Saturday, November 24, 2012

Orange Chocolate Part II

Many moons ago, I did a chocolate orange battle to help remind me what orange flavored chocolates I like best. Since then, I've picked up a few more orange chocolate bars but I've been saving them for a taste off instead of, you know, eating them. But it's time for that to change! I've begun the nibbling. So here's the round up:

Orange Chocolate Taste-Off Contender

Theo Organic Fair Trade Orange Dark Chocolate (70% cacao)
Nice chocolate/cocoa flavor but edging more towards a dry, powdery texture than creamy and rich. I'm willing to blame some that on this chocolate being old because it is only a few months before the "Best By" date. The orange flavor is light and sweet, more tangelo than "true" orange. Quite tasty though I do wish the chocolate felt a little creamier. And the orange flavor a bit stronger. The orange only comes in strong when I take a bite and munch on the chocolate for a while. My preferred way of eating chocolate - sucking on a corner until it melts - results in only mild flavor. Using teeth on chocolate makes me feel wasteful, so I'm a bit disappointed that's the only way the strong orange note comes through. Even with those quibbles, it is nice just not wow-ing. I would eat it again but I think I'd go for the Lindt version instead of this one in the future.

Orange Chocolate Taste-Off Contender

Equal Exchange Oraganic Orange Dark Chocolate (65% cacao)
Technically I'm two weeks past this chocolate's "best by" date. Oops. Must have been one of the ones I got on our vacation last year. So, grain of salt with this review, I suppose.

Yes, this is officially dark chocolate. I can taste the earthy notes (my dad always says it tastes like dirt, but I think it is good dirt) of the cocoa. It has a nice creamy texture when I let it melt a bit in my mouth. There are aspects that make me think it could edge towards powdery but it doesn't get there, so I really just read it as a rather dark chocolate. Chocolate-wise, it tastes pretty similar to the Theo, but creamier. Orange-wise, though, this one tastes a bit stronger. The orange taste comes in mostly on the end and aftertaste but it's nice - reminds me of the whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, but with a tiny little bite of zest on the end.

Overall, not knock-my-socks off, but tastier than the Theo and totally worth buying again.

Orange Chocolate Taste-Off Contender

Michel Cluizel Noir Aux Ecorces d'Orange (60% cacao)
This is not orange chocolate. This is a very nice, rich, creamy, dark chocolate with little hard pebbles of slightly chewy (but potentially rock-hard) crumbles of what is supposed to be candied orange peel or something similar. However, those little pebble of orange rocks are not very flavorful and the taste of orange is nowhere else in this chocolate. (The occasional one has a nice chewy texture and a good candied orange flavor, but those yummy little orange bits are outnumber at least three-to-one by the hard and flavorless supposedly orange bits.)

The chocolate itself is delicious and I quite like it, but I would never by this particular bar again (as I value my teeth too much to risk mostly flavorless orange rocks) but I would buy this chocolate in a plain format. However, for the purposes of this comparison, this chocolate is a big fat fail.

Orange Chocolate Taste-Off Contender

Valrhona Manjari Orange (64% cocoa)
I was pretty excited to see this one in the store. Manjari is my all time favorite chocolate so Manjari and orange? Sign me up! I'm not 100% sure the ingredients are safe for me, but hey, if I have a reaction, I'll know.

Overall, I think this is delicious but a bit of overkill. The taste of the Manjari alone is so fruity and tangy and fantastic, that mixing it with the orange flavor is both unnecessary and it kind of ends up almost lost in the wonder that is the chocolate. But there are these lovely little nuggets of super-orange hiding in the chocolate and oh, how I do enjoy happening upon those! That's when the orange flavor really pops above the fruity notes of the chocolate and really comes into it's own. It's like candied orange peel. Delicious, but I think I'll continue to take my Manjari straight.

Orange Chocolate Taste-Off Contender

World Market Blood Orange (42% cocoa)
Okay, this isn't dark chocolate, but it is blood orange. I had to try it.

It's good - the chocolate tastes darker than a measly 42%. The blood orange flavor isn't too strong or overwhelming... it's noticeable but doesn't necessarily scream blood orange. Rather nice, but honestly, it simply reminds me of the plain Manjari. Which is a good thing to be compared to but if it comes down between a flavored chocolate and a plain chocolate that tastes just as fruity but is darker, richer and smoother? Yeah, you can guess which I'll go with.

And that's it! I think between this and my previous post, I've investigated all of the orange chocolates I can find that are safe for me to eat. Huzzah! Overall, I don't think they make my perfect orange chocolate bar (or if they do, it's got ingredients in it that I must avoid). I think the Lindt and Equal Exchange are definitely worth having around regularly and I'll probably go overboard and get some Manjari Orange for those days I want to OD on sweet. Of course, I'll continue to keep an eye out for more delicious orange-ness!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Breadmaker is Sweaty

Yes, we currently have a sweaty breadmaker. But wait, we don't own a bread machine. That means I'm the sweaty one. (The lack of a bread machine is due to the fact that you aren't supposed to make gluten-free bread in a machine that has ever had wheat gluten bread in it... Not that I yet make gluten-free bread, but I like to have the option in case I want to feed it to my mom.)

I'm learning to bake bread. I've done a specialty bread before and I've done lots of beer bread, but currently I'm attempting to learn how to make plain white bread. Today is my second go. The first one... Well, it resulted in bread, but it was a bit dense since I had massively underkneaded it. Mind you, it was still tasty and we ate all of it, but I'd still like to do it properly. Which has resulted in tons and tons of kneading today. It's exhausting and very warm work. I had to turn the air conditioning on.

Technically, according to the window pane test for bread, today's bread is also a tad underkneaded but it is a ton better than my first go and I felt like my arms were going to fall off and I got much too overheated. So I called it good. And it was.

Homemade Bread

I did have some technical difficulties at one point that led to one loaf (the one on the right in the picture above) being less than pristine on top, but hey, I still think things turned out nicely!

And deliciously. Seriously delicious. Like, we-had-some-for-dessert delicious.

White Bread

I might be getting the hang of this bread making thing.

(Hopefully, those won't go down as famous last words!)

Overflowing with Kitties

Now that the weather has gotten colder (though I can still count on one finger the number of times the heat has come on), each night our bed ends up with an extra blanket on it - one made entirely of kitty. We've had up to five kitties on the bed at once and, let me tell you, it's really hard to move when the covers are stapled down in five places by weights that seem to get heavier the more I want to turn over. Sam is the only one that hasn't joined the group but I'm not sure if it's because he's fat enough that he's not as cold as the others, is afraid of being eaten by Happy or just doesn't think there's room (which doesn't stop any of the others, but maybe Sam is more polite.)

Of course, outside we've been running into kitty as well. Our neighbors on either side both have cats, but one neighbor's cats are rather skittish and stand-offish. The other neighbor, though, has possibly the sweetest cat in the world that doesn't already live with us.

Neighbor Kitty

It's a kitten, probably just under a year old, and she's adorably sweet and rumbly and demands attention constantly. Dan was fixing the fence this weekend and Neighbor Kitty apparently made quite a pest of herself. Well, 'pest' in the sense that Dan totally ate it up and adored the demands for attention and probably took longer to fix the fence than necessary but honestly, kitty cuddle breaks are union mandated, right?

Inspecting the Fence

Each time I went outside, I was greeted by a very noisy cat running towards me, purring, demanding attention and trying to get onto the porch when I went back inside. I think Dan and I both want to let her accidentally sneak into our house and, oops, never leave again.

Neighbor Kitty

But rumor has it that it is bad form to steal your neighbor's cat. But if something happens and the neighbors needed to find her a new home... Yeah, we'd be in trouble.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


It's been two weeks since my last post so I figured it was about time to post an update. Not much is going on but here's a little overview.

Gidget is off her medication but still experiencing some pain. Nothing as bad as before - she's now chewing air instead of violently pawing - so I'm hopeful it is just the remodeling suggested by the dentist. We have a dentist appointment tomorrow and shall see what she says. All of the other kitties are doing fine. They are much more cuddly now, especially at night, since it is no longer 100°+ outside.

Speaking of the weather, things have finally started to get cold. We switched over to the heat yesterday. It didn't actually come on during the day, but it might have snuck on in the night. Maybe. Things haven't gotten down to freezing yet outside, though, so my Romas are still putting off tons of tomatoes. Now if I would only water them...

My shoulder is doing good. I have some days that are perfectly normal but then I overdo it by attempting something like ironing and I have a few sore days. But I scrubbed the shower the other day with only some slight twanging the next day, and then only when I reached cross-body. I was doing some easy yoga regularly but fell out of that with the post-ironing pain. I need to get back to it - the movements have really helped me get my range of motion back.

I'm knitting on a cardigan sweater and having mixed luck. I ripped out about 5" of work because I wasn't liking how it was turning out. I initially had ribbing at the bottom and front bands, but I didn't like the proportions - the bottom band was so much smaller than the larger front band, which was pulling in (I figure I hadn't picked up enough stitches). So I ripped out the bottom band ribbing and am in the process of replacing it with a simple folded hem. Then I'll re-do the button band ribbing but in 4/1 or 5/1 rib instead of 2/2 rib. I think that will take care of the problem of the ribbing pulling in too much. Additionally, I'll be doing an i-cord edging (which will be on the bottom edges of the front bands) to make it neater than the wrapped edge I was doing before. All that (combined with picking up enough stitches on the front) and I should be a lot happier with it. Add to that, the fit is perfect and I greatly enjoy the color mix of the yarn, so yay!

And in the way it goes with all my larger knitting project, I briefly interrupted it to knit a little project, a little Christmas star.

Wonder Star

I think it's perfectly adorable (and the red is cashmere so it's delightfully soft, too) but after I finished it, I realized... we never have a Christmas tree. (Kitties, you know. They make it too much of an adventure.) So now I have an ornament and nothing to hang it on. Currently, it is hanging on the pull-knob of the barrister bookcase. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it but I'm still quite pleased with it. (And it's a great way to use up little bits of yarn!)

All this knitting though, and I must admit: I'm kind of itching to crochet a doily. Or knit a lavender-filled moth. Or, oh yeah, finish my sweater!

Oh, and I almost forgot! One of my New Year's resolutions was to try more tea vendors. I've successfully ordered from two of the three new vendors I mentioned back in January (TeaSpring (which I posted about) and American Tea Room (which I forgot to post about)) with Sugimoto being the odd man out. Well, I'm making an executive decision and calling this goal accomplished. The other week, I ordered from new-to-me vendor Verdant Tea specifically to get some of their divine-and-destinted-to-be-a-favorite Laoshan Black. Next year Sugimoto will still be a new-to-me vendor so maybe we can try again.

Of course, as far as other resolutions go, I'm oh so very behind on my 'read 24 "real" books' goal and am stuck on number eighteen. One behind where I ended up last year and I have a month and a half to at least tie. So I'm adjusting my goal to 'read more "real" books than I did last year'.

And I think I've exhausted every possible news topic. Well, other than Dan but nothing new there - he's working. A lot. Oh, he did make me an orange-honey wheat beer that's pretty fantastic. And he did another pumpkin beer which is practically pie in a cup. So the brewing is still going strong. We have bottle-conditioning beer in about half our closets.

So that's it, that's the news here. A gripping page turner, is it not? But all in all, it's doing pretty good, I think!