Running and cake pops

So, I’ve run now two days in a row, which is a record for me of late.  I like think that two in a row is considered a trend.  :)

Just three miles and just under a 10 minute pace.  Trust me, this is a lot for me right now.  I’m watching the food intake again as well.  I was reading an article about a study they did in Australia about people losing weight and keeping it off.  They looked at certain hormone levels and such.  Basically, as soon as the obese people began the program, their bodies went into survival mode, increasing their hormones that increase appetite, and suppressing the hormones that cause satiety (sp?).  And it stayed that way for a year during the program, even after their eating went back up to normal levels.  Their bodies tried to make them fat again!

The net conclusion was that people who lose weight will ALWAYS have to work hard to keep it off, because their bodies will continue to try and make them obese again.  I guess thin people will never have this issue.  Sigh.

Speaking of losing weight, I did make something new recently.  I found a recipe for cake pops, although its not what I usually see for this desert.  You basically bake a cake, grind it up and blend it will a cup of butter cream frosting.  Then roll it into big balls, freeze it, and dip it in chocolate.  The centers are soft and a kinda gooey, but still taste like cake.  Here’s a pic of the results:

I do like how they look, even if they have  an odd consistency.

The magical shrinking Ghirardelli chocolate chip bags

I’ve been buying Ghirardelli chocolate chips for years.  Its what I use for making truffles and it has performed very well.  I’ve gotten the recipe down just perfect so that I know how much cream and butter to add to two bags of chips to make the right consistency.

But that all changed.

When I pulled out my bags of Ghirardelli chocolate chips today, I discovered something wrong.

Yup, that’s right.  Ghirardelli shrunk the amount of chips in the bags.  They left the wrapper the same (except for extra advertising), but put fewer chips in the bag.

It’s an all too common method that companies are now using to increase profits without overtly raising prices.  Put less product in the same packaging and leave the price the same.  Its like buying a ca and finding out that it didn’t include the back seats.

I was very disappointed to see this .  It makes me feel less trusting of Ghirardelli. I understand that they want to increase profits like everyone does, but sneaky ways like this makes me feel they are dishonest.  I mean, if they would do this, why wouldn’t they cheat on the ingredients too?

wind and rain

I had a lovely week in Cape Cod.  We drove 7 hours in bumper to bumper traffic (3 extra hours of fun), to enjoy the high winds and rain for three days straight.  The eastern part of the state got nearly 5 inches of rain, and we got to sit in the motel room and pout.  Next year I’m staying home.

I did get to go run on the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

The train that used to run the length of the cape, disappeared long ago, so the track space was made into a running path, which is similar to the trolley running path that is here at home.  With one exception.  The cape rail trail runs over 20 miles long, so you can get any long run in that you need, and pretty much cover cyling too.

The trail is mostly flat, with an occasional slight incline.  Nicely paved, with some road crossings, but here in MA, the cars are supposed to stop when you step off the curb.  I never tested it by just running headlong into traffic, but the cars did slow down when I stopped at the crossings.  I took the pictures above on the day we left, which turned out to be just lovely.  Of course.

I got some very good runs in during the rain and wind.  A few hardy runners out there but mostly it was clear running the whole way.  The flat path made for faster running than I should have done, but I figured if it was flat, there wasn’t much harm is going faster because it all evened out in the end:

5 miles, 8:11/mile
8 miles, 7:47/mile
5 miles, 8:22/mile

I made a visit to Stage Stop Candy in Dennisport.  They had these tiny little chocolates that they labeled as “trifles” although I thought a trifle was something different.

Its hard to tell from the image, but they are about half an inch in diameter and look like the outer chocolate shell is molded.  They each had some kind of confectioner’s paint sprayed on the very top, with a few sprinkles.  The filling is a soft, tart fruit flavor.  Just wonderful!  The smell in the box was a bit odd though.  I’m not sure if it was just the mixture of flavors all together like that.  Still, I really liked them.

During the rain, we spent a lot of time at the mall and I even went to the movies.  I had a chance to see “Inception”, which was mega awesome, although it left me with strange questioning feeling about reality, much like The Matrix did.  The special effects were fabulous and I like the intricate plot and plots within plots.  Nice!

I don’t like Leonardo Dicaprio, because I think his head is just too big.  Something happened to him between “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” and this movie.  He looks odd.  Ellen Page was interesting, yet pointless in this movie.  I think they just wanted to throw in some cute young babe to balance out “Mol” who was bouncing around in Leo’s head.  I was thinking Sandra Bullock would have been better in that spot.  And Michael Caine?  I like him, but why was he in this movie?  Was he backstage walking around when they happened to be shooting?

Rest day tomorrow and then 13 miles on Sunday.  We have a neighborhood block party on Sunday and I may go out on Dad’s boat tomorrow.  Finally some nice weather to enjoy.

weekend in Vermont

I spent last weekend in Vermont, visiting with friends.  I had a nice 11 mile long run on some back roads.  They were a little hillier than I’m used to so I was happy to have the shorter long run this week.  9:53 pace.   Still on track.

I ran 4 on Tuesday (7:33, very flat, too fast), 4 miles Thursday (10:30, slower), and then 8 miles last night.  Last night I ran the 8 at the park in Grafton again.   It has some nice hill sections, especially long gradual ones, which I think are overall better.  There’s a nice steep one on a back dirt road behind the park too.  The entrance to the park is a gradual hill that stretches almost a full mile.  So, some nice hill stuff in there.   An 8:50 pace, which is right where I need to be for a race pace run.  Hopefully Hartford is not as hilly as the park, or I will be cooked.

Since I was near Burlington last weekend, I stopped by the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory.

Tours are during the week, so nothing was running, but it was cool to see how it was all set up.  I took some pictures, but nothing was running, so you need to use your imagination.

This is a picture of their enrober.  And enrober is used to coat the chocolates.  It operates like a chocolate car wash.  The candy rides along the belt and chocolate is poured over the top.

They need some cooling time for the tempered chocolate to harden, and then they are pulled off and boxed/packaged.  I think the small chocolate-covered conveyor portion in the foreground is a “bottomer” which coats the bottom of the chocolates.  The enrober is larger machine farther down the belt.

Here is a closer shot of the enrober and their magnetic tumbler (cylindrical thing with all the knobs coming off of it).

The tumbler is used to mold hollow chocolate.  The knobs are electromagnets and they hold a metal end of a mold, which is filled with chocolate.  They tumbler spins and the knobs rotate the molds like a giant crazy spinning octopus, keeping the chocolate spread evenly inside the molds while the chocolate cools.

I bought some of their truffles, which were fabulous.  I tried the traditional milk and dark, but I also tried a champagne truffle and an Aztec truffle.  The Aztec was one their organic truffles and had dark chocolate with cayenne, cinnamon, and lime.  The cayenne was very subdued so it was a very subtle burn at the end.  Very nice!

I also bought a small bar of their milk chocolate with almonds and sea salt.  Seems to be a popular flavor these days.  I liked this bar, and the sea salt wasn’t crazy overpowering.  I don’t care for almonds much, so I’d like to see another bar like this one, with just chocolate.

I’d like to go back during the week and see if I can get some action pictures of things running.  I did check their “careers” section, but sadly they are not hiring chemists at this time.  :(

Amano Chocolate’s “Guess The Origin” Contest

Would you like to win a year of free chocolate?

Would you like to win a year of the greatest chocolate in the world?

Well, now is your chance.

Amano Chocolate is giving away a YEAR of free chocolate in their “Guess the Origin” contest.   A year’s supply of chocolate is 10 bars per month for a year.  Yes, some of us eat more than that, but they do have to draw the line somewhere.  ;)

Now, you do have to work for the chocolate.  Here’s how:

See this picture?

All you have to do, is guess where these cocoa beans came from.  They are being made into Amano’s  latest chocolate bar.  Simple!  I’ll even give you a hint: it ain’t in Canada or Russia.  There.  I’ve eliminated the two largest countries already.  :)  Seriously though, you do get a pull down menu to choose from.

And yes, I am entering.  If you win, you have to split it with me.

Still here

Egads.  Two weeks since my last post?  I’m turning into one of the dead blogs.

I’ve got work this morning so I’ll make this brief (and with little editing).

I ran 10 miles with my RP on Sunday.  We have lots of snow here so we ran in Yak Trax.  It was quite a slushy slog and my feet were massively soaked.  I had no trouble from my back or my ITB, which makes me very happy.

We have a half marathon in less than two weeks so I think we will be able to finish.  Not as strongly as last year, but finishing is definitely in the cards.  It will be nice to have a bib pinned on my shirt again.  The last time I did, I had to drop out.

The weight loss is not going well.  When I hurt my back, I didn’t have any exercise to burn up calories, and I didn’t have the will power to stop stuffing my face.  I fixed the first problem, but still working on the second.  I may try the reclined bike and see how it does on my back.  Maybe 10-15 minutes won’t hurt too much.

What else?  What else?

I’ve worked out some thematic issues in the book I’m writing in my head.  I needed an irrevocable decision and a basis for why it would a difficult one for the main character.  I mean, if they are deciding between eggs or waffles for breakfast, its not exactly a nail biter.  But I have it fixed.

A friend asked me to teach her 4-H group how to make truffles.  I’m thinking about it.  There’s a lot of things involved in it and I’m not sure I can have so many people doing it at once.  I need multiple pieces of cookware.  Then there’s the wait time.  It’s probably only an hour or two for the whole thing, I’m guessing. My wife suggested I do it like they do on cooking shows; have stuff premade in stages, so that when you finish one stage, you can jump to the next without waiting.  Ultimately, that means a lot of chocolate.

Ok, now I’m late for work.  Have a good running week!

where’s the white?

I took a quick to trip to the store tonight, thinking I could buy some white “chocolate” to make some raspberry truffles with (poor grammar, I know).  As it turns out, the stores here don’t sell white “chocolate”.  They sell white “morsels”.

Do you know what white “morsels” are?  Palm kernel oil.   They are morsels of oil.

Apparently, when Ghirardelli removed the partially hydrogenated oil from their white “chocolate”, they replaced it with palm kernel oil.  No cocoa butter.  Its crap.  Little chucks of palm oil.

Where can I find white chocolate without having to resort to mail order?  I bought some Baker’s white squares a while back, but the stores here, in the cultural wasteland that is upstate NY, don’t carry it any longer.  I guess people prefer to buy palm kernel oil and put it in their cookies.

So next time you are enjoying those homemade macadamia nut cookies, be sure to compliment the chef on their marvelous choice palm oil chunks.  Mmmmmm.  Nothing says love like big chunks of palm oil.  Yum!

PS

Dear Ghirardelli, you made a really stupid choice.

Running and chocolate

I keep getting hits from people searching for “chocolate bad for running” or something similar.  I’m not sur e why.  Let me make this perfectly clear.  Chocolate is good for running.  Anyone who says otherwise is a damn liar and a scoundrel and should be run out of town on a rail.  Let that be a lesson to you and others like you.

While googling the same topic myself, I came across the stupidest article I have ever seen Runner’s World publish.  Dr. Liz Applegate wrote about the healthiest chocolate for runners.  Mindlessly bad.  I wanted to leave a comment, but the comment box was locked (probably a good idea).

Dumb statement #1: “Aim for a bar with a minimum of 35 percent cocoa.”

Minimum of 35 percent?  Seriously?  That would include almost every damn solid chocolate bar out there.  Even the dreaded Wonka Bar is probably close to 35 percent.  No, 35 percent is useless to you.  You want a bar with 70% or better to get a one with any serious amount of cocoa.

Dumb statement #2: “Most chocolates contain 220 to 280 calories per 42 grams, or about 1.5 ounces, so eat sparingly.”

This is a pointless statement.  The calories depend on the amount of fat and sugar.  Higher cacao contents have less fat and sugar so the calories are less.  Either way, it is an annoyingly blanket statement.

Dumb statement #3: “Look for zero trans fat.”

This is dumb because just above this statement she said to not buy chocolate with any other kinds of oils beside cocoa butter (her first intelligent statement).  If you are just buying chocolate with cocoa butter and not other oils, you won’t get trans fats.  I have yet to find a chocolate bar (not a candy bar, but solid chocolate) that contains trans fats, but it could be possible there is one out there.

Dumb statement #4: “Total fat can be as high as 20 grams per serving because the more cocoa in a bar, the more fat it will contain.”

The more cocoa butter in the bar, the more fat it will contain.  Cocoa powder is 100% cocoa and has zero grams of fat.  Plus, there is a lot of evidence that the saturated fat in cocoa butter actually is healthy for your heart, so it would have been good to at least mention that.

Dumb statement #5: She lists “guilt free” chocolates, but lists only the entire brand Scharffen Berger.  Did she think they made only one chocolate?  Although, I do love Scharffen Berger with all my heart, I would say the milk chocolates are not the healthiest thing for you, and I would move to their darker flavors for more flavanols.   Also, her other choices are downright gross.  I would have mentioned the Lindt 70%.

Dr. Applegate, what were you thinking?

My fickle mistress

I tried to make truffles this morning.

The first double batch siezed when I began mixing it.

So did the second.

And the third.

I’m out of chocolate.

I can’t win today.

Does anybody want some greasy chocolate paste?

UPDATE:

Uh, WTH?

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth (and an hour spend reorganizing the chocolate cupboard), I went back to the three siezed mixes.  I took a small portion of the most recent one and mixed it really hard with a spatula, trying to smooth it out.  Eventually, it got very smooth and so I kept going with the rest of it, taking small portions each time.  I ended up with a nice smooth, firm ganache which came out better than most I have ever made.

Then I went back to the old “dead” batches and tried those.  The cocoa butter had solidified on the top.  I started again with small portions and mixed them with the spatula.  They smoothed out too.  Incredible.

I don’t know what the heck is going on with the recipe.  I haven’t had this problem before.  I’m even more confused that it seemed to fix itself by sitting for a while.  Some things I will just never figure out.

Late night bullets

I hate when people do bullets.  It makes them look like they think they are so damn important that people will be desparate for anything they have to say, and bulletpointed items will give them just enough to be happy.

That being said, I don’t have time for a full post but I wanted to post something before I forget and the topic gets stale to me.  Bullets.  I know, I suck.

  • Ran 11 miles today.  It wasn’t too bad, but I really had to focus to stay on track with the hot sun on me.  I need a serious nap.
  • Made 75 truffle centers tonight.  I made them a little denser, less air in the mix.  I’m hoping it will cure the “oozing” they do when coated.
  • I have lost a couple pounds on my diet.  I seem to have picked them back up over the weekend though.  Must have been the sweet potatoes.
  • To the stupid bearded old man in the green pickup truck driving on Charlton Road around 11:00 am today who almost ran me over because he was too fucking stupid to not drive on the fucking shoulder, I hope you had a heart attack on the way home and crashed into your house, burning the house, you, and your entire family to ashes, you stupid worthless old piece of rancid rat food.  In case you couldn’t hear me screaming at you while I gave you the double fingers today, let me repeat: GOTOHELLYOUFLAMINGREDNECKFUCKTARD!!!!  If I could read your redneck license plate, you would have been talking to the cops today.
  • Ahem.  I feel better now.  Sorry for the rant (sorry to my friends, not the moron redneck).
  • The extended forecast for New Haven on Labor Day says scattered thunderstorms.  :(

Good night!