I read an article in the Star Tribune last week about a Minneapolis elementary school who is not celebrating Valentine’s Day in their classrooms this year. There has been a lot of backlash about this decision, and honestly, I don’t see why people are so fired up. I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. I see it as a fake holiday that either a) reminds you of your single status (most of my teens and twenties) b) creates pressure to perform un-natural acts of love (my thirties) or c) creates unnecessary stress and expense in preparing classroom party valentines (right now). Last year I spent almost $100 at the craft store to make little valentine monsters with paper cups, yarn, and glue guns. Why so much? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I just bought everything. To be free of all of this Valentine nonsense? Yes please.
In the meantime, my bestie gave me a beautiful chocolate cookbook for Christmas that I haven’t done anything with because I’ve been working on healthy lifestyle choices. But it’s hard to not be tempted when you see chocolate hearts everywhere you go. So here is my plan. I’m going to cook out of this cookbook all week, making a few chocolate treats to send to my friend and my faithful readers (my mom and aunts – I’m late with your Christmas gifts anyway) while feasting on the savory chocolate recipes in Theo. Let’s see how my plan works out.
Tom Douglas’s Roast Chicken with Wild Mushroom Warm Bread Salad with Cocoa Nibs
Nibby Butter – Savory and Sweet
Smoked Almond Toffee
Theo Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Mixed Greens with Mushroom and Nibs
Strawberry Salad with Lacy Nib Cookies (without the Nib Cookies…..too much for one week!)
Roasted Baby Carrots with Balsamic – Bitter Chocolate Syrup
Chocolate-Stuffed Creme Brulee French Toast with Whipped Cream and Berries
The roast chicken was a big hit. Very moist, just the slightest hint of chocolate essence, and the mushrooms were great.The vanilla caramels are worth the price of the book. Sprinkled with a little Maldon salt….wow. I made that. I’m hooked on Nibs now. Nibs are little bits of roasted cocoa that are crunchy, full of rich chocolate texture, and not sweet. Absolutely fabulous in salads. I also love them in the granola – it’s been a tasty breakfast week. Kids loved the brownie and H liked the strawberry and goat cheese salad. And probably the best news – I managed to make sweets and actually give them away before we ate them all first.
The kids hate mushrooms, and there are a lot of mushrooms in the lunch and dinner recipes. I wasn’t a big fan of the balsamic-bitter chocolate sauce. I knew the kids and Jeff wouldn’t like it, so I served it on the side. I actually liked it better with the pork tenderloin far more than the carrots. Wasn’t a big fan of the sweeter nibby butter – too much for our toast. Surprisingly enough, the french toast sandwiches for Valentine’s Day were not that great. Too rich – and off balanced. The kids ate a little bit but focused more directly on the whipped cream and raspberries. C had a rough food week overall – he didn’t want to try anything other than yogurt, plain strawberries and mac and cheese. (Which wasn’t really on the menu this week.)
My sink after candy making night. The bags under my eyes after I thought it would be a good idea to temper chocolate and cover my vanilla caramels on a Wednesday night. Me sneaking a bit of brownie without Jeff knowing it. That’s pretty low. (But the brownies are much better cold than warm – a bit too gooey right out of the pan!) Probably the ugliest moment was when I realized that I ate half a baguette with the savory nibby butter. For some reason I was able to control myself with the candies, but freshly baked bread? All self control went out the window. So much for moderation.
Theo Chocolate by Debra Music, Joe Whinney, Leora Bloom
4 stars out of 5
This is a really nicely designed cookbook. The authors strike a perfect balance explaining the bean to bar process while introducing some really creative ways to include chocolate with every meal. There are a lot of sweet choices in the book, particularly some interesting confectionaries that I just wasn’t prepared to take on, but I was more interested in some of the savory options. I had never heard of chocolate nibs until Theo and I’ve already ordered 2 more boxes for salads and to sneak into granola. I’m definitely bringing back the dipped caramels back during the holiday season – those little babies will make sure I’m on the nice list for the next 5 years. Pick this cookbook up if you’re interested in chocolate beyond the typical sweets and are interested in the bean to bar process. The Theo story is a good one and I hope to check out the factory the next time in Seattle. Thanks Hoffie for sending the book – I’m inspired and have convinced a few other people to order the book as well. 🙂