Category Archives: Recipes

Chocolate Fest 2013

This past weekend, Drew and I went to Chocolate Fest at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I don’t think either of us have ever tried so much chocolate! There were so many vendors giving samples of their products and so many cooking demonstrations that ended with samples – by the end I could not eat it any more. Drew was kind enough to take my samples so that I would not have to eat them or through them away 🙂

One of my favorite demonstrations was by the Mars Company, they have a division called American Heritage, that researches and educates Americans about the history of chocolate in the Americas, and in particular, in the US during colonial times, Their presentation ended with a sample of hot chocolate from a 1706 recipe! It tasted, amazing, and was completely natural and dairy free. Just pure chocolate, about 8 spices (secret recipe) and a tiny bit of sugar. Sugar was very pricy in the 18th century, so recipes did not call for a lot.

My other favorite part was the cooking demo by Short Chef, a true New Yorker who now lives in Miami and works with schools to educate children on healthy eating and cooking. Due to his own health problems and the loss of several family members from heart disease, he changed his career path as a chef to focus on healthy eating and educating children. He prepared for us a wonderful salad that included a chocolate and papaya dressing… was so yummy!

But maybe the best part was that Drew decided to plant a cacao plant in his backyard. It’s really a rain forest plant, so Miami can be a little to cold and windy in the winter and a little too sunny in the summer for it – but it’s worth a try!

Below are some pictures and recipes. Enjoy!



then, after digging through several feet of limestone rock, Drew planted the cacao plant…it will take several years before we get chocolate, but how good will that taste, knowing how much work and time went into it!


Below are also some products that we learned about that are worth mentioning:


Cannot recommend this chocolate enough, it is a 1706 recipe, all natural, no preservatives, low in sugar, dairy free and would make a great gift. Click here to see where you can purchase online

51Yw-JpLX2L._SS500_A few of the authors that contributed to this cookbook were at the festival and had samples of some of their recipes, they were all, without exception, outstanding! There is one called ‘Best-Ever Carrot Cake’ – and it just might be, we tried it, trust us. Click here for their Amazon link


Chocolate Spice Bark (serves 36)

16 Ounces of 70% Bitter Sweet Chocolate

1 tsp curry

8 ounces Dried Pineapple

8 ounces Toasted Almonds

1 small Orange Zested


1. Coat a 9 by 12.5 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the ends

2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, add spices

3. Pour into baking sheet and spread in an even layer

4. Immediately sprinkle toppings over chocolate, refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, peel off paper and break into pieces

Other spice combos: Star Anise, Mango and Macadamia Nuts

Summer Salad with Chocolate and Papaya Dressing

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

mandarin oranges

6 cups of mixed greens

1/3 cup candied almonds

1 large papaya cleaned and cut into pieces

1 ounce semi sweet chocolate curls (create curls by running a vegetable peeler over the edge of a piece of chocolate


Shredded Coconut

Drew’s mom makes the best granola I have ever tried, and I’ve tried quite a few. It never lasts very long when she mails Drew a fresh supply of her homemade granola from Indianapolis. The original recipe does not call for shredded coconut, but Kathleen adds some, and Drew loves that part. He likes adding shredded coconut to foods (even ground beef, which tastes real good). So, I try and always have shredded coconut on hand.

Coconut has lately received a lot of attention for all its health properties. And it does have several. However, it should be noted that not all packages of shredded coconut are processed the same way.

Several (sometimes most) varieties found in grocery stores contain added ingredients, ingredients that many consumers may want to avoid, such as added sweeteners, sulfites, or preservatives. Thankfully, as consumers become more discerning and demanding, healthier versions of shredded coconut are becoming more popular in regular grocery stores – you do not always need to shop at a Whole Foods type market to find these healthier versions of shredded coconut.

For example, the ingredient list for one popular brand, Kraft Bakers ,


reads as follows: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). And it is advertised as being “The moistest Coconut on the market! It sells for approximately $3.30 for a 14-ounce bag, or $.23 per ounce on

For other brands, such as Bob’s Red Mill,


the ingredient list reads as follows: Natural, Unsulphured Coconut. It sells for approximately $3.09 for a 12 ounce bag, or $.77 per ounce on

Now, many may be wondering what is the difference, other than price, between these two options. It all comes down to the ingredients, let’s take a closer look at the conventional brand’s ingredients: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). The coconut in conventional brands may well be very similar to the coconut used in more unprocessed varieties. But the conventional brand also adds sugar, which is most likely conventionally produced and refined sugar (which is typically made white by granular activated carbon [GAC], or ion exchange resin which removes less colour than GAC but also removes some of the inorganics present. The conventional brand also adds propylene glycol, which though it shows a very low acute oral toxicity , and large quantities are required to cause perceptible health damage in humans, it is still an additive that many consumers would rather avoid. The conventional brand also includes salt, which is a generic term to describe one of many different kinds of salt. Most likely, conventional brands of shredded coconut use refined table salt, a form of salt that typically has added anti-caking chemicals, and added iodine. Refined salt is also processed at high temperatures, altering the molecular structure of the salt and removing the beneficial trace minerals. Unrefined salt is approximately 84% sodium chloride and 16% other minerals. Refined salt is approximately 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemical additives. Lastly, the conventional brand of shredded coconut had added sodium metabisulfite, a popular conserving and antioxidizing agent used in food, drugs, and cosmetics, to which a small portion of the population is allergic.

For consumers trying to avoid food additives and excess sugar and salt, alternatives to conventional shredded coconut brands is probably a good idea.

Here is the granola recipe Kathleen shared with me:


4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup shelled, raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups pure Grade A dark amber maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Kathleen also adds shredded coconut, barley flakes and flax meal as well (and then a bit more oil and maple syrup to help coat the extra dry ingredients)Directions
1) position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees
2) Place oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and cinnamon in large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
3) Spread granola on 12×17 inch rimmed baking sheet.  Bake granola until it begins to brown about 25 minutes, then stir with a spatula.Continue to bake until light golden brown, dry and fragrant- about 15-20 minutes longer.  Stir once more and watch during final minutes because it can burn quickly.
4) Place on a cooling rack and add raisins- stir to combine.  Let cool completely and transfer to airtight container.  Can be stored at room temperature for 1 month or frozen for 6 months.

Genetically Engineered Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish, for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is so healthy. And many of my friends and family consume a lot of salmon as well, for the same reason. But what many people perhaps do not know, is that not all salmon is the same, and not all types of salmon are as healthful as others, either for those of us who consume it or for the environment.

Salmon consumed in the United States varies by species, product, origin (domestic and imported) and type (wild and farmed). There are significant differences between Pacific and Atlantic salmon consumption in products, origin and

Species: Americans consume five species of Pacific salmon (chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum) as well as Atlantic salmon. These species vary considerably in size, taste and suitability for different kinds of products.

Origin: Americans consume both domestic and imported salmon.

Product: Americans consume salmon that is initially processed or imported in three major product forms: canned, frozen and fresh.

Type: Americans consume both farmed and wild salmon.

But there could soon be another classification of salmon on the market, genetically engineered.

The following is from an article published by Reuters on December 21, 2012, which states that a controversial genetically engineered salmon has moved a step closer to your grocery store and restaurant table after the US. Food and Drug Administration said Friday the fish didn’t appear likely to pose a threat to the environment or to humans who eat it.

AquAdvantage salmon eggs would produce fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. If it gets final approval, it would be the first food from a transgenic animal – one whose genome has been altered – to be approved by the FDA.

The AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon egg was developed by AquaBounty Technology to speed up production to meet global seafood demand.

“With respect to food safety, FDA has concluded that food from AquAdvantage salmon is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption,” the FDA assessment states.

AquaBounty officials said they were caught by surprise by the news that its product was a step closer to approval as years of controversy had followed the company’s application for a go-ahead from the regulator.

“We are encouraged that the environmental assessment is being released and hope the government continues the science-based regulatory process,” said AquaBounty Chief Executive Ronald Stotish.

Critics say the new salmon is a “dangerous experiment” and have pressured the FDA to reject it. They say the FDA has relied on outdated science and substandard methods for assessing the new fish.

“We are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched,” said Michael Hansen, a scientist at the Consumers Union. “FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish, tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.”

There were also concerns the FDA would not require the genetically modified salmon to be labeled as such, and some critics said they may file a lawsuit to prevent what they fear could be the imminent approval of the engineered fish.

“Congress can still keep FDA from unleashing this dangerous experiment,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group. “Although this latest FDA decision is a blow to consumer confidence, we encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and demand this reckless decision be overturned.”

The Center for Food Safety, another non-profit consumer protection group, was highly critical of the FDA report, and officials said they might sue the regulator over the issue.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value. It’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment.”

FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky said no final decisions have been made on labeling or on the application for approval.

“The release of these materials is not a decision on whether food from AquAdvantage Salmon requires additional labeling; nor is it a decision on the new animal drug application currently under review. It also does not provide a final food safety determination,” Liscinsky said.

The AquAdvantage salmon would be an all-female population with eggs produced in a facility on Prince Edward Island in Canada and shipped to a “grow-out facility” in Panama, where they would be reared to market size and harvested for processing.


I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of the pending FDA approval

in the meantime, here is one of my favorite recipes for salmon, my friend Dani and I discovered it on a few winters ago when I was staying with her and her mom in Connecticut.



4 cloves of garlic

6 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 table spoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 (6 ounce each) fillets of salmon


In a medium glass bowl, prepare the marinade by mixing garlic, light olive oil, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Place salmon fillets in a medium glass baking dish, and cover with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

Place filets in a baking dish, cover with marinade and aluminum foil.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork.

We like serving it with homemade sweet potato fries.