Let’s Talk About Chocolate

It seems like a good idea to talk about chocolate today; not only is it Monday (and quite frankly chocolate should be compulsory), but we are also only a couple a weeks away from Easter. A very brief interlude between the Spring festivities that begin with Valentines and pancake day and include my birthday and Mother’s Day.

The lovely people at Chocolate & Love were kind enough to send my some of their organic swiss chocolate to try out. Whilst becoming a chocolate taste tester for an afternoon sounds like the dream job, I did hesitate for a moment before agreeing! I am really fussy about chocolate and never really vary my choices; I’m very loyal to only a couple of brands of extra dark chocolate…one with added chilli, one without. So, I was kind of broadening my foodie horizons.

First impressions are very important, and as I unwrapped the Chocolate & Love gift box I was struck by just how incredibly pretty it was. Really distinctive packaging with gorgeous illustrations in a rainforest theme; like a beautiful picture book I would be tempted to buy in a bookshop (you know, for the children)!

Four flavours are included in the gift box, and they are also available separately in larger single bars;

Panama – 80% cocoa

Orange – 65% cocoa

Rich Dark – 71% cocoa

Sea Salt – 55% cocoa

My favourite was no surprise to me, the Panama, the 80% chocolate bar – it was deliciously bitter and smooth, and had a really pleasing snap when broken. Completely delicious with a cup of coffee! My second favourite was the Orange, which also had a nice high cocoa solids percentage. It had the lovely taste and scent of ‘proper’ oranges, thanks to the cold pressed natural orange oil added to the chocolate.

Mia and Joe loved the Sea Salt chocolate which surprsied me a little, as it has a strong distinctive flavour; not one you would necessarily think children would like. It would be really good for after dinner, as just a tiny piece has loads of flavour. It just proves that children should get to try as many flavours as possible, and the Sea Salt chocolate was a great hit. They have been pestering me for some for Easter!

Take a look at Chocolate & Love’s site for details about the love story that led to the founding of the company and for more about their excellent ethical organic values.

 

Chocolate & Love were kind enough to send me a gift box to review. All opinions and words are my own.

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A Special Pirate Dinosaur Themed Birthday Party

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If you follow along with my Instagram account you may have noticed that Joe celebrated a birthday recently…I seem to have been constantly baking this week, so had to share some of the cake photos! Joe may have only just turned three, but he knows his own mind so strongly, and was very clear on exactly the kind of birthday cakes he wanted. One with raspberries and cream cheese, and another party cake with chocolate and dinosaurs! He did also ask for cupcakes for breakfast, but I had to draw the line somewhere, so his birthday breakfast below was a very happy compromise (thanks Pinterest!)

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Joe’s birthday happily coincided with a school inset day and my day off work, so we all went on a trip to the ‘dinosaur museum’ in Oxford. It is one of his favourite places and he loves to race around, looking at all of the dinosaur skeletons and shouting out their names!

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He received a super cape as a gift, and was delighted with it, insisting he wore it around Oxford. A visit to the dinosaur museum dressed as a super-hero was pretty much his perfect day scenario! It was Joe’s choice of lunch after the museum and he requested ice cream, so it had to be the G&Ds cafe on Little Clarendon Street. We balanced out the ice cream with the most delicious bagels, and Mia and Joe persuaded the lovely (and incredibly patient) waitress to make them plain bagels with just cream cheese and cucumber (Joe) and plain sweetcorn (Mia). I can’t imagine that either of their choices would do very well if they featured on the main cafe menu!

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A little after Joe’s actual birthday we held a pirate dinosaur themed garden party, complete with pirate ship, jolly roger and real pirate grog (there were dinosaurs too!). We cooked barbeque food, enjoyed the warm weather and Mia and Joe soaked everyone there with a giant waterpistol Joe had received as a gift!

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The pirate grog was iced tea, which I made with tea, lemon juice and some old-fashioned style shop-bought lemonade. We had lots of empty homebrew beer bottles which were perfect for filling with the ‘grog’. On the morning of the party I just chilled them in a wheelbarrow full of ice, and then at party time the pirate guests could just serve themselves! I also experimented with an alcoholic iced tea by adding a little vodka to the mix (and clearly labelling those bottles, for adult pirates only!)

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A pirate party tablecloth made from brown craft paper and a Sharpie marker. You’ll have to excuse my artistic efforts…pirate ships are difficult to draw!

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Ahoy there pirate Joseph! A slightly grainy photo, as taken from a distance on my phone camera, but I had to capture him on his pirate ship!

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And pirate Phoebe, their lovely little cousin, who has just celebrated her own birthday!

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With all of the party preparations I opted for a fairly straightforward birthday cake! As requested it was very chocolately and there were dinosaurs. I think Joe had ideas of me sculpting a dinosaur out of sugar paste and icing, but I think it’s important to know your limits, and simple is always better! The cake is three layers of devils food cake, sandwiched together with a chocolate ganache and crushed chocolate chip cookie mix. I used the same ganache (with a little more double cream added) to frost the top and sides of the cake, and then topped it with more cookies and of course some dinosaurs.

 

Happy Birthday Super-Pirate-Dinosaur Joe! Wishing you the happiest little year!

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