  10. Bake for 30 minutes – NO MORE

As long as your oven is close to temperature you’ll be fine. When you pull them out, you’ll wonder if they are really done. The top should have a light crust, but still look a little moist.

Allow them time to cool before cutting.

Serve with milk.

The recipe can be halved, but really who would want to do that?

Eating Allergen Free – Buffalo Wild Wings

Fish is now living gluten free, dairy free and egg free. Sounds easy right? Just don’t eat foods with gluten, dairy or egg in them right? Yep, that’s it. *Snort* if it were only that easy.

Seven years ago, we discovered that A-Man’s migraines were caused by maltodextrin, a thickener, I started reading labels and stopped purchasing about half of the convenience foods normally in my pantry. I learned how to make home made versions of dips, crispy coatings and gravies and other processed foods I’d come to rely on. I knew from my previous label reading experience, in removing all of Fish’s trigger’s from her diet would be no picnic, but I honestly had no idea how complex it would be.  Most labels don’t say “contains gluten”.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet has 12 pages of information about ingredients that can contain gluten.  Some labels say “gluten free”, but then I have to look for dairy and eggs and their derivatives. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many more gluten free foods in the grocery store than there were even 5 years ago, but you still have be very careful especially with multiple sensitivities. Many people were quick to point out that Udi’s makes the best gluten free bread, but their breads contain egg whites, so they aren’t an option for Fish. The same is true for a number of GF pastas. I read every label and I try to remember to read them every time I shop (manufacturing practices can change quickly).

I can honestly say that eating out and quick meals have been the hardest part of this whole process. It’s one thing to stand in a store and read a label and be able to make a judgement about the safety of the food with regards to your child’s allergies, but it is entirely another to rely on a perfect stranger who has limited knowledge what goes in to the food he or she serves and doesn’t really understand the consequences. Then there’s cross-contamination, when a “clean” food comes in contact with an allergen during preparation. For example when french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings or chicken nuggets. It’s enough to make you never eat out again. Oh, but some nights, some nights, eating out is the only option.

Recently we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had heard they had a number of allergy friendly options on their menu. One had just opened nearby and the kids had been nagging me to go. We don’t have that many restaurant choices locally, so anything new is always a novelty, especially a potentially allergy friendly option.

When we sat down Fish immediately notified the server of her allergies and asked if they had a gluten free menu (it’s the easiest place to start). The server said she’d be right back. When she returned, she brought with her 5 lamented sheets of paper. Every menu item was listed along with a complete ingredient list. There was a also grid that listed each menu item and which of the most common allergens it contained. I was floored. This meant we could also determine if any of the sauces would trigger a migraine for A-Man (best as I could tell, none would). If only it was always that easy!

5 laminated pages of allergy information at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was small print (hey you can’t have EVERYTHING), but we poured over the sheets until Fish identified some wings that sounded good and were allergy free for her. She loved it and it was nice to watch her relax and enjoy the meal. Mim ordered his standard grilled cheese and fries and I had a combo platter with cole slaw and fries.

I’ll be straight with you, this is not gourmet cuisine, but it was decent and reasonably priced. I would make different choices next time, (I didn’t realize the boneless wings were breaded and deep fried. DOH!) but I’d go back for the allergy friendly environment alone. I wish more restaurants would follow their lead.

Have you found any restaurants that handle food allergies well?

Maple Sugaring

Have you ever had maple syrup? No, not that artificially flavored and colored corn syrup you buy at the grocery store, I mean REAL maple syrup.

A three pane collage, the "Sap Cow" (patent pending) used to collect from the individual trees, off loading the sap for transportation to the boiler, close up of sap pouring into buckets

If you stand in front of the super market shelves and see the price difference between manufactured goo and real maple syrup, the temptation might be to reach for the goo. I beg of you, resist. There is a difference and it IS worth it.

A three panel collage the wood pile necessary to fule the fire. The homemade maple sugaring stove, Adding more sap for a consistent boil

Our neighbors have made maple syrup for a few years and this year, we (*ahem*, A-Man), got in on the action. Making maple syrup is very time consuming and mother nature has to cooperate for the operation to work well. The process actually starts in the fall, when you traipse around the woods tagging maple trees. Once the leaves fall off, it’s hard to tell the maples from other indigenous species. 

When the daytime temperatures start to climb out of the twenties, and the night temperatures still dip below freezing, then, it’s time to tap the trees to collect the sap. A good sap year has a few weeks of daytime temperatures in the high 30’s or low 40’s and night time temperatures below freezing. Once you have a good quantity of sap collected, it’s time to boil it down to make syrup.

A three pane collage the sap pan in the dark of nigh, finishing the boil on the stove, the final product

Sounds relatively straight forward, why then is Maple syrup so expensive? It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap and approximately 12-14 hours to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The first boil of the season was yesterday. They started at around 7am and by 9pm they’d managed to make just about a gallon of syrup.

Oh, but what a heavenly nectar it is!

A waffle drizzle with the results of the process.

Note to A-Man: What I wasn’t able to collect with the waffle, I used my finger to wipe up.  Not a drop was wasted in the creation of this blog post. 

Funky Chickens and Other Fair Phenomena

Pictures of Fancy breeds of chickens. Sometimes it is hard to tell which end is which.

Fancy chickens in the poultry barn. Sometimes, sometimes it was hard to tell which end was which, if you know what I’m sayin’.

 

Required eating. pierogies & kelbasi, funnel cakes and chili in a bread bowl

Required eating at the fair, pierogies and kielbasi for me, and chili in a bread bowl for A-man.

A ride that spins like a pendulum in a complete circle.  My crazy kid road this thing.

My crazy kid road this thing!!! What’s worse is that I let her!!

My kids in front of a monster Jeep

I take this picture every year, and the jeep keeps getting smaller. How does that happen?