From My Carolina Home

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Mushroom Meatloaf

Cooler temperatures for Autumn mean more comfort food and filling hot meals for the family. Autumn Jubilee continues with a recipe today. Meatloaf is a meal I like to have, as I can prepare it earlier in the day, clean up the kitchen, then relax while it bakes, just finishing up the side dishes at the end of the baking time.  I came up with this idea when I had everything to make a meatloaf except the usual tomato sauce.  DH decided he liked it this way better than the usual way, so I make it more often with the mushrooms now.  I know a few out there don’t care for mushrooms, and I’ll give you an alternative idea at the end of the post.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Beginning with the meat, I use 93% lean ground beef so I can use a loaf pan and hold onto the gravy. I add the herbs and spices to the meat.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Then saute onions and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil until the onions are soft and the mushroom have released their water.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Add them to the meat mixture. Mix well with your hands. Add an egg.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Pack meat mixture into a loaf pan.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Then, ‘frost’ the meatloaf with undiluted low-sodium, low-fat mushroom soup.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Bake one hour. Let the meatloaf rest for about five minutes before serving. Cover with foil to keep the heat in.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Because there is so little fat in the meat, the soup will make a nice gravy with the water from the mushrooms and meat. I skim off what little fat there is, and spoon the gravy over the meatloaf and the side dish mashed potatoes.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Ready to eat?

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

The potatoes are extra yummy with a bit of mushroom gravy.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Another idea, mix a little sour cream into the soup before baking for a Stroganoff flavor. And if you do not like mushrooms, leave them out, and use cheddar cheese soup instead for a cheeseburger flavor. Big chunks of onion and mushroom make a flavorful meal.

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Enjoy!

Mushroom Meatloaf at From My Carolina Home

Mushroom Meatloaf

1 pound 93% lean ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
1 can low-sodium, low-fat, mushroom soup

Spray loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Mix meat with garlic salt, lemon pepper and parsley. In a small skillet, saute onion and mushrooms in olive oil until onions are soft and translucent and mushrooms have released their water. Add mushrooms and onions to meat mixture. Add egg and mix thoroughly with your hands. Pack into a loaf pan. “Frost” the meatloaf with soup. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving. Enjoy with mashed potatoes or rice with some of the mushroom gravy.

Download the pdf – Mushroom Meatloaf

Today’s sponsored giveaway is Inspired LED!  They offer so much in the way of lighting, under counters, kitchen cabinets, inside bookshelves, indoor and outdoor.  Visit their website HERE to see all the options.  The Giveaway is a Sewing Machine Lighting Kit with Extension set for a second machine, and these lights can also be used in other ways. I used my set on the shelves over my stamping workbench, really adds a lot of light right where I really need it.  When you go to the Rafflecopter to enter, after you do the first two entries, more ways to enter will appear, so be sure you are entering every way you can.  Entries close October 10.

Rafflecopter Giveaway Inspired LED Sewing Machine Lighting Kit

(Note – this is not my machine, I do not own a Juki.  The picture is from Inspired LED.)

How do you like your meatloaf?

Autumn Jubilee is a whole month of giveaways and ideas for the Autumn Season.  I hope you’ll follow along!

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Blueberry Competition at the Mountain State Fair

The last competition I entered at the Mountain Regional State Fair was a Blueberry recipe competition sponsored by the NC Blueberry Council.  The rules for this competition were a bit different, as the focus was on the health benefits of blueberries, not their use in sweets.  In fact, for scoring purposes, healthy was 50% of the total, with ease of preparation 25% and taste 25%.  In addition, at least one cup of the blueberries had to be used unprocessed, and not part of a mix ingredient.  To me that meant using the whole berries, just washed and added to the dish.  So, I went with a Spinach Salad. The recipe was tested on my friends at a Summer Luncheon with a basic Blueberry Vinaigrette.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

I knew the blueberries had to be the main taste, and I still wanted to use a Blueberry Vinaigrette, but for the competition, an ordinary one would not do.  It needed to have some special punch, so what could I use?  Something that would pair well with blueberries but be a surprise. If only I had something fresh….

August in the Garden at From My Carolina Home

something flavorful, from the garden perhaps…

August in the Garden at From My Carolina Home

Fresh basil and parsley!

Blueberry Competition at From My Carolina Home

The salad was simply constructed with fresh spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped green onion, fresh blueberries, grated Parmesan cheese and for a bit of crunch, crispy bacon crumbles.  Everything tastes better with bacon.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

Stepping out to the veranda, I cut several basil leaves, and also grabbed some of the fresh parsley.  I chopped the basil and parsley, and added them to the oil and balsamic vinegar, along with the spices.  The blueberry flavor was added by using blueberry pancake syrup.  The syrup acted like an emulsifier, keeping the dressing from immediately separating and blending the flavors.  It also added a bit of sweetness to the dressing.  Blueberry Basil Vinaigrette was created.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

I constructed the competition salads individually so I could compose each serving, ensuring that each one had the right balance of elements.  I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the presentation as I thought it was quite pretty.  I froze water in the bottom of a circular tray, put fresh parsley around the ring, then placed the five servings of salad on top.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

The salads were very lightly dressed, and additional dressing was put in the middle of the tray for judges to have more if they wanted.  And they did, as it came back with a lot less in the mason jar.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

Each one was covered with plastic wrap, and a fork was placed on the top.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

Turned in to the judging, mine is on the left of the picture in the front. There were 23 entries in this contest, so very stiff competition.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

And I couldn’t get any more pictures, as I was absolutely blown away as my name was called first as the Third Place winner!! I got this one when I got home of the ribbon.  There were photographers there, and I have no idea where they were from.  Perhaps local newspapers, but so far I haven’t been able find a report anywhere.  The fair doesn’t put winners on its website, so I know that wasn’t it.  It was a swirl of people wanting pictures of me and the other winners, asking about the recipes, and congratulations from the other contestants.  For several minutes I could only stand in one place with a big grin on my face.  It was thrilling.

Blueberry Competiton at From My Carolina Home

No, the Blueberry Council didn’t have any aprons, LOL, but I had been hoping.  Here’s my recipe.

Blueberry Bacon Spinach Salad with Blueberry Basil Vinaigrette

1 package (8 oz) fresh spinach, trimmed
4 slices of thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes)
4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
8 green onions chopped
1 pint fresh North Carolina blueberries
Blueberry Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Blueberry Basil Vinaigrette
3/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons blueberry syrup
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small jar, cover and shake very well.
Combine salad ingredients in a bowl, and dress lightly with Blueberry Basil Vinaigrette. Toss. Serves 4.

Download the pdf – Blueberry Salad Vinaigrette

Enjoy!

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Egg Salad Competition at the Mountain State Fair

Returning to the fair earlier this week for the Egg Salad competition, I had some time while the judging was going on to walk around the fair with DH.  The judging wasn’t in the public view, you just dropped off your food and came back an hour later to see who won.  No, I didn’t win, but I did have some fun watching the presentations. The winners got ribbons and neat yellow Egg aprons, and I did wish for an apron just as a souvenir. So what was mine?  Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad Wraps.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

You’ll need hard boiled eggs, tomato, avocado, green onions, sour cream and some spices. I do the eggs the day before so they have a chance to chill.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Also the night before, make the dressing so it can sit in the frig and let the flavors meld. Begin by zesting the lime.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Mix together the dressing ingredients and add the lime zest. Store in the frig overnight.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

When you are ready to make the salad, juice the lime, and strain the juice.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Cut the avocado into bite size pieces and toss with the lime juice.  This will keep the avocado from turning brown for a couple of hours.  My secret for perfect avocados is to buy them as green and hard as I can find, then let them ripen in my hanging basket in the kitchen at room temperature for about a week.  I get perfect avocados without any bruising from people in the market squeezing them.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Cut the tomatoes and let them drain a bit to reduce the liquid in the salad. Removing the seeds and jelly helps too.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Chop the eggs and the green onions.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Start mixing.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Lightly dress with salad dressing, and heap into tortillas.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

These are the test wraps, I overstuffed four tortillas and cut them in half. DH thought they were too stuffed and difficult to eat, and would do better with less filling per wrap. So, for the competition, I made eight wraps as I didn’t know how many judges there were.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

On competition day, I made the wraps, wrapped each one in wax paper and put them on a plastic tray for transport. I had frozen water in the tray to keep the wraps cold for food safety. The ice block was covered with foil to keep water out of the egg salad.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Entered in the competition, mine is in the middle. Competition was very stiff as there were 24 entries into the Egg Salad contest! The winner was called Green Goddess Egg Salad, which to me meant she used avocado like I did. Second place was a Bacon Egg Salad, and third was called Asian Egg Salad. I think I know what I did wrong. I overdid it with the spices on the dressing. It made the dressing a bit brown, not really appetizing.  I also think I put too much dressing on the competition wraps, instead of lightly dressing like I did the test wraps.  That made them really spicy, too much really. Mostly I think I got a bit excited and rushed as I was waiting until the last moment to cut the avocado and construct the wraps.  But now that I know what to expect, I hope I can relax more next time and do better.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

This is the supervisor of the competition, wearing the yellow apron, along with the contest hostess in the black apron and one of the judges. Isn’t that Incredible Egg apron cute?

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

Anyway, for the recipe to share, I went back to the original spice blend that is milder, and didn’t make the egg salad brown.  Feel free to add or subtract anything you wish, punch the chipotle powder up again, leave out the paprika, add more salt, or whatever you like.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad

8 hard cooked eggs, chilled
1 medium tomato (about 3/4-1 cup when diced)
1 medium avocado (about 3/4-1 cup when diced)
8 green onions, diced (about 1/2 cup)
Juice of one lime – about 1 tablespoon
8 flour tortillas

Dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup light sour cream
Zest of one lime
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Mix very well. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Best if made the day before and refrigerated overnight to allow flavors to meld.

At the time of serving, dice avocado, and toss with lime juice. Dice tomato and green onions. Add avocado, tomato and green onions to eggs. Toss lightly with dressing. Refrigerate extra dressing.  Divide egg salad between tortillas. Roll up tortillas. Yield – 8 servings.

Chipotle Avocado Egg Salad at From My Carolina Home

What’s your favorite egg salad?


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Quick Sewing Project for Grilling

Labor Day usually means a cookout here, hot dogs with chili, bratwurst or burgers with beans.  I actually made this quick project last summer, and then got busy.  I am so easily distracted by shiny things and thrift stores.  I realized that I never posted it, so here goes, just in time for the last cookouts through autumn.  It is a simple idea, quick to make, and yet so very useful – a handle pad!! Since I have a glass top stove, I cannot use my cast iron on it. Using a cast iron skillet on the grill means the handle is too hot to pick up, but more important, when set on the tile table, you forget that the handle is hot. Having a pad on the handle keeps hands from burning, reminding you to be careful and that the pan is hot.  This one is heat resistant enough so you can actually pick up the pan with it, not like some hot pads that don’t insulate enough.  But, I usually have a hot pad in my other hand as the pan is heavy, especially full of food.

Cast Iron Handle pad 11

I experimented with the design and filling of the pads, and found the combination of heat resistant fabric, batting, Insul-Bright batting with a cotton cover worked the best for heat control.  I had some scraps of heat resistant fabric left over from my project of Re-covering An Ironing Board but you can buy this by the yard at most fabric stores.  Just 1/4 yard is more than enough for several handle pads. Cut your pieces 5-1/2 inches square.  Note – I made the first one with a charm square and it was too small.  That 1/2 inch makes a difference.

Cast Iron Handle pad 1

Arrange your layers like this, heat resistant fabric right sides together with your cotton fabric, Insul-Brite with the silver side facing the heat resistant fabric’s wrong side, and regular batting behind that.

Cast Iron Handle pad 2

Sew through all layers, about 1/2-inch from the edge, leaving an opening for turning.

Cast Iron Handle pad 3

Clip the corners, and clip some of the fullness out of the seam allowances.

Cast Iron Handle pad 4

Cast Iron Handle pad 7

Turn so the cotton fabric is right side out, with the heat resistant fabric on the other side.

Cast Iron Handle pad 5

Fold in half, with the opening on the side, and topstitch down the side about 1/4 inch from the edge (closing the turning opening) and across the bottom.

Cast Iron Handle pad 6

Easy, done in mere minutes.  You can make smaller ones for smaller skillets, but this size will work for most.

Cast Iron Handle pad 9

Just slide it onto the handle for lifting the skillet off the grill.

Cast Iron Handle pad 10

Then leave it on the handle to prevent burning a hand while serving.  I use it inside as well, when I start a meal by browning some chicken or pork then putting the skillet in the oven to finish.

Cast Iron Handle pad 11

I like corn on the grill, but sometimes I don’t have fresh ears ready for a grilled meal. I’ll use canned corn with a few dots of butter and still get that lovely grilled corn flavor. Marvelous with grilled pork and some grilled zucchini.

Cast Iron Skillet Holding Pad at From My Carolina Home

One note on cast iron, I season mine with olive oil after every use. I’ll clean the pan, then oil it so it doesn’t dry out.

Cast Iron Skillet Holding Pad at From My Carolina Home

Another tip on grilling, heat your grill first, then use a paper towel soaked in canola oil to wipe the grates. Food won’t stick to the grates. Remember hot grate, cold oil, no stick.

Perfect Grilling ~ From My Carolina Home

Your meats will have those wonderful grill marks like a great steakhouse restaurant.  Yum!!

Perfect Grilling ~ From My Carolina Home

Burgers and bratwurst are great on the grill too.  We like cooking out, can you tell?

July 4th Cookout at From My Carolina Home

Picnics have to have some deviled eggs, right?  Maybe try the last recipe you’ll ever need for Perfect Deviled Eggs.  I have enough variations in that recipe to keep you interested for years.

Perfect Deviled Eggs From My Carolina Home

The handle pads would make a great guy gift for the man who likes to grill.  Of course, picking a more guy-friendly print would be good. Pair it with a cast iron skillet, and my homemade seasoning mixes. The download for those recipes and more ideas for making Gifts for Guys is in my Craftsy store.

Cast Iron Handle pad 8

Are you grilling for Labor Day?

 

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Fresh Peaches and Peach Coffee Cake

I managed to get the peaches this year before the bears did, and what a bumper crop for my little wild peach tree!! I harvested 21 peaches, nicely ripened. These are wild clingstone peaches, so the amount of actual peach is pretty small per piece. Still, they are organic, no chemicals used, and have a wonderful peach flavor.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

The ones on the tree with nibbles from the birds or the squirrels were left there for them to finish off, or thrown into the cove. These peaches were lovely, only a few blemishes here and there, and no bugs at all.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

So, I got to work, peeling and seeding them. I cut the flesh into pieces, so there would be nice chunks of peach in the coffee cake.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

I pulled out my ingredients to mix up the batter, and realized with some irritation that I had grabbed self rising flour instead of all purpose flour on my last trip to the grocery store. Oh pooh, I already had the peaches peeled and ready to go!   I had more peaches than my original recipe for Fresh Peach Coffee Cake called for too.  So, I figured out what I needed to do to adjust the recipe. And in fact, using the self rising flour cut down on the number of ingredients and the amount of measuring to do. But it didn’t stop there!  I was also out of oats for the topping, so I just left them out. Then, I didn’t have all the sour cream I needed, so I put what I did have in a measuring cup, and filled in the space with half and half. Sometimes you have to punt more than once, LOL!!  Improvising is fun, isn’t it?

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

I mixed up the coffee cake batter, and added the peaches, folding those in by hand.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

Dolloping the batter in the prepared tube pan, I topped it with half of the brown sugar and cinnamon topping, then repeated the layers.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

It was baked for one hour, then it was set on the cooktop to cool for a bit.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

It turned out just fine with the adjustments to the original recipe, nicely moist with a very fresh peach flavor. Actually, I think it might just be a bit more moist with the half and half addition. Isn’t this a gorgeous cake on my favorite art pottery platter?

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

So, don’t let the lack of ingredients get you down, where there is a will, there is a way!

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

DH approved.  Hungry yet?

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups fresh peaches, chopped (about 16-18  medium clingstones, or 5-6 large freestones)
1 tbsp sugar

3 cups self rising flour
1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half and half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, peel and coarsely chop fresh peaches, sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar, set aside.  In another small bowl, combine brown sugar, 3 tblsp butter and cinnamon and set aside. Grease and flour a tube (or Bundt) pan, set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat 3/4 cup butter with white sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Stir the sour cream and half-and-half together and set aside. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in the bowl and mix well on low speed, followed by 1/2 of the sour cream/half and half mixture. Repeat. Add last of flour mixture and mix well. Fold in fresh peaches with any juice that has formed. Dollop 1/3 of the batter into prepared tube pan, spread evenly. Top with 1/3 of the brown sugar and cinnamon topping. Repeat two more times. Bake 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes, remove outer pan and allow to cool another 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely.

Fresh Peach Cake at From My Carolina Home

Do you like fresh peaches?  What is your favorite recipe?

 

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Summer Chilled Corn Crab Soup

A luncheon on a hot summer day needs something cold and delicious!  I had an idea for a cold crab and corn soup, and decided to try it out on my friends at a recent luncheon.  They pronounced it good, and I liked it too.  I gave DH a bowl for his lunch, and he decided to heat it up in the microwave.  He said it was good hot too!  So, here’s the recipe for a cold refresher in summer, and would do nicely hot for a fall harvest soup too.  And it is gluten free too, as two of my friends have that dietary requirement.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Gather your ingredients, and chop some onions.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Reserve 1/2 cup of corn kernels in a covered container for garnish, with chopped green onion.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 cloves garlic in 1 teaspoon olive oil until soft and translucent, don’t brown.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Remove from heat and put in blender.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Add one can of corn with liquid, and blend until smooth, pulsing as needed to get larger bits pureed.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Add 1 cup half and half (I used fat free), salt and pepper, and blend again until well blended and fairly smooth.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Add a second can of corn with liquid, and pulse for a rough chop of the second can of corn.  Remove blender jar from the base, and add 1/4 cup whipping cream (optional, but really makes the soup creamy and delicious, substitute more half and half instead if you want a lower fat content) and 2 cans of drained crab meat. Stir lightly with a spoon.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

At serving time, ladle into small bowls, garnish with reserved corn kernels, a bit of green onion, and a few drops of white truffle oil (if you like). Enjoy!

Corn Crab Summer Chilled Soup at From My Carolina Home

Summer Chilled Corn Crab Soup

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 tsp olive oil
2 cans 15-oz each whole kernel corn, divided, liquid reserved
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup whipping cream (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
2 6-oz cans lump crab meat
1 green onion chopped
Optional – few drops of white truffle oil

Reserve 1/2 cup of corn kernels in a covered container for garnish. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent, don’t brown. Remove from heat and put in blender. Add one can of corn with liquid, and blend until smooth, pulsing as needed to get larger bits pureed. Add half & half, salt and pepper, and blend again for 30 seconds or so, until well blended and fairly smooth. Add the other can of corn with liquid, and pulse for a rough chop of the second can of corn. Remove blender jar from the base, and add the whipping cream and the crab meat. Stir lightly with a spoon. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. At serving time, ladle into small bowls, garnish with reserved corn kernels, a bit of green onion, and a few drops of white truffle oil (if you like). Enjoy!

Download the recipe – Corn Crab Soup

Summer Luncheon at From My Carolina Home

Do you enjoy chilled soups?

 

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Chocolate! A Tasting, Recipes and a Book Review

I’ll admit to being a card carrying chocoholic, I love the stuff.  Most of the time I go for the dark varieties, but I won’t turn down milk chocolate if it is offered.  I like it best in its pure form, just chocolate, unadulterated with any other flavor.  Chocolate French Silk Pie is my favorite pie, and I love Chocolate Pot de Creme.  Give me a Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle first, but I won’t turn down a Milky Way Midnight bar if offered, or any one of a number of other chocolate treats.  So long as it doesn’t have nuts, coconut, or raspberry, I’ll happily accept, and probably have a silly grin in anticipation of the delicacy to be savored.  Today is National Chocolate Day, too, the perfect time to show the Chocolate Tasting we did for a dear friend’s special birthday, also a chocolate lover.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

We gathered six different brands of chocolate, all in the range of 72%  cacao, so the comparison would be more or less equal.  We had to go to different stores to find all these, amazingly enough the best selections were at chain drug stores, although the specialty grocery store here had several.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

We settled on just six trying to get a good mix of expensive to inexpensive for comparison.  Our choices were Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, Fresh Market Store Brand, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black.  I wanted to get Valrhona as well, but they no longer sell to retailers and the shipping was too expensive.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using the gold chargers to serve, the pieces of chocolate were placed in paper cups with any logos or writing face down to preserve the anonymity of the chocolate maker. Each cup was numbered in the bottom.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

There is an art to doing a tasting, beginning with aroma.  Did you know that chocolate contains over 1200 compounds?  What you smell and taste is fully dependent on how it is processed. The chocolates were added to the cups, and water crackers are served as a palate cleanser.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using the chart to help you describe the aroma, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety of flavors.

Fruit Notes – citrus, berry, tropical, cherry, apricot, peach, fig
Nutty – walnut, almond, hazelnut, peanut
Vegetative – grass, olive, tobacco, tea, hay
Spice – cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, licorice, coffee
Floral – rose, violet, lavender, jasmine
Earthy – musk, mushroom, truffle, soil
Silky – butter, honey, molasses, milk, butterscotch

Next, break a piece and evaluate the ‘snap’.  It is a crisp break or does it bend before breaking.  Higher quality chocolate has a crisp snap.  Look at the break to evaluate the overall texture of the chocolate, smooth to grainy.  Place a small bit on your tongue and let it melt on its own.  Rate the chocolate from bitter to sweet on a scale of 1-10, with very bitter at one, and too sweet at 10.  Now, concentrate on the flavors, what do you taste?  Use the scale above to help identify flavors.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Download a Chocolate Tasting tasting sheet for your party – Chocolate Tasting.  So which did I like? I picked the Lindt in the test, with Green & Black as a close second. Amazingly, the Hershey’s Special Dark scored well with guests, coming in third in my scoring.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

On this subject too, I highly recommend this book. The Emperor’s of Chocolate.  It is without a doubt the most interesting non-fiction book I have ever read! The amount of detail and interesting storylines that are the history of chocolate, chocolate makers and the titans of Hershey and Mars are amazing. It reads so well, it is hard to put down! I learned so much about the industry and the process of making chocolate. The family dynasties of Hershey and Mars started out as friends, with Hershey giving Mars the technology to make the candy coating for M&Ms. The ‘M’s stand for Mars, and the executive at Hershey named William Murrie. But later, they became such rivals that they tried to destroy each other. Secrecy abounds in this industry anyway, but paranoia is present too, so much so that parts of the manufacturing process are divided up, so no one person on the line knows how the whole candy is made. Read this fascinating book, and have some chocolate nearby, you’ll want some!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

In the mood for a treat now?  How about making some Chocolate Covered Oreos?

Chocolate Covered Oreos 17

It’s summer here, so the strawberries are coming in.  Here’s the easy way to do chocolate dipped strawberries. Using the chocolate candy melts, microwave a handful in a glass container for one minute on medium-high setting, then stir until melted and smooth.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Dip the strawberries and lay on wax paper to harden.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Add a chunk of dark chocolate to the remaining melted chocolate and microwave about 30 seconds, then stir until melted.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using a fork, drizzle the darker chocolate over the strawberries to make a pretty design. Quick and easy!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

After a party, I had some whipped cream left over. Taking it out of the frig, I whipped it by hand a few times to get the soft peaks back. Then melting some candy melts in the microwave, stirring until smooth, I added a bit of the whipped cream to the chocolate to loosen it up.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Then, fold the chocolate into the rest of the whipped cream, and viola, instant chocolate mousse!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Served in a parfait glass, an easy yet elegant dessert. Yes, whipped topping would work too.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Are you a chocolate fan?  Milk or dark?

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