Posted in Daily, Food

Delights of “Oreo”daphne

The first week of March is awaited by foodimentarians globally, from peanut butter to banana cream pie and ending with pound cake, cheese doodles, Oreo and cereal; there is absolutely nothing better to start and end the week with. At least one favourite of each person is there to indulge in, as part of observing the food holidays.

“Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.” Robert Redford

One of the most favored foods (for comfort or mini-sized treats) Nabisco’s “Oreo” have taken the world by storm. Interestingly, the origin of the word “oreo” (cookies or biscuits) can be traced to the French word “or” (means gold) or “ωραίο” from Greek meaning tasty, beautiful, nice or well done. Or from the Latin Oreodaphne, a genus of the laurel family evidenced by the design of “the laurel wreath” on the cookies, as noted by food writer Stella Parks.

From the on, Oreo biscuits to pancakes, cakes, sandwiches and ice-cream have been on the food trends, landing its’ own special place on the table, ranging from breakfast, snacks to desserts.

For an interesting “kid or adult” twist to the routine, add oreo crumbs and cheese doodles to pancake batter, cereal or cake, ice-cream or simply milk and enjoy a “foodimentarian” week of desserts or mini-treats and splurge.

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Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art, Quotes

Hot, Dark and Chocolaty

Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

First believed to have been created by the Mayans 3000 years ago, this drink has been popularized across the world transitioning from religious or medicinal purposes to being a luxurious and recreational or comfort concoction. Popularly known as hot chocolate or cocoa, (aka drinking chocolate and chocolate tea in Nigeria); it would be a grave error for any chocolate fan to give this drink a miss.

“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.” Henri Frederic Amiel

Hot chocolate comes in multiple variations including the Latin American spiced chocolate para mesa, the very thick Italian cioccolata calda, Spannish chocolate a la taza to the thinner hot cocoa consumed in the United States. The distiction between “hot cocoa” (from powder made by removing most of the rich cocoa butter from the ground cacao beans) and “hot chocolate” ( melt bar chocolate, already rich in cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter) lies in the cocoa butter, the absence of which makes hot cocoa significantly lower in fat than hot chocolate while still preserving all the antioxidants found in chocolate.

“Some days you get up and you already know that things aren’t going to go well. They’re the type of days when you should just give in, put your pajamas back on, make some hot chocolate and read comic books in bed with the covers up until the world looks more encouraging. Of course, they never let you do that.” Bill Watterson

Add a higher percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, eliminate or decrease the sugar and voila, dark chocolate (also known as black chocolate, plain chocolate, or bitter chocolate) is ready. Although the percentages may vary as per brand, government and industry regulations; dark chocolate has taken the 21st century by storm. Either way, hot or cold; dark or light, bitter or milky; chocolate still reigns supreme among the desserts, gifts, treats and moments of deliciousness and is here to stay.

“You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about.” Ray Nagin

Posted in Daily, Food

Of Crescent and Croissants

“You are going to have to take the rest of these croissants to work with you, I cannot be trusted alone in the house with a half-dozen buttery, crispy pillows of deliciousness.” Stacey Ballis

These fluffy, light and inviting goodness has now and then replaced the regular doughnut or bagel sessions with coffee or tea, often earning themselves a very special spot on most cafe’ menus. The croissant, a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie pastry although most popularized through the French cuisine, is of Austrian origin, named for its historical crescent shape. Made of a layered yeast-leavened dough by a technique known as laminating almost similar to the making of a puff pastry.

Most culinary experts declare the ancestor of the croissant to be “the kipferl”, a traditional Austrian yeast based roll made as early as 13th century in varied shapes, plain or filled with nuts and the like. Although the true origin of “kipferl” is not known, it is believed to be based on the “feteer halali”, a flaky crescent-shaped Egyptian pastry that is a version of the “feteer meshaltet” pastry known since their ancient times. Essentially it all boils down to dough and yeast, one of the better versions of the good old bread.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” James Beard

As with most popular food fads of today, croissants have their own culinary legends surrounding it. One legend was that they were invented to celebrate the defeat of the Umayyad forces by the Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732 in Europe, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent. Whereas some say that it was invented in Buda; or, according to other sources, in Vienna in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Ottomans by Christian forces as they laid siege of the city. The shape of croissants was a tribute by the bakers as a reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags, for these bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and sounded the alarm.

“”Croissant”: However you choose to pronounce it at home, it is perhaps worth nothing that outside the United States, the closer you can come to saying “kwass-ohn,” the sooner you can expect to be presented with one.” Bill Bryson

Croissants has their own family of cousins with the Italian cornetto or brioche, Spanish cuerno, the Turkish ay çöregi to list a few. Handmade or readily available in the grocery, croissants have made their mark. As the years progressed, their fillings grew more interesting leading to the birth of “croissan’wich”. As time goes on, so will the art of croissants be more diverse and varied.

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art, Quotes

Chocolate to Cake

“Part of life and part of the enjoyment of life is a croissant and a chocolate cake and eggs and milkshakes and oatmeal. There’s so many things, you have to learn to appreciate it all. When I don’t eat as much as I should, I’m not fun to be around; I’m fussy.” — Nina Dobrev

Almost like development of civilization, chocolate cake or chocolate gâteau made an entrance around late 1800s. Retrospectively that’s a long time considering that chocolate drink was there around the times of the Mayans and Aztecs. Chocolate cake lovers’ need to thank Coenraad van Houten (1828) for extraction of cacao butter and “rock cacao”. With Rodolphe Lindt (1879) developing “conching” for silky smooth chocolate; slowly the experimentation of chocolate began from fillings and glazes to the cake batter.

“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” Audrey Hepburn

Chocolate decadence took on full swing with molten chocolate cakes with liquid chocolate centers. Furthermore the cakes were infused chocolates with exotic flavors such as tea, red pepper, passion fruit and champagne were popular. Chocolate lounges and artisanal chocolate makers took on the show.

“I had a little epiphany when I was a writer at ‘Chicago’ magazine. I sat down to dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. Somebody poured a white dessert wine with chocolate cake. It was a wine I would never have expected to make sense. The idea of any wine tasting fabulous with chocolate cake was fascinating to me.”  Ted Allen

There are many varieties and variants of chocolate cake especially chocolate layer cake, fudge cake, Joffre cake and Devil’s food cake to list a few. When one feels like celebrating or enjoying the feel of “breaded chocolate”, it triggers the memories and anticipation of delving into that piece of cake of chocolaty goodness. Besides it would be quite remiss for a chocolate lover to crush the taste buds on “National Chocolate Cake Day”. So here’s to that little splurge of calories but irresistible goodness.

“I like quinoa. I like gingerbread. I feel they should be kept separate. I’m not in favor of this thing of making kind of raw, vegan chocolate cake and saying it’s as good as chocolate cake. I mean, just eat cake and be done with it. And then have a separate meal of quinoa.” Bee Wilson

Posted in Daily, Food, Personal Musings

All in Moderation

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates

One of the most conflicting emotions that often run in the mind, especially the woman’s mind is whether one is fat or thin ? To be honest, fat is essential to diet and all products or diets that state to eliminate fat is dangerous. Besides being good energy sources and cushioning the internal body organs, certain fats are essential to the brain cells, nerves as well as to fight infection and inflammation. The key lies in moderation and to recognize the bad fats namely “trans-fat” and “saturated fats”. Besides these highlights to look for in the food labels, remember that the more processed, the more sparingly we should eat it. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to avoid the occasional splurge once in a while, not daily.

“These small things – nutrition, place, climate, recreation, the whole casuistry of selfishness – are inconceivably more important than everything one has taken to be important so far.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

When the USDA declared January as the “fat free living month”, it was a little weird decision to make as we can’t live without fats. Yet we can regulate the fat intake especially the bad types. Unfortunately weight loss, fad diets and abstinence from fat doesn’t solve our problems unless we find out what makes us unhappy or dissatisfied or triggers the emotional eating binge.

“Weight loss is not the key to your dreams. The truth is there is no lock and the door is flimsy.” Golda Poretsky

We are all beautiful the way we are. Healthy doesn’t mean thin sized nor does it mean running between the goalposts of diet and binge eating. The easiest way to healthy eating is to be mentally happy and enjoy the food. Food serves to sustain and to revel in the tastes offered, but too much of anything honey or salt spoils the beauty.

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Art of Chantilly Cream

Whipped cream also known as Chantilly cream or crème chantilly, is one of those discoveries whose origins have been lost in obscurity. From being attributed to accidental discovery in the ancient times, to whipping instead of churning the cream for butter or the common folk tale of a fast horse ride with a half filled container of cream, whipped cream has become an answer to transform the boring mundane to fresh, new and exciting view.

Essentially whipped cream is made by whipping the cream by a whisk or mixer until it is light and fluffy. It is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla, coffee, chocolate, orange to mention a few. The colder the equipment, ingredients and the cream, the easier to whip and better the results. Cream must be below 50 degrees to whip, for at 50 degrees or above it gets churned into butter. From whipping siphons to food processors and electric mixers, the hand whipped cream has progressed with time and technology.

Popularized from the 16th century onward, whipped cream became aromatized and sweetened. Then it was added to various desserts from pyramidal shapes with coffee, liqueurs, chocolate, fruits and so on, to make either as a mixture or poured on top known as crème en mousse (‘cream in a foam’), crème fouettée, crème mousseuse and fromage à la Chantilly. Modern mousses including “mousse au chocolat” have continued this tradition. As written, “Mousses are made with sweet cream, not very thick; one whips it, which makes it foam, and it is this foam that one uses: one may give it whatever flavor one wants, with aromatics, flours, fruits, wines, or liqueurs.” M. Emy, 1768

Continuing through the years, whipped cream still remains a popular topping from fruit to desserts of pie, ice cream, cake, puddings, waffles and even to beverages ranging from coffee to milk or plain hot chocolate. These days imitations of whipped cream, for those with milk allergies or vegan diets, extended shelf life and convenience have been made available as whipped topping or squirty cream. Although the original whipped cream is the best, whichever way it may be made, whipped cream makes a good treat for the eyes as well as the palate. So in honour of National Whipped Cream Day (January 5th), I’m planning to shut down the inner calorie counter, to have whipped cream on any topping like, cake, pie or even coffee for a delicious weekend splurge.

Posted in Daily, Food, Random Thoughts

Cover with Chocolate

The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate. – Sandra Boynton

On my evening shopping spree, as I running through the aisles, the poster announcing a discount on the chocolate syrup on the event of Chocolate Covered Anything Day (December 16th) caught my eye. With a toddler in tow and it being the Christmas season, I couldn’t resist the offer. Usually when I use chocolate in cooking, I lavishly blend it with the desserts and shakes. For simply dipping food in chocolate and just having a bite, leaves the taste buds still craving. Yet for the fun of covering chocolate over variety of foods, I have planned on a chocolate dipped fruit salad, chocolate rice pudding as well as chocolate covered banana fritters (to be on the safe side). Even though the chances are high that no one can resist chocolate, simply rice with choclate is still a weird combination although wheat (roti) and chocolate spread works well. But there is no harm in a little bit of experimentation. With all the fun, personally I feel that the celebration of “Chocolate Covered Anything Day” is simply another reason to justify the need to indulge in chocolate, without triggering the guilty feel.

Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree, that makes it a plant. Chocolate is salad. – Unknown