Celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day the Artisan Way!

Horiz Final National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

Celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day on Tuesday, August 2nd with a special treat!

Remember the ice cream sandwiches you ate as a kid? The rectangular ones with the holes in the soft cookie, holding a brick of ice cream that looked like it was sliced out of a box? We think it’s time you traded in those plain, artificially-flavored sandwiches for something better. Something already topped with real chocolate and salted caramel…like a handheld special sundae. Something that’s all natural and free from preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. After all, your mouth will be too full of ice cream to talk much!

GREENWICH POLO LUXXELLESEnter Luxxelles Artisan Ice Cream Sandwiches created by Luxx Chocolat. They’re handcrafted with only the highest quality ingredients. Award-winning Chef and Master Chocolatier Lisa Mecray Rogers has created a fresh twist on the old ice cream sandwich that’s decadently different. Instead of a mushy cookie, Lisa designed a thin, crunchy wafer covered in award-winning caramel, kissed with Sicilian Trapani sea salt and slathered in a single origin (cacao Venezuela) 72% deep dark chocolate. Her ice cream is silky smooth, handmade in small batches using local milk, cream, and seasonal fruit. Flavors include Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Black Raspberry Chip, ChocoChocoChip, Cinnamon Caramel, Local Strawberry, Local Blueberry, Local Black CherryChip, Matcha Mint and Chambord with fresh raspberries. She’s always introducing a new flavor! Customers often say that it’s the best ice cream sandwich they’ve ever had! They show up to see her at the farmer’s markets she attends with their own coolers to stock their freezers. Can you say ice cream sandwich stalkers?

Luxx Chocolat 6 Star Master Award 2016What makes Luxx Chocolat different? Well, they’re definitely not your average box of chocolates! Based in Ridgewood, Luxx Chocolat was just voted one of 2016 BEST Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America for the 4th year in a row. This year, it also reached the highest possible ranking of 6-Star Grand Master. The International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV also awarded Luxx Chocolat 28 new awards so far this year. In the Luxury Caramel Competition: 5 Gold, 5 Silver, 6 Bronze, including Most Unique, Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Taste, Best Overall Chocolate Artistry, and Best Exterior Design. In the Top Chocolate Bar Competition: 1 Silver, 3 Bronze, including Best Mixed Chocolate Bar, Best Ingredient Combinations, and Best Product Name. In the Luxury Bridal Competition: 2 Gold, 4 Silver, 2 Bronze, including Best Presentation and Packaging, Most Artistic Designs, Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience, Best for Wedding Reception, and Best Dark Chocolate. With Luxx Chocolat, you know that you’re getting the best and most beautiful creations.

So on National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, and for the whole week, get dazzled with an unforgettable ice cream sandwich! To celebrate, Luxx Chocolat is offering $1 off each Luxxelles purchased between 8/2-8/7!

Order online for pickup in Ridgewood or see them at next weekend’s farmer’s markets. It’s a treat the whole family will love! Experience the sweet, crunchy, smooth and refreshingly cool Luxxelles Artisan Ice Cream Sandwich for yourself.

For more information, please visit http://luxxchocolat.com/ . For upcoming events and farmers’ markets, see https://www.facebook.com/luxxchocolat/events/

Article written by Tracy Nieradka, a healthy-living advocate with a passion for food, fitness and teaching

Let’s Hear It for the Red, White and Blue!

Elizabeth

It’s time to celebrate our country’s independence! And what better way than to gather friends and family together for a Red White & Blue Party with some nice wine, food and dessert selections. We are having one this Saturday since we’re on the parade route! Chairs are out and tent is up.

What can you do for the Red White & Blue Party?  Here are some ideas…

  • Of course, color coordinate! Invitations, decor and dress the part!  Wear red, white and blue or coordinate with your friends, maybe one wears all white, another red and the other just the blue. And don’t forget your pets!

  • Choose drinks and food that fall into 3 categories…red, white and blue of course. And lay out them out accordingly…white food with white wine, red with red and blue with blue!

  • Red wine – Choose a nice light-bodied red. They are more refreshing during the summer and easier on the palate. Go to a wine shop that has an educated sales staff to help you choose the best featuring the following grape varietiesred_white_rose_grapesx300

    • Pinot Noir – Notes of red fruit, chocolate, clove and cinnamon. Black cherry, slight licorice, vanilla and butter

    • Sangiovese – Dusty cherry and cassis, with hints of tar, herb, chocolate and leather. Nose is usually of espresso and black fruits. California versions usually have a bit more oak, with possible plum and vanilla notes

    • Dolcetto – Soft, round, fruity wines fragrant with licorice and almonds

    • Cabernet Franc – As a single grape wine, has berry, licorice, mint and cranberry flavors with slight floral nose. May exhibit hints of raspberry and black cherry, edged with spice and pepper

  • White wine – Don’t get the usual Pinot Grigio. Be different and also expand your palate!

    • Chenin Blanc – California selections have notes of tropical fruit, citrus, peach, ginger, oak and toffee. In the Loire Valley of France, Chenin Blanc ages slowly, turning from the freshest vibrant fruit to complex, toasty, nutty, mineral, and honey flavored

    • Sauvignon Blanc – Green melon (California), crisp lemon-grass and thyme aromas. Grapefruit, pear and possibly passion fruit and fig. When aged in oak, it is known as Fume Blanc

    • Sancerre – Loire Valley (France) Sauvignon Blanc has flavors of lime or lemon, and intense fruit. Mineral nose, possibly with tangerines, honey and soil notes

    • Gewürztraminer – This wine exhibits lychee nut, grapefruit and pear flavors. Sometimes floral, tangerine, pineapple, orange, and spice

    • Reisling – Usually sweet or semi-sweet (“halb-trocken” with German Rieslings) with a floral flavor as well as apricot, peach, apple, pear, and honey. Sweeter varieties may even exhibit toffee, vanilla, pecan pie, and crème brûlée

  • Blue wine?  Yes, actually Merlot is made from a dark blue grape! Merlot has fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and sometimes leafy vegetal notes. Take it one step further and serve Coppola Merlot with the blue label

  • Choose foods in this same color palette. Look at each list of food ideas below and wonderful dishes can be made combining them!

  • White(ish) food you can serve

    • Brie and goat cheese

    • Pasta with Alfredo sauce or flavored olive oil alone or white chicken. Add tomatoes for some color

    • White bean and chicken chili

    • Crepes

    • Mushrooms

    • Cauliflower

    • White potatoes

    • Rice

    • White chocolate – truffles, bon-bons

  • Red food

    • Hamburgers or lamb burgers with sliced red onion, ketchup

    • Steak

    • Beet salad

    • Red potatoes

    • Tomatoes

    • Apples

    • Watermelon

    • Red grapes

    • Red peppers

    • Strawberries

    • Cherries

    • Raspberries

    • Chocolate with berry ganache

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  • Blue food

    • Eggplant

    • Grapes

    • Plums

    • Blueberries

  • Dessert!  A must have

    • Make it fun with the kids.  Get big pretzel sticks, dip them in melted chocolate and roll them in red, white and blue sprinkles!

    • Red velvet cupcakes with white frosting and blueberries on top

    • Make 3 ice creams/sorbets or pick these up at the store – strawberry, vanilla bean and blueberry. Three scoops are so patriotic looking!

    • Strawberry shortcake with an added blueberries layer.  Add chocolate shavings just because it will take this dessert to the next level!

    • Cherry and blueberry pie with whipped cream

    • Firecracker ice pops – See the video here

    • or White chocolate mousse with berries…see below for this easy, delicious way to impress

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Mousse

White Chocolate Mousse with Berries – Super Easy!

(Recipe source: fashionablefoods.com)

Ingredients:

1 Egg

2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

½ Cup White Chocolate Chips

2 Tablespoons Mascarpone Cheese, at room temperature

1 Cup Heavy Cream

For the Raspberry Sauce:

½ Cup Fresh Raspberries

2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar

Half of a Lemon, juiced

Instructions:
  • Whisk the egg with the heavy cream and sugar until very smooth in a medium-sized glass bowl. Bring about an inch or two of water to a boil in a small pot that the bowl fits nicely over (you’re creating your own double boiler)
  • Once the water is boiling, place the bowl over top and whisk continuously until the egg mixture is steaming and very smooth
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and add in the white chocolate chips. Mix well until the chocolate melts and the mixture is very smooth. (If the mixture isn’t hot enough to melt the white chocolate, simply place the bowl back over the steaming water and whisk until it melts). Let the white chocolate mixture cool to room temperature
  • Once the mixture is cool, stir in the room temperature mascarpone cheese. Set aside
  • Whip the heavy cream in a stand mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in ¾ of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture. You will have a light and fluffy mousse. Refrigerate the mousse for at least 1 hour before serving
  • To make the raspberry sauce combine the raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small pot. Cook the mixture over medium heat while mashing the raspberries with a potato masher or fork until you have a raspberry pulp
  • Strain the raspberry pulp into a small bowl to remove the seeds. You’ll be left with raspberry sauce. Refrigerate until ready to eat
  • When you’re ready to serve, swirl in ¾ of the raspberry sauce to the mousse. Layer the mousse in serving glasses with fresh raspberries. Top each serving with more fresh raspberries, the remaining whipped cream and drizzle with the remaining raspberry sauce

Let’s toast to the best nation on Earth! Cheers!

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2015, 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

I scream for ice cream…chocolate of course!

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Baby, it’s hot outside! 

Welcome summer…and so, my mind goes directly to ice cream!! Lovely, cold, delicious creaminess! Perfect to not only cool you down but take your taste buds to wonderful places.

Store-bought ice cream is good and super quick, but in no way is it as much fun as making it yourself and with your kids. You also have the ability with homemade ice cream to control what actually goes into it. Take this Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ingredients label below into consideration.

Now are you ready to make your own?

Cherry Garcia Ingredient Label – Skim milk, wafer (bleached wheat flour, isomalt*, maltitol*, caramel color, sorbitol*, palm oil, cocoa, corn flour, modified corn starch, salt, baking soda, natural flavor, soy lecithin), maltodextrin, polydextrose, sorbitol*, cream, stabilizer (mono and diglycerides, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, carrageenan), sucralose (Splenda brand), vitamin A palmitate, acesulfame potassium, natural flavor, artificial flavor.

     *sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excess consumption of this ingredient.

Today making ice cream is quite economical! You don’t have to buy an ice cream machine to make it, but you can get a machine for super cheap. Look at these models available in Chef Central.

  • Zoku Ice Cream Maker  $25.95

  • West Bend Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker $49.95

  • Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker $59.95

  • Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet & Ice Cream $89.95

Ready to be your own Ben & Jerry, creating your own wacky flavors?  Here’s a great recipe to start with…and of course it is dark chocolate!  You can also put the ice cream between 2 chocolate chip cookies for your own ice cream sandwiches. Or be more decadent and check out our new Luxxelles…sweet wafers covered in creamy caramel, Sicilian Trapani sea salt and 72% dark chocolate!  http://luxxchocolat.com/luxxelles4pack.aspx. Or even add cocoa nibs or chocolate chunks!

This recipe is an original from Cuisinart, perfect for their machine.  My only addition would be folding in small pieces of chocolate (please use real dark chocolate!), perhaps some toasted almonds and dried black cherries. Yum!

Deep Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

2-1/4 cups whole milk

2-1/4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean

1-1/8 cups granulated sugar

1-1/8 cups Dutch process cocoa

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, combine the whole milk and heavy cream over medium-low heat. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise; use the blunt edge of the knife to scrape out the “seeds” of the vanilla bean.

  • Stir the seeds and bean pod into the milk/cream mixture. Simmer the milk/cream mixture over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard it or rinse and reserve for another use.

  • Combine the sugar, cocoa, eggs, and egg yolks in a medium bowl; using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until thickened like mayonnaise.

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  • Measure out 1 cup of the hot milk/cream mixture. With the mixer on low speed, add the cup of hot milk/cream to the cocoa mixture in a slow, steady stream and mix until completely incorporated. Stir the chopped chocolate into the saucepan with the hot milk/cream. Stir the egg mixture into the hot milk/cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to resemble a chocolate pudding. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a bowl and stir in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the chocolate mixture, and refrigerate until completely cooled.

  • Pour the chilled custard into the freezer bowl, turn the machine on and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Stay cool and enjoy!  Please share with us what your favorite ice cream concoction is and we’ll include on a follow up post!  Send to Lisa at luxxchocolat@optonline.net.

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2015, 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

Snowy day fun with chocolate! Truffle mania!

red-wine-trufflesSpring may be days away yet, surprisingly, winter seems to still be in full bloom. But being stuck inside can be a lot of fun when there is chocolate involved! How about gathering the kids and your girlfriends together for an afternoon or evening of truffle making?

Truffles may look difficult but they can be quite simple to make. And they are certainly an elegant addition for an everyday dessert, to enjoy when having family or friends over or even as a personal gift from your kitchen wrapped in a beautiful box.

Making truffles with your kids is also an ideal way to get your kids to enjoy dark chocolate, which has less sugar and real health benefits than milk or white chocolate. They won’t even notice since they are having great fun!

You might want to create two different types of truffles…one for the kids and one for adults in mind. How about Cognac or Grand Marnier truffles? Yum!

There are many different ways to decorate them that everyone can have fun with. Be creative! You might already have these things in your cabinet.Picture1

  • Cocoa powder

  • Melted chocolate (dark, milk, white)

  • Chopped nuts

  • Coconut

  • Colored sprinkles

  • Decorative icing

  • Colored sugar crystals

  • Chopped dried fruit pieces

  • Icing sugar

So, let’s get started!  What’s key here is the chocolate you choose and I’ll give you some ideas so you are making truffles with beautiful, rich flavor.  This recipe makes about 60 truffles so you may want to split it in half – one for the kids without the alcohol and one for the adults with the alcohol. Or make two full recipes so everyone can have some to take home.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (16 oz) good dark chocolate such as Valrhona 64% or 72% –

At Whole Foods it’s next to the cheese and bakery section not the bar chocolate aisle. It’s usually in bulk chunk form. Good to ask. Also at Trader Joe’s. Stay away from the round disks from craft stores and some chocolate stores – not real chocolate!

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cognac, optional

  • 1 tablespoon prepared coffee, optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract

  • Chosen decorations – see above for choices

Directions

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl.images

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and pour the cream into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk or rubber spatula, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Kids can help stir. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Use this time to get all of your decorations in place.

Take out several bowls and pour your chosen decorations into each. Take a vote with the kids! Maybe cocoa powder in one, colored sprinkles or coconut in another.

Take out a baking sheet or two lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Take the bowl out of the refrigerator. With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet.

Now everyone wash your hands!  gluten-free-truffles-baci-04B

For this article, we’ll just touch on dry decorations. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Please note that if the truffles are held too long in your hands, they will melt. Just refrigerate and re-use.

Put each ball into your bowl containing a decoration. Or use 2 or 3 decorations. Have fun with them! Toss to cover them, then put them on clean parchment lined tray to dry. Allow the truffles to set for about 10 minutes before devouring.  These will keep refrigerated for a week, but serve at room temperature.truffles

Enjoy some wine with your truffles too! A rich red is perfect with dark chocolate, like a nice Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir with earthy notes.

Have fun and roll on! I’d love to see what fun you had so please send me pictures!

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

Tis’ the Season for Hot Chocolate!

Temperatures have dropped and the snow has moved in. Not sure about you but having a hot chocolate is on my mind! Nothing better to warm you up after a cold day at work or running around with the kids.

kid with hot chocHot chocolate often takes us back to our childhood. I can just picture sitting at the edge of our frozen pond in a snow bank with my ice skates on sipping away on the chocolaty warmth. But back then and still today, many still buy a box and rip open a packet called “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”. But what’s the difference?  And do the ones we like even contain chocolate? The powders may seem to be an easy option, but are they really the best option given all of the artificial ingredients and the mass of sugar chock full in these products?

It’s interesting to see that even when there are consumer studies ranking the best “hot chocolate” in America they include products that don’t even contain chocolate or cocoa. Hmmm, makes you think….  But let’s also not lose focus on the fact that even though some products do have real chocolate in it or that it’s organic chocolate, doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good!

What’s the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa? There apparently isn’t always a distinction. You’d think hot cocoa should contain cocoa powder of some sort and hot chocolate should contain chocolate (ground, shavings, chunks). Doesn’t sound hard yet many products that contain cocoa powder call themselves hot chocolate and products that contain real chocolate call themselves hot cocoa?? Then there is drinking chocolate, which is a European term…defined as a beverage made with chocolate.  And then there are those that don’t contain cocoa or chocolate and call themselves hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Seems there should be some sort of rule or regulation, no?

Some interesting facts to know about these hot “chocolaty” beverages:

  • Historically, chocolate was sipped, not nibbled, until 1847 when the first solid chocolate bar was developedchocolate no sign
  • Many “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” brands are chocolate flavored and don’t contain chocolate at all or contain the tiniest amount. Doesn’t seem to make sense. But oftentimes we never find much information because most products don’t list how much chocolate or cocoa is really in there. Keep in mind what we’ve learned about other mass produced chocolate brands…they use the minimum the FDA will allow (10%) because cacao is expensive and using real chocolate requires special handling and technique = $$. If it doesn’t say how much is in there, assume it’s the minimum, especially when it says “artificial favor” on the label. See the Swiss Miss label below
  • Star Bucks Hot Chocolate contains no real chocolate! It’s only flavored… “Steamed milk with vanilla- and mocha-flavored syrups”
  • Hot chocolate made with real chocolate offers health benefits. Research continues to show us that antioxidants help prevent cancer, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and aging in general because they fight free radicals in the body
  • Many “hot cocoa” and “hot chocolate” products can contain artificial additives and lots of sugar, including ingredients not acceptable to a gluten-free lifestyle. Read the labels. I personally try to stay away from artificial ingredients and labels that list the first ingredient as sugar. A great resource to learn about product ingredients is http://www.foodfacts.com/. Here is one label from Swiss Miss.

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix Ingredients: sugar, modified whey, cocoa (processed with alkali), hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, calcium carbonate, less than 2% of: salt, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, artificial flavor, carrageenan. Contains milk.

  • The reason why some cocoa powders are Dutched or processed with alkali is because the manufacturer wants to makes the cocoa powder a richer brown color, have less acidity, a milder taste and easier to blend into liquids
  • Dutch process chocolate contains lower amounts of flavonols which are antioxidants than chocolate. Dark chocolate is an antioxidant super food. Some studies show that 60-90% of the antioxidants are destroyed by Dutching
  • Chocolate milk (with real chocolate) is effective in promoting muscle recovery following endurance exercise. More than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout. Hot chocolate is hot chocolate milkHot Choxx fire boots

So how to get all of the health benefits without the sugar or anything artificial and still experience the purest enjoyment that hot chocolate can bring? Just keep it simple… Scald milk, throw in good 64% or higher % dark chocolate that you would enjoy all by itself and any natural flavoring like cinnamon. Stir and enjoy! And if you’re looking for a fun experiment at home, try making some homemade marshmallows! Great for a snowy afternoon in with the kids. The kids can watch you make it (it gets hot!) and then once you spread in a pan, they can help you punch out different shapes with cookie cutters.

Or check out Luxx Chocolat Hot Choxx artisan hot chocolate on a stick. Just won 12 awards in the 2015 BEST Hot Cocoa & Drinking Chocolate Competition given by the International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV!

Enjoy!  HotChocolate2014-4star

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

New Year’s Resolution…go to the dark side!

Are you a milk chocolate fan? What about your kids? Sometimes that’s all kids want because that’s all they’ve ever really experienced.  Or do they claim they don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate?  It’s time you all come to the dark side. Why? Because all dark chocolate is NOT the same.  Time to rock the boat and add moving to dark chocolate as a part of your health-related New Year’s resolutions. Yes…it’s good for you!

As Americans, we have not had the privileged exposure to fine chocolate like those in Europe. We all grew up with Hershey and Nestle and it was pretty much all milk chocolate…which doesn’t have much real chocolate in it!  The facts are, chocolate is NOT sweet and it can be expensive. So chocolate makers add loads of sugar, anywhere from 80-90% of the product, and artificial flavorings to make it taste like real chocolate to save money. A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids). And Snickers® is less than 2%!  So is it the chocolate or the sugar everyone likes? Eating food high in sugar boosts your odds of tooth decay, heart disease, and diabetes, not to mention weight gain.

10659368_10202660763781212_5334588376119262189_nBy moving over to dark chocolate in 2015, you and your kids can slash sugar intake in a big way!  And dark chocolate has proven health benefits. It’s a superfood!But of course, keep it in moderation. Here are some interesting facts:

  • All dark chocolate is NOT the same. That’s like saying every Cabernet Sauvignon from every vineyard is the same. Each chocolate maker, like a wine maker, is an artist in their own way. They have their own processes, proprietary recipes, use different amounts of quality or low quality ingredients grown in various places in the world under distinct climate conditions and in different soils, blend in flavorings or not etc. With chocolate, even how it is processed (ie: conching) can impact the mouthfeel (smoothness, creaminess), flavor and even perceived bitterness. High quality chocolate makers tend to conche longer…which makes their dark chocolates NOT bitter. In chocolate, you get what you pay for. Try the finer chocolate maker’s products. Even chocolates within a maker will be different. Don’t generalize. Experience everything. You will find the ones you will love!  (ask me!)
  • Look for chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages over 60%. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of real chocolate vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you!  If it doesn’t have a percentage…stay away
  • Dark chocolate is natural and nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, seleniumBenefits of choc
  • Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. There are also studies in cancer, diabetes and many other disease states. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits
  • Dark chocolate can have more than five times the flavonoids of an apple
  • Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of a heart attack. Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
  • Some studies suggest that dark chocolate can offset Type 2 diabetes
  • Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods
  • Dark chocolate can boost your mood! It contains several psychoactive chemicals that act as stimulants and mood elevators… and may induce same feelings that love does. Key for stress reduction. Dark chocolate also influences serotonin which may provide an energizing effect. This increased energy may also improve longevity and stamina…which in turn has a perceived effect of increasing libido. It’s also seen to have an effect in Chronic Fatigue Syndromeeca871d11ff47a2735c44fae9ccf3446
  • Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more
  • Dark chocolate can improve your skins ability for UVA/UVB sun protection (read one of my earlier blogs)
  • Not only will dark chocolate help your body ward off the effects of stress, but may boost your brain power. Researchers from Oxford University and Norway studied chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by analyzing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t

There is so much more to learn about the health benefits of dark chocolate, so stay tuned! Make the commitment today to go to the dark side of chocolate for you and your family.

And don’t forget, giving your sweetie chocolate for Valentine’s Day may show you care for their health as well as their heart!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Tasteful Tailgating

picnic basketIs it September already? Yup…here we are at the end of the summer, the kids are back to school, the temperature is starting to dip…and football season has begun! Are you a fan?  Whether you are or not, the game will either be on the tube or you’ll be hanging out with friends and family in a parking lot where beer, burgers, hot dogs, chili, wings and potato salad reign. Or perhaps you’re a fan of the Steeplechase. Had enough of the usual?

Although it may be difficult to replace those popular grilled staples, why not look at the tailgate as if it were a multiple course dinner affair, each course paired with a wine? Here are some ideas to upscale and add to the offerings to make it a more tasteful and fun experience!  And remember, just because it’s getting cooler doesn’t mean white wines are out. Get out your fancy wicker picnic basket and real wine glasses and let’s get something started.

oysters

Oysters on the half shell – Open and clean in advance. Make a mignonette sauce and you’re good to go! White wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper is all it is. Don’t forget the lemon.

The wine – Northeast coast oysters are ideally paired with Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire River, most commonly known as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. The briny and steely nature of these oysters pair nicely with mineral or flinty qualities of a dry white wine. Or how about a Blanc de Blanc champagne?

chili

White Chili – OMG good. Get out your crock pot the day before and throw in uncooked chicken cubes, white canned beans, white corn, chopped Vidalia onion, clove of garlic, package of taco seasoning, green chilies and chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with sour cream, lime juice, cheddar or Colby-Jack and serve with corn tortilla chips.

The wine – Choose a Chardonnay from Chile. Its bright fruitiness and acidity to cut the creaminess of the chili.

breslin lamb burger

Burgers – Try mini lamb burgers instead! If you’ve ever been to The Breslin in NYC, you know how amazing a lamb burger can be. Keep it simple and fresh. Ask the butcher for American lamb patties. Sea salt on each side, then grill it to medium rare, top it with sliced red onion, a slice of feta cheese, ground black pepper, olive oil and put between toasted ciabatta bun.

The wine – Serve with a good Rioja for dark fruit, spice notes, ripe tannins and good acidity or a full-bodied Beaujolais rosé, with notes of ripe fruit, ranging from juicy watermelon to dark cherry or an earthy and smoky Pinot Noir.

salmon

Cedar-Planked Salmon – The salmon rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh thyme and the lovely cedar notes from the plank are amazing. Don’t forget to soak the planks the night before!  Roasted lemons and a garlicky spinach with fennel are nice compliments.

The wine –  An elegant Pinot Noir with a smoky, cedar and cinnamon stick finish

fondue

Fondue party – Go retro and get out those fondue pots and sticks! The possibilities are endless….a Gruyère cheese fondue with artisan multigrain bread cubes, hot oil fondue with cubed beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp or veggies. Then there is chocolate fondue for dessert with marshmallows, cake or fruit! And please, make sure it’s good chocolate like Valrhona (available at Whole Foods).

The wine – Wow…too many twists and turns here.  Pair the Gruyère cheese fondue with an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc and the beef tenderloin fondue with Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. It also depends if you have a dipping sauce so pair to the dominant flavor. For a dark chocolate fondue dipped with nutmeg-sprinkled orange slices, biscotti or banana bread, try an Argentinian Malbec with notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise.

Luxx Chocolat Contemporary Collection

Chocolate mini-bar – Have a nice array of chocolaty treats! Try an artisan chocolate and wine flight of 3 chocolates paired perfectly with 3 types of wine. Or perhaps griddle pan Belgian waffles. Yes! Waffles made right on the BBQ. Drizzle them with dark chocolate caramel sauce made with Grand Marnier or chocolate-covered drunken strawberries (cognac or champagne soaked before dipping) with whipped cream or cinnamon Belgian waffles with a bourbon and banana caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings. Oh, I could go on and on!

The wine – The answer here is that it all depends. Depends on the flavors and aromas of all elements of the decadent dish, the percentage cacao, the type of chocolate…etd. Have fun and experiment or ask someone in the know.

Tailgating fare doesn’t have to be the usual! Mix it up and make it an experience involving finer flavors! It’s a winning combination.

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936