Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Recipe: 8 Ball Zucchini, Spelt & Smoked Mozzarella

In between destination visits I am going to begin posting recipes which feature previous Local Choice ingredients. I want to give you more opportunities to use these fantastic ingredients and hope that they not only make it onto your shopping list, but become staples in your home.

This recipe combines Green Seed Farm 8 ball zucchini; the perfect vessel to hold a savory mixture of tomatoes, Shagbark Seed & Mill spelt berries, RainFresh Harvests basil and smoky mozzarella. This makes a great vegetarian entrée or could also be prepared as a hearty side dish.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

You Had Me at Chocolate

O'Chocolate

Years ago, I was at one of my favorite breakfast eatery’s in Chicago with a dear friend and her daughter. While we all contemplated over the mouth-watering menu selections, the youngest one in our group chose the one thing I wish I could order and not feel guilty – the Chocolate Tower French Toast. As our meals arrived, it no longer mattered what I had selected because all I could focus on was the plate of warm chocolate goodness drowning in white and milk chocolate shavings. The server set the dish in front of her and without hesitation she took a gigantic bite. There was silence. My friend and I looked on patiently waiting for a description and after a few more seconds she looked up and simply said “angels are singing”. At the time we laughed at her response, but now I can’t help but take note at what a mood altering powerful food chocolate is. I have always loved this ingredient and no offence to Hershey, but when I want to indulge, my adult tastes crave something more calorie worthy. So when I discovered the delectable chocolate creations from O’Chocolate and realized they were locally made in Athens (the same town as my beloved alma mater Ohio University), I knew I had found my guilty pleasure.

Believe it or not, O’Chocolate founder Stacy Peters explained that although she loves a nibble of good quality chocolate, she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. About four years prior she started experimenting with chocolate by making truffles in the kitchen of the organic bakery where she worked. She exclaimed how a truffle is a “beautiful bite” and just the perfect amount to get a sweet fix. This self-taught chocolatier didn’t come from a culinary background, so she engrossed herself in researching the science behind the food and asked friends and family to be her guinea pigs. She moved out of the bakery, worked off a double boiler on her kitchen stovetop and, although hard to believe when you taste her creations today, messed up a lot of chocolate! Through the experimentation, Stacy learned two things would be the foundation of her business - One: She wanted to commit to using the best quality fair trade organic chocolate. Two: She wanted to infuse her creations with local ingredients. Once she had the recipes down she knew it was time to get to work.

At O’Chocolate, Stacy sweetly refers to her truffle making day of the week as “truffle Tuesdays” and it is important to her that these are made fresh to keep them tasting their best. She pays attention to the details of each creamy morsel and has developed a unique identification for each variety through decoration. A sprinkle of local lavender here, a dusting of ground local espresso there... What started out as truffles quickly lead to her creation of chocolate bars, given their longer shelf life. Like her truffles, Stacy relies on local ingredients to help develop the flavors. She discovers something local, Shagbark's crunchy amaranth for instance, and encapsulates the flavor inside her hand wrapped chocolate bar creating perfectly unique and delicious combinations.

As more people discover her chocolates, Stacy understands that growth will be inevitable, but she vows to stay selective about when and where she will go next. One secret I can let you in on is O’Chocolate is close to revealing a bar specifically made for Columbus using, you guessed it, local Columbus ingredients. Currently, Stacy is making almost a dozen different flavors of truffles and six different varieties of chocolate bars which are sold at seven Columbus based retails stores. I have been fortunate to taste several of the O’Chocolate truffles and bars and let me say they are simply heavenly.

Chocolate

The O’Chocolate chocolate bars (pictured left) traveled 62 miles to Columbus, while the chocolate bars (pictured right) traveled roughly 530 miles to Columbus.

Amazingly, dark chocolate is a guilty pleasure that is actually good for you! It is a flavonoid-rich food full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and is known to lower blood pressure and improve cognitive skills. So go ahead and treat yourself to some O’Chocolate!

References

6 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled

Sweet & Spicy Buckeyes

Just in time for football season – try this adult version of a locally known treat!

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