Alternate Title: Decorating Homes with Genuine Chocolate Flakes is a Thing…Right?

My apologies for the long radio silence.  Apparently I’ve allowed taking pictures of chocolate and eating chocolate to interfere with writing about chocolate.  (In my defense, how am I going to have anything to write about if I don’t get to play with it?)  The pictures I’ve taken are available on Instagram or right here in the photo gallery.  Thanks to the recent rains, there were fresh flowers available to help decorate some shots.  I thought flowers looked lovely with the stunning (and very tasty) Marou Lam Dong 74% chocolate from Vietnam.

Marou Chocolate - Vietnam - Part of "Making Chocolate Requires Caution Tape"

Today, I’m mainly here to tell you about how much I got teased for the dedication to my art.
(Those are my words. If you would have asked the bystanders, they would have said I got teased because I made a mess.)

Scene: The Kitchen
Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm some weekends ago
Main Cast: Me (Because I was the only one making the mess doing all the work.)
Supporting Cast:  My mom and my siblings (Because they were doing all the wisecracking.)

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Today is World Chocolate Day.  Not to be confused with International Chocolate Day, which is September 13th.  (Actually, that is confusing, but I don’t make the rules.  If I did, every day would be World Chocolate Day or International Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call it.) And what better day than World Chocolate Day to tell you what chocolate-y things I’ve been up to?

White and Milk Chocolate Oreo Cookie Chocolate Bark
(It was a thought to wax poetic about chocolate today, which would have incorporated things such as chocolate having the ability to transform people’s days, inspire new businesses, and even ignite passionate debates on social media… but it’s easier (and a more fun!) to tell you about my latest chocolate exploits.)

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Vaguely, in the back of my mind, I heard a familiar sound.  It was the door of the refrigerator, followed by a container being opened, followed by the unmistakable sound of a piece (or two) of hard chocolate being plunked on a plate.  (You may not keep yours in the fridge and therefore the sound of getting out chocolate may be a little foreign to you, but ’round here it is a familiar sound.)  Also somewhat vaguely, I saw the plate being trotted across the room.  The back door opened and closed.  Then opened and closed again.  I snapped to attention.

“Are you feeding your chocolate to the lizards again?!” My question was half in fun and half somewhat reproachful.  Chocolate ought not to be wasted on lizards.

“No!” My mom’s answer was half in fun and half somewhat sheepish at being caught.  “My lizards are very respectful.”

You see, her favorite way to melt chocolate is to set it out on the plate on a hot rock in the sun for a few minutes.  I’m still in awe of the fact the lizards (or the iguanas or other wildlife, for that matter) haven’t staked out the place every afternoon just waiting for her to bring them their snack. They do seem to know to leave her chocolate alone.  She must have trained them well.

Now that I think about it, our chocolate has to put up with a lot. Not only does it risk being discovered by lizards, it sometimes gets imposed upon to do silly things… like pose in a sea of pink.

my-lizards-are-very-respectful-the-chocolate-website-post-pretty-in-pink-still-life-photo
And that’s not all.

My Raaka Smoked Chai also got the hot rock treatment (albeit only for a couple of seconds).  In my defense, it WANTED to pose there because it thought it would be pretty.  It TOLD me so.  (Either I’m crazy or I’m kidding.  You pick.)

My Paria bar had to precariously balance itself in a flowering bush while braving ants and small spiders.  (Photos pending.)

And the Brasstown Peppermint that just arrived is a little indignant because somebody (it wasn’t me!) called it a candy bar.  More than once.

It’s not easy being chocolate at my house.

Happy (Inter)National Fudge Day! (It’s technically “National” Fudge Day but I’m not going to let Hawaii and Alaska and the “lower ’48” have all the fun.)  So, today involves fudge.

You’re welcome to get in on the fun.  The recipe is so easy it could probably fit into one tweet.  In fact, it *does* fit into one tweet: “Fav #chocolate #fudge #recipe: 1 can sw. condensed milk, 2c chocolate.  Heat milk, stir in choc, melt completely. Stir. Refrigerate.  Done.”

Today Involves Fudge - The Chocolate Website Photo

Well, sort of.  There wasn’t exactly room to clarify that 1 can = 14oz, or that you can use whatever chocolate you want.  (The fudge pictured used two types of chocolate because that’s what was on hand.  One type was El Rey Milk Chocolate and the other shall remain nameless because there are those who would not even consider it chocolate.  I consider it chocolate 99% of the time when I’m on a budget and the other 1% of the time I like to expand my horizons and refine my palate and….fudge recipe.  Right.  Sorry.  Moving on:

Unless you have a fancy double boiler, the process goes more or less like this: Condensed milk goes in the glass bowl. Glass bowl goes in a saucepan half full of water. It gets heated up but not boiled.  Add the chocolate and stir until it is completely melted and mixed. Be vigilant and make sure siblings (or offspring or whoever you happen to have around) don’t stick spoons in when you’re not looking, because they’ll inevitably show up once they start smelling it).  Pour the mixture into a 9×9 pan lined with wax paper and stick it in the fridge for a few hours. It’s amazing that just two ingredients can create such a creamy, rich, decadent treat.

(Did you know that there are some fudge recipes that don’t even call for chocolate?  Shocking.  Isn’t “fudge” short for “chocolate fudge”?!  Kidding.)

I realized on June 12th that (Inter) National Fudge Day was coming up and thought it really was a shame I didn’t have any new fudge pictures to share. Fast forward to June 15th at 6:00pm (as in, yesterday evening), I thought it REALLY was a shame there weren’t any new fudge pictures and it was pointed out to me that it was also REALLY a shame that there wasn’t any fudge around either.  Oh, and that it would likely be sunny enough to take a picture or two in the morning before leaving for work, if some fudge materialized by then.  Sold.

Today Involves Fudge - The Chocolate Website Photo 2

There was momentary disappointment last night when I put my foot down and said there would be no premature fudge tasting and that it had to stay intact until picture-taking time. Besides, I didn’t want to fudge the amount of time the recipe says to keep it in the refrigerator.  (C’mon, surely you didn’t think I’d be able to manage this entire story without a single fudge joke, did you?)

Enjoy today; I’m going to enjoy mine.  The fudge in the photo is NOT going to last long.

I have a picture I want to show you.  It’s a bright and cheerful chocolate photo and every time I look at it, it makes me happy. Not because I was the one who took this photo. And not just because the picture contains chocolate.  Oh, and certainly not because it contains a lot of orange.  (I’m not the biggest fan of the color orange.) But pair a bright orange with a bright pink and a cheerful chocolate wrapper and ooooooooo I just get HAPPY. Happy happy happy happy happy.  Ok. I’ll stop.

Just in case you’re either a fan of orange or pink or bright or cheerful or happy, I’d like to share it with you:

A Bright and Cheerful Chocolate - Chocolates Paria(Chocolates Paria, 60% Dark, Made in Venezuela)

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New chocolate bars fascinate me.  The anticipation of the taste is a big part of the fascination, but there’s more to it than that.  Many chocolate companies are outdoing themselves in the packaging department, so the wrappers are quite a treat to inspect. Part of the intrigue are the names that the different chocolate makers have chosen (both for their company and for their chocolate), and the stories behind those names.

The fascination does not end when the chocolate that comes home with me (or home to me) is carefully inspected from front to back, photographed from every angle (remind me to tell you about my 154 GIGS of chocolate photos sometime) and sampled. The packaging is never thrown away.  Instead, it goes into my collection of wrappers to reference later, to use for other photo-ops, or to be re-purposed.  (A plastic insert with shallow indentations that had originally held pralines in place makes a perfect mold for dark chocolate mint thins!  And I really ought to look into decoupage. Only I’d need something big in order to use up the quantity of wrappers that just had to be rehoused because they were outgrowing their drawer.  Anyone ever decoupaged an entire wall of their house with chocolate wrappers?) (Disclaimer: I don’t have enough wrappers for a whole wall…yet.)

There Will Be a Test Afterwards - Craft Chocolate Photo

Pictured: Andean Lemon Verbena by Pacari, SeriousMilk Cacao by TCHO, Smoked Chai by Raaka, and Maple Coconut by Dick Taylor. (I’m making them sound like perfumes. Come to think of it, all of those would likely make nice scents!)

The taste, the wrappers, the packaging, re-purposing the packing…even after all of that, there’s at least one more thing that is fascinating, and that is: What will other people think of each chocolate?  There are usually a few squares leftover to share with this friend or that friend. I know, I know.  Leftover chocolate; is that even possible?  Trust me, it takes great restraint to keep my hands off the whole bar, box, or bag.  Sometimes it’s impossible; there is almost never any milk chocolate left to share (my apologies to my milk-chocolate loving friends)!

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Originally, the plan for today was either to tell you about what I put everyone through when sharing my chocolate
(bring a notebook!) or a bright and cheerful chocolate photo I can’t wait to share ’cause it makes me HAPPY. But we  interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast: There was a brazen chocolate thief at my house Saturday.  Or should I say a brazen chocolate chomper?

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast - Mantuano Granola Chocolate(Mantuano Granola – Artisanal Chocolate made in Venezuela)

It is not very hard to leave chocolate unattended on Saturdays.  (Any other day of the week chocolate is safely secured in MY chocolate drawer, which doesn’t even need a KEEP OUT sign because everybody is already well trained to leave it alone.)  (Right now I’m hoarding things like Alter Eco Dark Twist (chocolate with crystallized orange peel) in there.)  On Saturdays, chocolate is strewn on multiple fridge shelves, on the table, and all across the house as I ferry it back and forth to my studio*, either snapping photos or dictating which shots to be snapped if Sam happens to be available. (Sam is my brother, my sometimes-photographer, and, when chocolate disappears, he is generally considered the primary suspect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten chocolate out, turned my back for two seconds, and find he’s somehow managed to carry it off already.  On the plus side, he usually brings it back intact.)

Chocolate was everywhere and the photo-shoot was well underway, resulting in photos like the one above. I unwrapped this bar, temporarily set it aside for additional photos, and…all of the sudden there was a bite out of it.  A big bite out of it. A somebody-was-not-messing-around, definitely-wanted-me-to-notice-there-was-a-bite-out-of-it, bite out of it.  (For the record, I probably would have noticed if someone had even touched it.)

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My favorite sister’s name is Gwen.  Before you go and get all huffy about me picking favorites, please note she’s also my only sister.  (It’s a joke we have.) We’re twins.  We certainly don’t look identical and we were born in different years, but we’re twins.  We say the exact same things at the exact same time, we know exactly what the other is thinking (most of the time), and our own parents can’t tell our voices apart when they’re speaking to one of us on the phone.

Gwen hates coffee. (This is a phenomenon that does occur in a very small percentage of the world’s population. It is also a revelation that rather bewilders coffee lovers.  “How could anyone not like coffee?”)  I, on the other hand, can take or leave coffee.  After reading the laughter-inducing “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity,” (quote by Dave Barry) it has come to my attention that my coffee drinking habits are, well…recreational.  I’m not quite sure I would go so far as to say they’re inhumane.

No Coffee Allowed - Kakao Coffee Chocolate Still Life Photo(See what she’s missing out on?)

This aversion to coffee does not just apply to the liquid form.  There are also issues with the smell (which further astounds the coffee lovers) and extends to coffee being added to absolutely anything.  This, of course, brings me to chocolate with coffee in it.  I can remember at least two occasions when I very innocently ended up feeding her coffee by way of chocolate.

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I’m not shy about the fact that one of my favorite chocolate quotes is “Nuts take up space where chocolate ought to be”.  As a general rule, I say “nay” to nuts in chocolate.  When a brownie recipe calls for walnuts, my policy is to omit them. When I have the opportunity to have a chocolate containing peanuts that haven’t been ground to paste (otherwise known as peanut butter), I pass. (Notable exception: Coco-nuts. Coconut and chocolate were made for each other.  Examples range from Mounds bars to Dick Taylor Maple Coconut to Lake Champlain Creamy Coconut.)

Many people say “anything is good when covered in chocolate”.  I dispute this.  (After having tasted chocolate containing cilantro, chocolate studded with ants, and chocolate festooned with mushrooms…to name a few…I am definitely of the opinion that not everything is good with chocolate.)  Covering nuts (or covering anything, for that matter) with chocolate doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re instantly turned into a tasty treat.

Then, just a week or so ago, a gift arrived in the form of milk chocolate covered almonds.
Nuts in Chocolate - La Marcona Chocolate Covered Almonds

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It’s one of those days.  I can’t seem to get interested in a specific chocolate to tell you about (although I’m sure I’ll snap out of it…there were some milk chocolate covered almonds recently that were so good they made me forget I don’t like nuts in my chocolate).  Nor is there any great chocolate baking or making or purchasing to recount.  So, the blank screen keeps starting at me, and it’s all I can do to resist the temptation to publish something ridiculously short and leave it at that.  “Something Witty Goes Here” – The End

On a normal week, I would be writing about pictures like these (or at least taking pictures like these).

Something Witty Goes Here Photo - Taza Chocolate with Crocheted Doily & Candle

Why is this not a normal week?

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Saturday, it occurred to me that the Whatever Floats Your Boat Brownies recipe still doesn’t include a photo for the lemon frosting version.   Something really had to be done to remedy that.

Additionally, Mother’s Day was less than twenty-four hours away, and baking something (especially something so melt-in-your-melt-delicious) might score some brownie points.  (Pun intended.)

Excuses excuses.  In reality, I was craving brownies.  It’s hard not to crave these brownies.  These brownies are amazing.  And since I did have a few excuses reasons to make them, make them I did:

Excuses, Excuses - Brownies with Lemon Frosting

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If you want to open a can of worms, start asking around: “Is White Chocolate Actually Chocolate?”

Inevitably, the white chocolate lovers will be quick to assure anyone who asks that of course white chocolate is chocolate (“what else would it be?!”), while the non-white chocolate lovers will be just as quick to denounce it as “not being the real thing”.

Is White Chocolate Actually Chocolate - Combination PhotoPictured:  Sinfonia White Chocolate Mandarin, Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries, & El Rey Icoa.

I’ve taken some informal polls (as in, straight out asking multiple sources what they think) and reactions are mixed. Nobody said it in exactly these words, but if you will allow me to liberally paraphrase:

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