Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chocolate Frogs & Bees for Good Luck in March

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet

Here comes buzzworthy March tagged the "hump month"--a time between winter and spring. Depending on where you live, it can be cold one day and warm the next. Despite whatever Old Man Winter brings us, with chocolate and a bit of the Irish luck will help me (and perhaps you, too) get through the unpredictable days with flying colors.
As a kid, Saint Patrick's Day was a big event in my house because my mother was part Irish. And I can't forget the corn beef and cabbage as well as the dark chocolate cupcakes frosted with fluffy green frosting.
While I was researching and writing my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, 2010), Lake Champlain Chocolates sent me an adorable Saint Patrick's chocolate frog boasting three types of chocolate: milk, white, and dark. Since I'm thinking about it now you can be that I was impressed.
Last year, on March 17th, I also received a sweet surprise. The deal was sealed for me to pen my latest Healing Powers book The Healing Powers of Honey (October 2011). Could it be just a coincidence or perhaps luck was on my side because of the special holiday? Also, I just read that Victorian people believed bees were messengers between heaven and Earth. What's more, they adorned themselves with bee jewelery to help boost their financial luck. For me, during the recession "recovery" I believe eating dark chocolate and wearing a bee necklace or bracelet may be in the cards.
Meanwhile, may I suggest incorporating chocolate into your upcoming days to help you deal with rain or snow and give you a mental and physical boost? I plan to include chocolate in my March meals--and, of course, I'll give them an Irish spin with a chocolate frog (or two).
BTW: Frogs are another symbol of good luck and yes, a ceramic one is sitting indoors by my front door.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tea & Sympathy for Jim Cypher, My Literary Agent

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
Last night via an eye-opening e-mail I discovered my literary agent Jim Cypher has passed onto the other side. When I first read the note the news didn't register. I thought he was sharing the information about his father. In other words, it was an earthshaking shock. Gosh, about a month ago, upon his request, I confirmed him on my Facebook wall. And today, as I sip chamomile tea--it's calming--I'm still trying to accept the fact that Jim is gone.
Several years ago, he scooped me up (it's a challenge to find a good agent) and accepted me as one of his clients. Together we worked liked dedicated working dogs. He did find me a publisher for the book The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes: Jim Berkland, How His Quake Warnings Can Save Lives (Sentient, 2006). In the Acknowledgments, I wrote: "I praised Jim Cypher, my dedicated literay agent, who kept the faith. He sent out my book proposal to numerous publishers and posted the project on , where we did find an interested publisher. Not only did Cypher persever in the beginning of the this project, but he also went beyond the call of duty from start to finish of this book. In The Writer Magazine, I once tagged him as being my "fairy godfather."
The revolutionary book, thanks to Cypher, did change the course of my life in many ways. Not only did I fine-tune my intuitive skills but I ended up being a regular guest on countless radio programs to dish out my own quake and weather predictions. What's more, I created a website for earthquake sensitives, landed a monthly Earth Changes column in a national magazine, and am a working intuitive for an international phone psychic network.
While I do pen health-related cookbooks (this wasn't his cup of tea), I still follow my passion of helping others get and stay connected to Mother Nature. And for all of these endeavors, I have Jim Cypher to thank. I remember he told me more than once that his plan was to work till the end. Yes, he loved his career as an agent and he was loved by hardworking authors, like me, around the nation.
So, as a devout Catholic, I truly believe he is in heaven--a serene place that is full of good people, pleasure and without earthling worries and woes. A toast to Jim Cypher. Goodbye my dear friend.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate With A Heart: Unforgettable Chocolatiers

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
Welcome to February and American Heart Health month. During last year this time, as a solo adult I embraced chocolate like an excited kid by savoring heart healthy dark chocolates from the West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast. It was a love affair with chocolate.

* Christopher Norman Chocolates: Chocolatier John Down's whimsical creations arrived on my doorstop. I loved the petit fours: hand-painted pastries that include dark chocolate and strawberry.

* Romanicos: Another gourmet chocolate company, in Florida, made me smile on Valentine's Day. In February, living in a region with snow-covered ground, it was great to taste the dark chocolate truffles packages in an attractive red box. I loved the Floridian orange flavored gems with distinct notes of the sweet citrus ffruit.

*Christopher Elbow: Two days after Valentine's Day, I received a box of Christopher Elbow chocolates: a 16-piece selection in a sophisticated white box with an earth colored brown ribbon. Chirstopher Elbow is one of the most popular chocoaltiers, praised for his enticing, eye-catching, and beautiful pieces mde from the best chocolate and ingredients.

So, this Valentine's Day I was welcomed with a UPS box on my doorstep. When I opened it up, a white box with a red ribboned bow greeted me. As I took out the gift my eyes feasted on a heart-shaped edible chocolate box filled with several dark chocolates. This experience is so much more exciting than bringing home a bag of chocolate from the grocery store. It's unforgettable to receive a box of chocolates with a special flair.
Thank you Enjou Chocolat, I feel special today and I owe it to you, chocolate, and the Westminster Dog Show coming tonight along with an overdue snowstorm on its way at Lake Tahoe. It will be a two dog-one cat night, with a crackling fire, hot cocoa, and a few chocolates to savor. And, now after the snow arrived, I'm dreaming of baking a decadent Italian dark chocolate cake to boost my spirits during the snowed-in time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Super Chocolate's Fave Friends Are Super, Too!

Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
A new study in Chemistry Central Journal has tagged chocolate as the new "super fruit". But hey, this is no news to me, the author of The Healing Powers of Chocolate. During my year-long research in Chocolateville, I did get to savor lots of exotic foods infused in super food chocolate--and that is newsworthy to chocolate lovers and chocolatarians, like me.
Yep, chocolate goes well with herbs, spices, and fruits--but it doesn't stop there. Creative chocolatiers are infusing dark chocolates and truffles with good-for-you foods, too. Not only do the pairing add an extra exotic touch, but they add texture and irresistible flavor, too.
*Balsamic Vinegar: For 1,000 years, balsamic vinegar hs been touted for its healing powers. As with red wine vinegar, it's grape-filled counterpart, it contains powerful antioxidants that protect against heart disease--and may even fight cancer. Best Choco Blend: Balsamic vinegar can be infused in dark chocolates and truffles (Vosages Haut-Chocolate is the go-to place online for this treat), baked desserts, and topped on dark chocolate ice cream.
* Cheese: Like other good fatty foods, cheese does have its nutritional benefits, including calcium and protein. Best Choco Blend: Italian cheeses are teamed with dark chocolates in truffles, and in sauces such as mole.
* Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil contains health-boosting nutrients, including vitamin E, essential fatty acids, phenol compounds, and disease-fighting polyphenols. Best Choco Blends: Olive oil is infused in exotic chocolates, truffles, and baked goods, including biscotti, cake and cookies.
* Peanut Butter: This good-for-you fatty food (in moderation), like cheese, olive oil, and chocolate, is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and resveratrol. It also contains protein, vitamins B3 and E. Best Choco Blends: Chocolates (like you'll find at Lake Champlain Chocolates, truffles, cookies, ice cream with dark chocolate, and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting.
So, now that more folks are getting the word and believing that dark chocolate is a superfruit/superfood, it's just a matter of time when savoring the combo with its fave friends becomes a household word (or study), too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Chocolate Craze Hits Home

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
Welcome to Valentine's Day or Saint Valentine's Day, the 14th of February, a traditional day for the change of romantic gifts of affection in both America and Europe. These tokens can include chocolates of all kinds, shapes, and sizes.
During my Valentine's Day experience in 2009, as an adult I embraced the popular holiday like an excited kid by savoring gourmet chocolates from both the West Coast and East Coast as well as the Midwest and Deep South. It was love affair with chocolate.
While I enjoyed champagne truffles, hand-painted pastries, orange-infused chocolates, and chocolates with nuts of all kinds, I forgot about the delicate roots of chocolate and the cocoa bean--which seems to be in danger these days...
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Widespread Chocolate Appeal
The deal is, Africa produces 70 percent of the world's cocoa crop, followed by Latin America and Southeast Asia, and other regions around the world. Folks in "chocolateville" around the world are not ignoring the plight of chocolate--which is derived from cacao trees tagged as the "food of the gods."
America continues to lead the globe in cocoa bean importing and chocolate production. But Switzerland maintains front-runner position in its chocolate consumption. Like the worlds of olive oil, vinegar and wine, the world of chocolate is both competitive and delicate--and that's where the danger lies.
Cocoa bean harvesters count on Mother Nature to do her best, I learned. There are two main harvests per year, but some cacao can be harvested all year long. Also, pests, disease, and weather destroy some of the world's cacao each year. Sadly, chocolate craziness--including political, social, and economic woes are happening amid the Ivory Coast, a dangerous place right now like back in 2002. And this unrest puts the cocoa bean business in jeopardy and prices may soar (affecting the pocketbook of both chocolate makers and chocolate lovers) in the coming years.
As I anticipate arrival of a box of assorted dark chocolates from one of my favorite East Coast chocolatiers, Enjou Chocolat, I continue to send positive energy to the chocolate gods that all will be well in chocolatelands so chocolatarians, like me, can reap the healing rewards.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate: Winter Weather E.R. Medicinal Cure-All

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
During late December 2011 thanks to a snowstorm, the lights went out at Lake Tahoe. Think no electricity, no TV or Internet, ice dams, a cold waterbed, aquarium fish with dead filters, and good, fresh food going bad. On the upside, Lindts Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles (two packages) helped get me through the event. Yes, the sierra did get a good share of heavy, wet snow but it seems light years ago. As the Midwest and Northeast deal with the scourge of snowstorms (yes, I predicted this would happen in my 2011 Earth Changes Forecast in the January issue of Oracle 20/20 Magazine; "I Survived a Three Day Power Outage," February issue), having chocolate on hand can make the ordeal a bit sweeter.
In my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington), I include 50 A-Z Chocolate Home Cures . Known as Mother Nature's "food of the gods," the medicinal benefits of chocoate were recognized as far back as 4000 years ago. Today, chocolatiers to medical doctors know it can relieve a host of ailments, including depression, fatigue, pain and PMS, as well as up your sex drive!

And these woes--and other pesky problems--can hit you if you're dealing with a snowstorm (or not). If you're snowed in, suffering from cabin fever, need energy to shovel the white stuff, or want to calm high anxiety--chocolate can be your best friend.
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What Chocolate Rx to Use: Chocolate bars, cocoa powders, pistoles, and chocolates can all come to the rescue. Think dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cocoa content) and in moderation. (Shelf life varies but usually up to one year if stored in a cool place. Truffles are an exception.)

Why You'll Like It: If you are waiting for a snowstorm to end, having chocolate can help uplift your spirits, calm your nerves, and keep your mind alert. If you're stuck in a motel or your own home--grab the medicinal cure-all and a few bites will take you to warm and friendly chocolate heaven. (You can give thanks to its super compounds, including serotonin, PEA, theobromine, and tryptophan.)

Meanwhile, if you're not affected by the snowstorm of 2011, it's a good time to stock up on chocolate so you'll have it at all times. No need to go for the high end off the charts in price chocolate (especially during a chilling recession "recovery")--premium brands at your local grocery store or online can do the job when Old Man Winter makes our lives more challenging.

My Favorite Budget-Friendly Choco Brands