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

And again! Voted one of 2014 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America!

Thank you again International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV! 

Please take a look at our latest press kit!  Click FINAL Luxx Press Kit update March 2014AmericasBest2014-4star

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