Saturday, August 03, 2002

Blogathon 2002 is over... but there are still women who want to start businesses and need help. First, feel free to look here and in the archives if you want to read about chocolate... and if you would like to support my cause, feel free to make a direct donation to Count Me In. Your donation will be tax-deductible.

If you would like to visit my regular blog, go to My Riad.

Sunday, July 28, 2002


Finis! I can't believe I did it! 24 hours without sleep! Thank you, thank you... you helped raise $429 for Count Me In... and you helped Blogathon 2002 raise more than $58,000 for charities around the world. (There may be more to add to the Count Me In total after I hear from Bean Tree Soap.)

I want to thank each of you who sponsored me. Your generosity is much appreciated. Thanks to all of you who helped me find stuff to write about, and helped me stay awake. I'm glad we could help Count Me In, and in turn, help our economy grow.

Before I crash, some important information for the sponsors:

*Do not send or give your pledge money to me, or to Blogathon 2002!

* You will receive an e-mail from Blogathon 2002 asking you to send your donation directly to Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence. You can donate online, or you can send your contribution to: Count Me In, 22 West 26th Street, Suite 9H, New York, NY 10010. If you do send your contribution by snail-mail, I would appreciate it if you mention that you made a pledge through A Blog of Chocolates.

*Be sure to get a receipt from Count Me In if you want to write your contribution off on your taxes. Because I am not collecting money, I cannot provide you with a receipt when tax-time rolls around. From my previous giving experience, I believe Count Me In will send you a thank-you e-mail which notes the amount you gave. Print out that e-mail and it can serve as your receipt. Otherwise, keep your cancelled check, or somehow keep track of your contribution.

This site will be accessible if you want to come back to review any of the chocolate tidbits I posted... please honor any references/credits I made to other authors, books, sites, etc.

Finally, I may do this again next year! If you have any chocolate ideas, please e-mail me.

Thank you very much.... and take a moment every day to enjoy life!
Favorite Chocolate Cookies: Let's start with the classic-- chocolate chip. I've got a recipe that makes a really crunchy cookie. The secret ingredient is potato chips. No joke! Basically, take a standard cookie dough recipe, be sure you're using real butter, and add about 2 cups of crushed potato chips. (A sleeve of Pringle's is just about right.) It adds a unique crunch... and 99 percent of the time, people don't know why it tastes so good until you tell them the secret... if you tell them the secret!

Next-- a cookie that goes by several different names. At Foster's Market in North Carolina, it's called the "chocolate whopper." Look in the Williams-Sonoma chocolate cookbook, and it's called the "othello." Whatever you call it, it's a great recipe. It has loads of chocolate and very little flour... just enough so you can call the resulting product a cookie. Melted chocolate in the dough, and lots of chocolate chips and nuts. Mmmm.

Finally-- a cookie that got me several marriage proposals. It is the ultimate chocolate cookie. It's called the "Menage a trois" cookie, and the recipe was developed by DeDe Wilson. It's in her book, Bake It to The Limit. It's got a whopping 46 ounces of chocolate in the entire recipe... a dark, truffle-y cookie with dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate chunks. I'm happy to say you can also get the recipe here. Go make these!

Last half hour: Thank you!
Chocolate and Ancient Mayan Religious Beliefs: The Mayans believed cacao was heavenly. (Hmmm. So do I.) They believed the cacao tree belonged to the gods, and research into their civilization shows that it was the only tree they bothered to name.

The Mayans believed the cacao pods were gifts from the gods to humans, (hmm... so do I) and that the pods were symbols of life and fertility.

They also built stone temples and palaces which featured carvings and images of cacao pods.

(I tried decorating my house in a chocolate theme and my husband wouldn't let me.)

Next half hour: Favorite chocolate cookies
Chocolate and Christianity: Hey, it's Sunday morning. Guess we ought to do something religious.

Seems like the Church had a love-hate relationship with chocolate. Sometimes they used it, sometimes they banned it.

When Hernan Cortes realized cacao was sort of a "black gold," he got greedy and tried to keep a monopoly on processing beans. You can thank the Jesuits for actually introducing and spreading chocolate throughout Spain, Italy, and France.

Until the 18th century, nuns and monks made chocolate on both sides of the pond.

In the New World-- they loved chocolate. The nuns and monks even used it to keep them going during a fast.

In Europe, however, chocolate was kind of suspicious for a while. One monk tried to declare that chocolate was nothing but diabolical, but no one paid him much mind.

Next half hour: Chocolate and Ancient Mayan Religious Beliefs
Cure for a hangover: Wild Saturday night? Waking up with a headache? (Or are you still up with a headache?) Chocolate might be your cure.

During the 17th century, an Englishman wrote in his diary about a terrible hangover he had the morning after the king's coronation. He wrote that a friend gave him a cup of chocolate as a remedy.

Hope it worked!

Next half hour: It's Sunday morning. Time for some religion. We'll start with Chocolate and Christianity.
Chocolate Babka: I didn't even know what chocolata babka was until my co-worker introduced me to it a few weeks ago. She and her mom get it from a Jewish grocery store called Snyder's in DC. She kept telling me how good it was, and she finally brought in a piece so I could try it myself.

Merciful heavens! It was more than I imagined... more than just bread. And it is. Bread dough rolled out, then slathered with chocolate paste, rolled up and baked.

She said, "wait 'til you get home. Heat it up and put some whipped cream on top." She looked at me. Oh, yeah, her eyes said. It'll send you.

Me, when I taste something that good, I have to try to make it myself. I don't know if it's to continually impress my husband, or know that I can do myself in -- in a happy way-- with my own cooking. I haven't tried it yet-- but here's a chocolate babka recipe.

(FYI -- there are recipes for chocolate babka with pecans or walnuts, and Elinor Klivans has a chocolate-almond babka recipe in her book, Bake and Freeze Chocolate Desserts. I think I prefer no nuts. Leave room for more chocolate.)

Next half hour: Cure for a hangover
Eeek! The sun is rising.... the birds are singing...

Chocolate for breakfast: Not that I'm hungry this early in the a.m. But I thought you might want to consider some choices.

If I were awake enough to cook, I'd make some chocolate scones. I was thinking about double-chocolate chip. I like scones-- they're easy to make, it's easy to experiment with flavors, and they're easy to carry in the car with you to work. And they look so impressive. Here are a few recipes:

*Chocolate-Drizzled Tweed Scones
*Bittersweet Chocolate Scones with Rum-Macerated Dried Cherries

Don't know about you, but around my house, whenever dad had a bumper crop of zucchini, it was zucchini this, zucchini that. How about some Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Next half hour: Chocolate Babka
Is Chocolate Good for You? Several new pieces of research have given us new reasons to enjoy chocolate with less guilt, according to the Chocolate Manufacturers' Association.

First is one my mom is really glad to hear: the main fatty acid in chocolate does not raise bad cholesterol levels.

Another is that dark chocolate and cocoa powder have the same antioxidants as red wine.

And the third is the positive impact chocolate has on the brain and our feelings of well-being.

But what about what dietitians say-- especially with obesity in America at epidemic proportions?

Chocolate makers say-- it's the so-called "junk" chocolate that makes you unhealthy. They say high-quality chocolate contains pure cocoa butter, with no added fat (so obviously they put milk chocolate in the non-high-quality category), and chocolate that has a higher percentage of the real thing needs less sugar to make it taste good. Basically-- just remember to think about what else is in your chocolate besides chocolate.

Next half hour: chocolate for breakfast
Cloud Nine Chocolates: Cloud Nine chocolate is a smooth chocolate. It is made with evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar, if avoiding refined sugar is your thing.

Cloud Nine makes about 11 different flavors of bars. Toasted coconut crisp with milk chocolate and cool mint crisp-- dark chocolate with little bits of peppermint candy-- are my favorites. They also have an espresso bean crunch bar, which I didn't like because I thought the beans were left too big; but then again, I'm not a coffee drinker.

Cloud Nine is definitely worth a taste!

Next half hour: Is chocolate good for you?
Man, this is torturous, hearing my husband snoring in the next room...

Does Chocolate Really Cause Pimples? Well, we'll have to consider the sources. On one hand, your mom, who either doesn't want you to get into the habit of eating chocolate or wants to eat it all herself. On the other, the chocolate manufacturers who want to you buy, eat, buy, eat.

You know what your mom says.

Here's what the manufacturers have to say: there is "no correlation between chocolate consumption and acne in teenagers. Likely culprits are hormonal imbalances and a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet."

The chocolate manufacturers, according to The Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate, have similar explanations for migraines (chocolate has less of the chemical that sets off migraines than cheese); tooth decay (blame sugar, sticky candy, or toffee); and even obesity (good quality dark chocolate is expensive, so you can't afford to eat enough of it to make you fat).

(Kinda reminds you of that guy in NY trying to sue KFC and McDonald's for his weight problem, doesn't it?)

Next half hour: Cloud Nine Chocolates
Chocolate and the Afterlife: If there's a choice, send me off Mayan style. The Egyptians equipped their dead with things they thought they'd need in the next life, and so did the Mayans-- though perhaps not as elaborately.

A tomb found in Guatemala contained vessels used for drinking chocolate-- and one of those vessels had traces of chocolate left in it!

Next half hour: Does chocolate cause pimples?

Chocolate bath and body products: There are quite a few products out there that not only use cocoa butter, but cocoa for the body.

Let me plug one of my corporate sponsors, Bean Tree Soap. The owner, Shannon, has a chocolate massage bar that is shaped like a wooden massage tool. It contains cocoa butter, cocoa, and shea butter. She says that the smell is so wonderful, every time she makes it, her husband thinks she's making brownies. Shannon has put together a chocolate gift basket just for this fundraiser... you can get chocolate soap, chocolate lotion, chocolate bath salts, and chocolate massage oil for $20. A very sensual gift. And $5 will go to Count Me In.

Next half hour: Chocolate and the after life
Six hours left! We're in the home stretch... last quarter of the Blogathon.

Note to self: get BloggerPro for spell-checking if you do this again next year...

Chocolate and body temperature: One of the most sensual things about chocolate is that it melts somewhere between 86 degrees F and 97 degrees F, which is right below body temperature. So, it remains solid at room temperature and melts once you put it in your mouth.

Do, however, store your chocolate slightly below room temperature, and give it time to warm up before you eat it, so you can enjoy all the flavor.

Next half hour: Chocolate bath products
Chocolate and prostitution: During the Mayan and Aztec Empires, a john paid for a prostitute's services in cacao beans. During the Mayan Empire, an entire night at a brothel cost a handful of 'em.

And a contemporary of Hernan Cortes (the explorer who took cacao back to Spain) noted that the services of a prostitute during the Aztec Empire cost ten cacao beans.

(Wonder how he knew?)

Next half hour: chocolate and body temperature