Cacaosuyo Peru Chocolate with Grasshoppe

A couple months ago, I was gearing up for another normal Saturday afternoon photoshoot. By normal: I’d already gotten help lugging the table (that roughly 95% of my chocolate photos are staged on) next to a window, and I’d already unearthed at least half a dozen potential photo subjects (not knowing yet which 2-3 would make the final cut, because it would all depend on my mood in the next hour.)

My sister was looking out the window and asked something along the lines of, “Didn’t you say you wanted a grasshopper for pictures?”

Who me? Ok, yes me. I distinctly recall saying that. Although I’m pretty sure I was only 75% serious. (At one point I was getting rather desperate for new photo props and apparently I was even open to the unusual and alarming and unexplained.)

Our grasshoppers are no joke. They’re not small and certainly not the type of darling grasshopper that one would try to catch in their hands. They’re uh, slightly larger, with flashy orange-red spiracles, and when they’re agitated they can rub their wings together (or whatever it is they do to make that noise; I try not too get too close to them) so loudly it sounds like a rattlesnake. Or so I imagine. I also make a point not to get too close to rattlesnakes.  (But I’ve seen Youtube videos.)

Probably not two minutes later, my dad appears at the window holding up the grasshopper my sister had spotted.  It was perched on the edge of a sieve. “Did anybody need a grasshopper?”

GAME ON.

Me: “Sam, grab the camera!!!”
My brother: “What?!”
Me: “Grab the camera!! I have to get the chocolate before the grasshopper flies away!”

The first chocolate (out of the ones I’d unearthed) that remotely matched a grasshopper was my Cacaosuyo bar, which I snatched up and dashed outside with.  (No, I didn’t invite the grasshopper in. I may bring in burrs and prickly cacti for photos, but one must draw the line somewhere.) There was no time to find a dreamy setting or backdrop because the grasshopper was NOT planning on sticking around for long, so we found the first available spot to prop up a bar of chocolate. The grasshopper was gently nudged off the sieve onto the wrapper. It immediately wanted to go elsewhere, so for a few brief seconds, my dad’s official title was grasshopper wrangler, my brother was very temporarily back to being my photographer, and I was back to shaking my head at myself over the odd things I decide ought to make an appearance in a chocolate photo.

Now I wonder, whenever I see a grasshopper in the yard, if it is THE grasshopper and it is looking at me and thinking, “SHE MADE ME POSE NEXT TO CHOCOLATE AND SHE DIDN’T EVEN OFFER ME ANY! THE NERVE!” Well, not really.

That grasshopper probably went back to eating the shrubbery without a second thought, while I continued on with my photoshoot that day and ended up photographing Land (Dark Malt – Honduras), Georgia Ramon (Raspberry Rose), a Milka Oreo tower (photo here), and Moonstruck (Mayan Milk).

Cacaosuyo Peru Chocolate Unwrapped

Cacaosuyo is made in Peru; this bar won a 2016 Bronze International Chocolate Award and a Gold Peru Chocolate Award.  I purchased mine via Cocoa Runners after reading multiple glowing Cacaosuyo reviews on Instagram written by Sharon Terenzi (aka The Chocolate Journalist).

It is a two ingredient bar (cacao from the Piura region, and sugar).   Two ingredients is all it takes to craft a delicious dark chocolate worthy of multiple awards and high praise.

Not sure if anybody wants me to get their hands on any of their chocolate anymore (out of fear of what I’ll decide to photograph it with).

Hey, does anyone know if wild iguanas can be taught to stop and smile for the camera?

Exactly two things in this photo were mine.  (If you guessed one of them was the chocolate..Taza Toffee Almond & Sea Salt…aka arguably the most important thing in the photo…you’d be correct.) (The second was the vastly less exciting tan mat the almonds are resting on.)

Taza Toffee Almond and Sea Salt Stone Ground Chocolate

So that means I borrowed (with permission):

  • The blanket off somebody’s bed (Not mine.  I’m more of a flower person than a giraffe print person.  I know I’m shocking absolutely no one by saying that.)
  • The basket in my neighbor’s closet
  • The almonds in the refrigerator (actually I can’t recall if I asked permission before borrowing those…)

This photo is one of the best examples I have of being creative and finding things around you to use for photography.  With a little imagination, ‘something old and something new and something borrowed and something spotted like a giraffe’ (yes I kind of re-worked the old saying) will work just fine.

I can think of at least a dozen times I’ve come up with shots that didn’t include any of the flowers or fabric I’ve specifically purchased for my chocolate photography hobby and instead used things already lying around (or growing around), and therefore the accessories ended up being free.

A partial list of items found around the house (both inside and outside) that I have used as photography props are as follows:
(I don’t recommend the cactus unless you’re far more careful at handling them than I am):

  • Sprigs of flowering bushes and one of my shirts
  • Golden foil (chocolate wrappers!) formed into little balls + leaves + another one of my shirts
  • Baby cacti, burrs, & tree branches
  • Rope and rocks
  • Rings and scarves
  • Coffee beans and coffee mug  (I believe I may have mentioned my reusable coffee beans on multiple occasions.  They’re real troupers; they’ve posed with a myriad of coffee chocolates and survived at least one glitter shower.)
  • My butterfly wallet and some ribbon
  • Buttons, spools of thread, and a gift bag
  • A palm frond hat & zig zag brown paper packing material
  • Colored pencils and bougainvilleas
  • A napkin holder and a spare piece of fabric
  • Playing cards and glitter foam

Taza Toffee Almond Chocolate Alternate Photograph

Oh yes. And tiny little cookies.

In case you’re here for the chocolate instead of the photography prop suggestions:

Taza is a stone-ground bean-to-bar chocolate made in Massachusetts.   I’m more familiar with their round discs (my favorite is cinnamon) but the toffee is only available as a rectangle and I’m not picky as to what shape my chocolate is in.  🙂

Stone-ground (read: gritty) chocolate makes good “chomping” bars (something to chow down on rather than melt in your mouth and savor slowly).  I enjoyed the mix of chocolate and nuts and toffee; I think this chocolate would be fantastic coarsely chopped and generously added to sugar cookie dough.

Alaina Cursive Signature

After hearing things like “purchased on Cocoa Runners” & “Cocoa Runners has it” over & over again, I took a tiny peek at their website awhile back. The rumors about their fantastic selection of craft chocolate were not at all exaggerated. Still, I all but dismissed Cocoa Runners as being an option for me because they are based in the UK.

Cocoa Runners Order

Being in the UK is perfectly lovely, except I’m not anywhere remotely near the UK and all my chocolate has to come through the U.S. for shipping reasons. And last I checked, chocolate still melts in transit if great care isn’t taken.

So I purposely didn’t spend much time on Cocoa Runners and practically pretended they didn’t exist, until one day, quite by accident, it came to my attention that Cocoa Runners was carrying Mirzam chocolate.

I’m actually a little at a loss to explain why I snapped when Mirzam was in stock, although I believe it had more than a little to do with the allure of a chocolate made IN DUBAI and Mirzam’s gorgeous mould.

It was time for a proper-look see through the Cocoa Runners website. Let’s just say my first dream list had to be *severely* pared down to keep it real! Part of my criteria: Choosing bars from makers that I hadn’t tried anything else from before. Also: Choosing bars that weren’t (the last I knew) available on the other U.S. sites I purchase from (more on those in a later post).

After deliberating at length for days (whether to even place the order and, if so, which bars would make the cut) I finally decided on the following:

Cocoa Runners DuffysDuffy’s Venezuela Ocumare Milk 55%
This bar was an Academy of Chocolate Gold Winner in 2013.
Duffy’s keeps popping up here and there as one of the top U.K. chocolate makers.

Cocoa Runners Mirzam
Mirzam Chocolate Makers 62% Dark Chocolate with Rose
I think I already made myself clear on why I picked this one. (Made in Dubai!) (Gorgeous mould!)

Cocoa Runners Georgia RamonGeorgia Ramon Raspberry & Rose
This is a new-to-me maker I just started hearing about.
And I wanted a white chocolate to balance things out (I know quite a few white chocolate lovers).

Cocoa Runners Solkiki
Solkiki Ecuador Los Rios 69%
Solkiki seems to be very popular in the U.K for their vegan milk chocolate. I came so close to choosing one of their milk chocolate bars but thought dark might have a better chance of making it without melting. (Maybe I’m just being silly thinking dark chocolate melts a tad slower than milk chocolate?!)

Cocoa Runners Land ChocolateLand Malt Dark Honduras
I picked this due to its simplistic packaging design. I haven’t heard much regarding this bar itself.

Cocoa Runners Cacaosuyo
Cacaosuyo Piura Select 70%
Sharon Terenzi (The Chocolate Journalist) often praises Cacaosuyo chocolate; I wanted to try one of their bars for myself!

Cocoa Runners The Chocolate Tree CoconutThe Chocolate Tree Coconut
Because I haven’t yet (that I can recall) tasted a chocolate made in Scotland, and because I love coconut.

Right away I hit a snag by providing the wrong shipping address by mistake, which sent me flying to set up a phone call before Cocoa Runners closed. Thankfully a very nice lady (Emma I think she said her name was) promised to sort it all out and in no time at all my order was on its way (to the correct address).

Then I held my breath for a few weeks as the package made its long journey (involving three continents!) to me.   I was still holding my breath when I opened the package. Too close to a heater, or too long in a delivery truck and I might have ended up with a very expensive lump of Du-Mi-Geo-Sol-La-Ca-Cho chocolate pudding (that’s all of the brands mixed together, in case that threw you for a loop).

Thankfully, I’m extremely pleased to report that all the bars look perfect (none of them are misshapen).  I haven’t opened any of these bars yet to see exactly how the chocolate fared inside, but at least the outsides are photo-worthy and the insides are still intact enough to taste (and hopefully better than just intact).

My advice for anyone debating on whether to order internationally from Cocoa Runners:

#1. Do it. Their selection is incredible, their customer service is top notch, and Royal Mail is faster than I thought it would be.
#2. Do it in in February. Yes, I know that is really sweet not very nice of me of me to inform you in May!  (If you live in a cool climate not *too* far away from the UK, it would probably be safe to do it almost any time of the year.)

Just had to share…

Recently I was listening to an episode of  The Slow Melt chocolate podcast where the host Simran Sethi interviews Sam Maruta, co-founder of Marou Chocolate (bean-to-bar chocolate made in Vietnam).

It was a very informative and entertaining episode, and close to the end it made me laugh out loud. Sam was asked (and I’m paraphrasing here) if there was anything the general chocolate-eating public should know and he said: “Maybe don’t eat too much of it. It’s good, but there are other food groups. And you also need protein.”

BREAKING NEWS ALERT: There are food groups other than chocolate. (I’m trying to get over the shock.)

On a side note, the bar being tasted during the podcast was Dak Lak. There are just two Marou bars I had photographed but not shared yet and I thought “wouldn’t it be a neat coincidence if one of them was Dak Lak?” Lo and behold…. One of them was:

Marou Chocolate Dak Lak Vietnam

Today is September 13th.
Today is a Big Day.
And you’re thinking…..oooookay.
“It’s Wednesday.
It’s not a holiday.
Maybe I’m forgetting something?!”

Yes. You are. September 13th happens to be INTERNATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY.

This is not to be confused with National Chocolate Day (October 28th) or Every-Day-is-Chocolate-Day (Jan 1st – Dec 31st) (yes I made that last one up).

No doubt chocolate lovers around the world have big plans. (I know I do!)

If part of YOUR big plans are trying new chocolates, I’ve got just the one for you:

Millcreek Cacao Roasters Blackberry

This is Millcreek Cacao Roasters in Blackberry.

If I had to pick one adjective, I’d have to go with superb.

If I could pick a few more, I’d go with fudgy, creamy, fruity, & tangy.

This bar checked all my dark chocolate boxes; not bitter/astringent, very, very well conched (so creamy!), with a little taste of fruit included.

It’s made from scratch (ok, fine, bean to bar) (make that FARM to bar) in Utah. To read more, go to: http://www.millcreekcacao.com

It’s quite amazing how much craft chocolate is made in Utah.  (I don’t really have a list, but as of a few years ago, I’m certain Utah wouldn’t have made the list of the top 25 places that I think it would be fun to travel to. Now Utah would rank somewhere in the top 10.)  🙂

Have a great, chocolate-filled day!

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Typically, each of my chocolate photoshoots (which usually take place on Saturday afternoons) net between 4-8 photos.  My goal is a minimum of two shots of each chocolate (wrapped) and one shot unwrapped (providing the
chocolate didn’t melt in transit, and also provided the mold the maker used was unique enough).

Every time, I find myself saving a few “outtake” photos that are just too good to delete, and going through those now I found a rather accurate picture-by-picture portrayal of the “behind the scenes of a chocolate photoshoot”.

True, if I fast-forwarded to the end, there are photos like this:

Pump Street Bakery Ecuador 60% Dark Milk Chocolate

(Pictured: Pump Street Bakery – Ecuador 60% Dark Milk)  (Due to ordering it in the winter and thanks to Caputo’s stellar packaging, this bar arrived practically pristine!)

But during the entire process, lots of stuff happens.

Things get broken.

99.9% of the time, this candle was used to tack down one of the four corners of the foam mat backdrops I use for 99.9% of my pictures. The other 0.1% of the time it actually got to be in the photo itself. Then one day it got a little too close to the edge of the table and well… It’s gone now.  (Though if I would have thought there was a creative way to showcase glass shards and chocolate together I probably would have kept it…)

Half the outdoors comes indoors with me.

Behind The Scenes of a Chocolate Photoshoot - Venezuelan National Tree

Armed with clippers (and sometimes a basket or a tray), I often can be seen snipping this tree or trimming that bush and bringing in flowers, blooms, and branches. (Apparently I’m not very particular, because I’ve also brought in cactus, berries that may or may not have been poisonous, and an invasive vine*.  I think the purple-tinted burr bushes may be next.)  A few weeks ago some glossy yellow-green neem pods caught my eye and when coming back inside my comment was something along the lines of, “I didn’t know how many sprigs I would need…  So I brought back the whole tree.”

My photography set-up gets hijacked.

While the white background and camera are out, I get asked if it would be possible to work in a few pictures of arduino parts. (Yes, I realize asking nicely doesn’t exactly equal hijacking, but hijacking sounds more dramatic, and I am known for being a little dramatic.)  Sometimes a mini arduino photoshoot includes the meticulous process of taping everything down with double-sided tape.  On the plus side, one can be meticulous with such things without worrying about them melting (unlike my subjects)!

Then there are the hijinks.

Because apparently it’s funny to come in with whatever one happens to be carrying at the time and stick it in the shot to see how I react.  This particular time it was a pair of pliers. Other times anything from a phone to a tongue have suddenly photo-bombed my chocolate.

At the end of the day?

Behind The Scenes of a Chocolate Photoshoot - End of Day

It’s a mess.  Everything ends up jumbled together in my hurry to get as much done as possible, and, as always, get.it.done.before.the.chocolate.melts.  It’s a colorful interesting mess, but a mess nonetheless.

There’s even more that goes on behind the scenes of a chocolate photoshoot.  The photo of someone (very dramatically) “passed out” on my floor after trying their first Lindt truffle comes to mind (they really liked it!), but I have a feeling I’d be in more than a little ‘trouble’ if I posted that photo, so…use your imagination!

*That invasive vine I mentioned just happens to be in the Pump Street Bakery photo above.  I thought it was rather pretty.

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You heard me.  Everyone wants me to have a meltdown. In fact, everyone I know wouldn’t mind if I had a meltdown every single week.

But it is not as bad as it sounds.  By meltdown, they don’t mean a hissy fit or dissolving into tears.  Instead, it means they’re waiting for me to literally melt down something brown and sweet and…yes, you knew this was going to involve chocolate somehow.

(Suddenly I am reminded of Rilla of Ingleside and her supposed overuse of italics. I always thought her use of italics was spot on.)

In short, me having a meltdown is code for me making fudge. Or chocolate mint thins.  Or truffles.  Naturally, there is photo evidence of my latest meltdown.

Everyone Wants Me to Have a Meltdown

Peanut butter truffles.   Yes, they are having a very bad hair day (or whatever you say when truffles start sweating because they don’t like the temperature of the photography studio place where I take photos).

The initial plan was to keep all the truffles. After all, it was a four day weekend (plenty of time for plenty of truffles) and there are some definite peanut-butter-lovers in my family (including the dog, who gets to lick the empty jar).  Yet somehow two truffles here and two truffles there went off to new homes and before I knew it there were ten missing. To any concerned parties who thought we were shorted on account of my unapologetic sharing tendencies, we STILL had plenty.  (But yes, I will make you more.  On your birthday.  Which I cannot be fooled into thinking is in March.)

Want to have your own meltdown?  I have some tips:

  • Always melt more chocolate than you think you’re going to need.  Because you can make all sorts of things with the leftovers.
  • Never let anybody watch you handle the chocolate because they will start marveling how it is possible for one person to leave chocolate on so many surfaces.
  • Also never let anyone know you are making anything because they will show up with puppy dog eyes begging for chunks of chocolate or truffle centers.
  • Always make sure there is room in the freezer/fridge BEFORE standing there with messy hands and a full sized pizza pan laden with truffles, wondering where you’re going to put it.
  • And last but not least…either portion off truffles so everyone has their own container, or insist on being around to divvy them up.

‘Cause otherwise they’re gone.

Ps.  The peanut butter truffle recipe is from Use Real Butter.

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“Waaaaaaait just one second,” I can hear you saying.  “Chocolate Recycling? How is that even possible?! Hasn’t she ever heard there are no recipes for leftover chocolate?” Yep. I have.  (Despite Googling just now and finding that to be a total untruth.)  But hear me out.  Part of my recycling story doesn’t involve chocolate itself, and part of my story involves the extra chocolate I melt with the express purpose of having enough leftover to “recycle” into my current favorite “I-made-it-myself” chocolate: Mint Thins

Chocolate Recycling - Homemade Mint Thins

These are incredibly simple and incredibly delicious.  They’re admittedly not the prettiest chocolates in the world, but I could round up at least a dozen people who would testify to the fact that the taste was good enough to make up for what these chocolates lack in the looks department.

Today’s post is brought to you today by the letter E (for Easy) and the number 2 (for the amount of ingredients needed).

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By now you’ve probably noticed a theme.  I like BRIGHT.  I like flowers.  And I like chocolate.

Pictured: Variqui Chocolateria mini bars in milk, dark, and macadamia.

Some friends dropped by while I was photographing these.  It was the perfect opportunity to get more opinions; macadamia ended up being the favorite.

It’s been so rainy lately… so I picked a nice sunshine-y photo.  With chocolate.  Of course.

I was getting ready to tell you about Thanksgiving.   (All the way back in November.  Although it’s the middle of December.  Apparently it’s taken me that long to recover.)

But first, in honor of Chocolate Covered Anything Day, I made this little collage of, well, chocolate covered everything:

Nontraditional Thanksgiving Foods & Chocolate Covered Everything

All pictures are my own.  All opinions are also my own:

Chocolate Covered Bacon:  Fun for something different.
Chocolate Covered Oreos:  Yes.  Oh yes.  Just don’t try this at home.  You might eat too many oreos.  (I didn’t, but I can see how it could happen quite easily!)
Chocolate Covered Potato Chips:  This tasted about the same as the bacon, just not as chewy.
Chocolate Covered Coconut:  Delicious.
Chocolate Covered Celery:  Nope.  Don’t do it.  (I knew it wouldn’t like it.  I did it for the picture, not because I thought it would be incredibly tasty or the next big craze.)
Chocolate Covered Apples:  Also Delicious
Chocolate Covered Pineapple: Very Delicious

Now back to Thanksgiving….

…which usually brings to mind foods like turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and that stuff that some people cook in the turkey (and some people don’t) that some people call stuffing and some people call dressing.  My family was confusing the issue by calling it both.  Next year we should combine the two and call it “stressing”.  🙂

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…but I am celebrating with CAKE.  <grin>   (Chocolate cake, OF COURSE.)

Call me a rebel, call me what you will,
say I’m old fashioned, say I’m over the hill…
(#oldiesmusiclover)

(Yes.  Apparently I am one of those people who mishear lyrics.  All of this time I thought that line from Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll was “call me a rebel”, until I just went & looked it up to make sure I was quoting it correctly.  I was not.  It is really supposed to be “call me a relic”.  I left it as “rebel” because I’ve been singing that way for years, because it fit my purpose better, and because I’m not the only one who thought it was “rebel”. 🙂

my-birthday-is-on-nationa-cookie-day-triple-chocolate-cookies-from-delectably-different-kitchen
These cookies?  Triple Chocolate Cookies from Delectably Different Kitchen.  (They were GOOD.)  Don’t miss the cute recipe video on Youtube!

Cookies and I go way, way back.  Chocolate chocolate chip cookies, cookies that (you might want to close your eyes during this part) don’t actually contain chocolate (lemon cookies or raspberry jam thumbprint sugar cookies are two of my favorites), and of course, regular chocolate chip cookies.  (Strange fact: I don’t make chocolate chip cookies. I EAT chocolate chip cookies, but gave up making them a long time ago.  This stems from the fact they always used to turn out crispy when they were supposed to be chewy.)

There’s just something about cookies.  They’re small enough to have several (unless you live in Seattle – I’ve heard tell of cookies the size of plates in Seattle), great for sharing, can by made in a myriad of flavors…

Someday if I ever have enough craft chocolate I’d like to make special chocolate chunk cookies.  Think: A sugar cookie base liberally studded with Ritual Novo Coffee or Taza Toffee, Almond, & Sea Salt, or any of dozens of other mouthwatering options.   Sounds amazing to me!

Are you celebrating (Inter)National Cookie Day properly (a.k.a. with actual cookies)?  If so, what kind?

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I bring you the latest chocolate happenings…or at least the latest chocolate happenings that amused me, made me slightly sad, made me go “hmmm”….

First, allow me to present my latest favorite chocolate-and-tea-photograph.The Latest Chocolate Happenings - Celestial Seasoings Tea & Chocolate Still Life Photo

Pictured: Orange peels covered in dark chocolate by St. Moritz & Celestial Seasonings fruit tea sampler.  (I love this sampler, though it is hard to choose between wild berry, true blueberry, country peach passion, raspberry zinger, and wild cherry berry.)

The latest chocolate news that made me go hmmmm….

MycoTechnology Uses Mushrooms to Create Sweeter Chocolate With Less Sugar

“By using gourmet mushrooms and their natural cleansing abilities, we are able to train them to consume only the bitter compounds in chocolate,” the company explains on its website. “The mushrooms symbiotically interact with their food source, giving back valuable nutrients otherwise unavailable in chocolate.”

In other words, we will be able to eat more chocolate.  Because there will be less sugar.  Because some mushrooms took special eating classes.  Ok then.  As long as the taste of the mushroom chocolate is in no wise compromised by the mushrooms themselves (and apparently it isn’t, as “they can make great tasting chocolate”) I’m game for trying it!

The latest chocolate news I got quite a chuckle out of:

The Toblerone debacle (as I call it). If you missed all the fuss, it boils down to the fact that Toblerone, when faced with rising production costs, decided to *gasp* widen the gap between each triangle “mountain” shape they are so famous for (therefore reducing the amount of chocolate per bar).

Twitter went crazy.  A search on #Toblerone provided several chuckles.

Apparently this switch means I may be the unexpected owner of two “limited edition” Toblerone bars that could be worth a lot of money if I hang on to them long enough.  (Which isn’t likely.)  (I say “may”, because I haven’t rustled through my chocolate drawer yet to see if the size I have was affected by the new design.  In all the uproar, not everyone realized that not nearly all Toblerone sizes were affected.)

The latest chocolate happening that made me a little sad:

The Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, which wrapped this Sunday (if I have the story straight).  Judging by a slew of Instagram posts, it was one of THE, if not THE, chocolate events of the year (at least in the U.S.).  Quite a few people came away with quite impressive hauls of craft chocolate (Exhibit A and Exhibit B, to name a few) and it looks like great fun was had by all (meeting the people behind the brands, meeting the chocolate aficionados, tasting all that amazing chocolate)…  I am a little sorry to have missed it, but I most certainly enjoyed all the photos.  I saw SO many brands I have yet to try & so many brands that I have tried once and loved (TCHO, Dick Taylor, Amano, etc.)

(One of the) Latest chocolate(s) I tried for the first time:

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate with Quinoa. While I enjoyed the crunchy dark chocolate itself, I had a blast taking pictures of it.  (Let’s just say by the time I was finished, my mom wouldn’t have wanted the quinoa I “borrowed” back.)  Pictures are coming as soon as I finish sweeping up quinoa from the far corners of my room…

That’s all for now…

 

Alaina Cursive Signature

 

 

 

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