SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

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Kroger Star Trek Fantasy

I remember the first time I used a computer. Yes, I belong to the predigital age, an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people lived in caves. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago in the hoary past, but I do still own a black body Nikon camera with 35 mm film. I take seriously my antique credentials and flaunt them. You’d be surprised how many folks today have never seen a “real camera,” since they only have one on their phone.

Changing the film on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens, I happened to draw a crowd. You’d think they would be more interested in a building from 2,500 years ago than in a tool from 50 years ago, but technology moves so quickly today, many had never seen a film camera. The tourists saw two archaic sights in one site that day.

My first experience with a computer was as a teacher when I had to input the class grades. Finding the ON button was my first challenge, but after twenty minutes, I discovered it hidden on the back. “If they want us to use it, why not make it easy to turn on?” Perhaps only those with secret gnostic wisdom are allowed access to this strange machine, but we didn’t have the internet of things yet. Openness wasn’t a theme.

Once inside, my 1982 brain could easily make the data entry to fill in the blanks of student names and grades. This was just typing in another format. I took typing in high school because I would need it in college and in business later on.

Over the years, I’ve learned the computer skills for word processing, spreadsheets, blogs, page making, newsletters, bookkeeping, and photoshop. If I needed a new skill, I went out and acquired it. Most of the time, I downloaded the program and began working in it. I learned as I went. Taking a class was too slow or not available. The online tutorial was good enough for me.

I happen to be an early adopter of media because I have confidence in my learning abilities. Since I was a teacher, I teach myself. I figure I can’t mess it up. And if I do, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, I practice frequent “saving.” This means I’m always able to revert to a prior good version of my work. (What? You don’t do this? Maybe you should! You can learn something from us old dinosaurs.)

My local Kroger now has the new Scan Bag Go system. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and came back for a second go round. I found it easier this time, perhaps because I’d had some practice. Also, my store had been rearranged on my first visit, so I had to travel every aisle to find my usual items.

On my second visit I cut 30 minutes off my original time. I usually take an hour to 90 minutes because I chat with folks. I’m not a task focused shopper as some are. I tend to socialize and offer help to people I meet. It’s part of who I am, and anytime I can help add to the well-being of our community, I’m glad to do it.

The little ray gun is fun to zap the bar codes of the foods I put into my grocery cart. I have my Star Trek fantasy as I put my phaser on stun and immobilize the vegetables before I take them over to the weigh scale. When I shoot the bar code, the scanner tells me to put the broccoli on the scale, it determines the weight and price, asks if I want to pay this amount for it, and I click YES. Then I weigh the next fruit or vegetable the same way. I engage the engines of my starship and take off for another part of the galaxy or my local Kroger.

I have friends who will not ever use this system, since they think real people will lose jobs. The checkout clerks I talked to think they can be used for higher and better purposes, such as pulling groceries for people’s click list orders, helping people in store, stocking, and customer service. My friends who won’t use it are mostly people who don’t like technology or aren’t familiar with technology. They’re also middle aged or older. Younger people see the writing on the wall–they know they need to train for flexibility and change in the world to come.

In the last 40 years computers have changed our lives so much. Once we waited until the newspaper landed on our front porches to hear the news. Now we know in minutes when Twitter blows up with someone’s rant or a school shooting happens. While news can happen instantly, we cannot process it immediately. Our lives cannot heal from the trauma of the pain to which we’re exposed daily.

As we age, one of our tasks is keeping our brains limber by learning new skills. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term used to describe the process of maintaining, repairing, and creating new neural connections in the brain. Keeping to the same old path is a recipe for losing our minds, or dementia. If we want to live with a positive attitude, with our minds intact, adopting new technology as it comes down the pike is one way to train our brains for keeping a healthy outlook on life, even if we cling to our old fashioned cameras.

Eagle Brand Coffee

Drinking Eagle Brand Coffee this morning. I wondered who to root for last night for the big football game. My head said Patriots, but my heart said Eagles. Tom Brady, my head said, is the best quarterback around. What do you know about this backup from the Eagles?

My heart answered, but you love the underdogs, the unappreciated, and the undervalued. Why not go with your heart, since it’s the seat of your feelings, and you trust those more than the logic of your mind. Anyway, it’s just a game, and it’ll be interesting any way it turns out.

Some of my friends gathered to “watch the game,” but as in any party, some are there for the food, some for the commercials, some for the fellowship, and a die hard few for the actual game. The evening is for all, and we don’t all have to do the same thing. We can wander in and out, tasting and experiencing it all, or we can stick with one thing.

We don’t have to be all alike, since we celebrate freedom in America. We don’t even have to think alike or root for the same teams. We forget how blessed we are when we let petty people and politics divide us. If we sought instead to find what unites us, we’d recover the common ground.

After all, those who seek to divide us do this for their best interests, and not for ours. If we separate into easily defined subgroups, they can market to us, they can count us, and they can court us. Perhaps if we began to look for the humanity of the others in our midst and walk a mile in their shoes, we would no longer think of them as “others ” but as brothers and sisters.

Death of the Coffee Maker: Always plan ahead. 

 

NASA Shuttle Launch

Have plan B ready to go, for plan A is just the starting point. I know NASA can’t work this way, after all they are shooting gazillions of dollars of equipment and invaluable human lives into space! NASA needs to have the plans A to Z worked out ahead of time. However, even they know Plan A1 might be necessary. 

No one can know all the contingencies ahead of time, or if they did, we’d call this being “God,” who has foreknowledge of all the possibilities of all the timelines of all our possible choices. How does this happen? Time, as we know it, is fixed with a beginning and an end, but God experiences time differently, for God existed before time. God is eternal, so God has no beginning or end. All times are “now,” so to speak, to God. 

What might be future for us, IS to God. What was past for us at one time, God always knows, but unlike us, God chooses to remember no more. This is grace, a gift to us.  

 When my coffee pot died this morning, I didn’t berate it for giving up the ghost. After all, it was a free coffee pot from my coffee service. I’d bought a replacement at my local big box store and then they sent me a new one out of the blue! That pot is in storage (plan C). I got this Starbucks pourover system for those single cup moments. So I pressed it into service when the Gevalia drip carafe died after the first measly spurts. 

Sometimes our friends fail us, for we want them to be something they aren’t. We want them to take care of us, we want them to make our lives interesting, we want them to make us feel warm inside, we want them to stimulate us, or to make us feel alive again. Or we want them to be a bottomless reservoir of good cheer.   

 Most of these we can get from a good cup of coffee or tea! The rest we can get by risking a conversation in a public place with someone who’s doing what we are doing. Not everyone will respond well. That’s ok. Just keep your eyes open. 

Sometimes we want God only for the good things God provides: health, security, prosperity, abundance, or blessings. We forget about the love of God, the comfort of God, the wisdom of God, or even the trials of God as other goods to be sought. The steadfast love of God and the enduring presence of God are nothing to sneeze at! When we seek only the material blessings and not God alone, we have begun to seek another god, and these blessings will begin to leave us. Our first call is to seek God, and all other things we seek will be added to us. 

God will always provide companions for the journey and you can always buy a new coffee maker tomorrow. Or make do with the pourover until your ship comes in. Have a better day than yesterday, always! Love, Cornie. 

THESE COOKIES HAVE WINGS

20140718-211411-76451468.jpg

The promised rain and cool temperatures held true Thursday, for the bottom dropped out and our outdoor temps were cooler than most of us air condition our homes and work places. The high was 70F. I wore a light cotton jacket when I went out later in the afternoon, but I’m getting ahead of my self.

I was anticipating baking cookies today, for nothing brightens up a dreary day like the opportunity to practice a little “quality control” or nibbling on the final product to make certain they are worthy to be shared from CORNIE’S KITCHEN. I cook for the pleasure of sharing, but also because I know that nobody today is into real food. People buy their cookies in a box, or in a mix if they are going all out. Often they just get the tube from the dairy counter for the slice and bake cookie. These are all processed foods with sugar as the primary ingredient My homemade Sugar Cookies are best made with a ratio of 1 part sweetener to 2 parts flour!

First I looked up the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, my mother’s favorite cookbook. She’s been gone to her final reward for a dozen years now, but my kitchen is a place where I still feel close to her. I use her recipes, but modify them for modern nutritional needs. I omitted 1/2 the sugar in this recipe and replaced it with an equal amount of Splenda. I reduced the salt from 1/2 to 1/4 tsp. We don’t need salt today. Our processed foods are chocked full of it! Our restaurants are dumping it into every plate they serve us. The less salt we eat at home, the better we are!

Once I had the ingredients and directions down, I could calculate the nutrition of each cookie. I like this Sparkpeople app because the recipe app will save to my nutrition tracker also. Then I could get down to the pleasure of playing with the tools in the kitchen. I enjoy using a fork to cream the stick of butter until it is light and fluffy. Working the brown sugar & Splenda into the butter with that same silver fork that I’ve had since I was married nearly four decades ago is very satisfying. Pick good silver: if the marriage ends by death or divorce, you have the good silver to remember the good days you did have together.

I always beat my egg with the vanilla before I mix it with the stiffer sugar mix. I do it because that’s how Mama did it. She was always cooking for somebody, just like my Nannie was. They were queens in their kitchens and always had room at their tables for an extra guest or the ability to whip up a casserole for a neighbor in need. I like to share the cookies because they pack a lot of unexpected treat in one small mouthful.

When I brought the promised bounty to my local DJ, he was surprised they were made from “scratch.” My banker buddies are used to being my test subjects. So far they have not died. They are very generous to me, and always appreciative of my offerings. Either their mothers taught them excellent manners, or these boys have hollow legs.

After visiting with them, I went to exercise. It was a day to do weights and walk, but for some reason, when I began my laps around the indoor track, my feet decided to pick up the pace. Before I knew what was happening, I realized that I was jogging for the first time in years! I cannot promise that these cookies will give your feet wings or make a couch potato into a 5K champ in one afternoon, but they gave me a great feeling of joy. Perhaps it’s the sharing of your gifts with others, rather doing for ourselves all the time, or the gift with no expectation of any reward or return that fills our cup so full it overflows. In any event, the recipe for walnut chocolate chip whole wheat cookies is attached:

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2771973