Chocolate Therapy

It’s no surprise that I love chocolate.

Heaven?

Heaven? Is that you?

I work for a chocolate company. Eat my fair share chocolate on a regular basis. And, oh yeah, my blog title is all about chocolate. And wine. Which is the perfect lead in for this post.

Chocolate Therapy: Sweet Remedies, located in Framingham and Dedham, Massachusetts, offers a workshop that pairs their handcrafted chocolate delicacies with different types of wine. Owned by husband and wife duo, David and Pam, the workshop was unique from other pairings I’ve taken part in, if not only for the innovative creations they are becoming known for. The obvious passion and love for their craft also shines through in their welcoming, chocolate-filled shop.

They were as sweet as the chocolates they make!

They were as sweet as the chocolates they make!

At Chocolate Therapy: Sweet Remedies, their mission statement is all about using chocolate as a healthy way to indulge your soul. And that’s what we got out of the workshop – a little bit of education, and a whole lot of indulgence.

All good things in this photo.

All good things in this photo.

First, Pam went through the differences of the different types of chocolate that were on our plates, explaining what makes white chocolate distinctly different from milk and dark chocolate. She also explained how their chocolate creations are made with Belgian chocolate, which was a fun departure from the Swiss chocolate I know very well.

I was also thoroughly impressed when I asked how long it takes for them to turn innovative ideas into actual physical creations you find in their storefront cases. Their answer? 2 days, sometimes less! That really blew me away.

This brick of Belgian chocolate is approximately 25,000 calories.... Yum.

This brick of Belgian chocolate is approximately 25,000 calories…. Yum.

After getting background about how and where cocoa beans are harvested and how she and David went into the chocolate-making business after spending years in the corporate world, we then dove headfirst into the pairing portion of the workshop.

The first chocolate was called a “Pom Balm” – dark chocolate ganache, pomegranate molasses, dusted in purple cocoa butter luster. It was paired with a crisp and light Pinot Grigio from Italy. Now, I am not usually a pomegranate fan. I don’t enjoy the effort it takes to eat the seeds from one, nor do I enjoy Pom juice. But this chocolate? I wanted more. It was sweet and silky and the taste really popped in your mouth when eaten with a sip of the Pinot Grigio.

The second pairing was a milk chocolate truffle and Californian Petit Syrah. This was the most familiar chocolate to me out of the group, except for the fact that it too was dusted in a cocoa luster, this time gold. The milk chocolate melted in your mouth, especially when the Petit Syrah was sipped along with it. A very interesting and complex take on milk chocolate.

The third was by far the most out-of-the-box for me. The chocolate itself, a Blueberry Lemon Basil truffle, was exotic and unexpected, with layer upon layer of flavor. I love blueberry and lemon together, but the basil really elevated the chocolate, and the whole thing was coated in dark chocolate ganache. It was paired with a Merlot from California, but I could’ve eaten a dozen of these truffles with no beverage whatsoever. If you love trying new things, this is the truffle for you.

Layers of complex flavors.

Layers of complex flavors.

Finally, salty and sweet come together harmoniously in the Sea Salt Caramel truffle that was set to be paired with a dry sherry from Spain. The buttery caramel, made with Tahitian vanilla, was dipped in dark chocolate and finished with a sprinkling of pink Himalayan sea salt. It really mellowed out the sherry, which I usually find to have a harsh flavor. The two married well together to result in a wonderful finale to the pairings.

After the tastings, the couple unveiled a fun secret: They had created a life-size chocolate goat for an upcoming event that was still in the back room of the shop. Yes, you read that right – a life-size GOAT made of chocolate. It was fantastic and incredibly realistic looking. Truly a chocolate masterpiece.

It was holding a real boot in its mouth. Hilarious.

It was holding a real boot in its mouth. Hilarious.

Overall, my time at Chocolate Therapy was educational, indulgent and well spent. I even bought a goodie bag to take home (which was gone the next day after dinner.) I would highly recommend Chocolate Therapy for a date night, girl’s night out or an after-hours work excursion.

Everything from homemade peanut butter cups to a milk chocolate truffle with champagne inclusions!

Everything from homemade peanut butter cups to a milk chocolate truffle with champagne inclusions!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary Chocolate Therapy workshop at Sweet Remedies. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Del Terruno

Back in April when Sean and I went to the Boston Wine Expo, we were given access to the exclusive Vintner’s Lounge. There, we tried extra dry Italian red wines, shooters in the half shell and the most delicious beef tenderloin I’ve ever eaten: Del Terruno.

beef

So when the people from Del Terruno contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their product again, you knew I jumped on that chance immediately.

Del Terruno is juicy, tender beef from the world’s best breeds, chosen for the high quality of their meat – Hereford and Aberdeen Angus. Because the animals are free-range and graze in the meadows of Uruguay, their beef is guaranteed 100% natural, with no growth hormones or steroids added, so you know you are getting premium meat every time. And all of it is USDA Process Verified. They even have a traceability function on their website so you can see exactly where your meat is coming from. A+ all around for Del Terruno.

You can only imagine my excitement when a (very large) piece of their finest Beef Tenderloin arrived for me.  Instead of cooking the entire tenderloin at once (there are only two of us living in our apartment after all), I decided to cut the loin into two individually portioned fillets. The smaller portions significantly decreased the cooking time of the meat and assured that I would get another chance to indulge in this fabulous product at a later date.

Use 1

Because I wanted the flavor of the meat to really shine through, I took a very simple approach to preparing it – a sprinkling of salt and pepper all over each fillet. I placed a baking sheet in the oven, preheated it to 425 degrees and brought a large skillet to high heat on the stove. I added a tablespoon of unsalted butter to the skillet and placed each fillet in the screaming hot butter for about 2 minutes per side. I then quickly seared the border of the meat before transferring it to the hot baking sheet in the oven to let the fillets finish cooking, about 20 minutes. I pulled the meat out and allowed it to rest for 10 minutes while I prepared the asparagus and baked potatoes.

Use 3

I must say I’ve never eaten better on a Monday night. The beef was tender and buttery; slicing through it took almost no effort at all. Because there was only a small amount of fat on the meat, I didn’t have to spend time trimming it or avoiding gristle as I ate. But it was the taste – the refined taste of high quality beef tenderloin – that really impressed me.

Sean and I sat in silence for a few minutes, slowly eating the juicy fillets that I paired with a simple baked potato and asparagus, baked in 425 degree oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice for 8-10 minutes.

The next time you are having a fancy dinner party, or just feel like eating like a King and Queen on a weeknight, Del Terruno is sure to impress anyone who enjoys it. I know I will be again!

Use 4

Want to learn more about Del Terruno? Follow them on Facebook!

Full disclosure: Del Terruno sponsored this post and I was given a sample free of charge. As always, all opinions here are my own. 

Summer Bucket List

Beginning of June already… Where is 2014 going?

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly keep up. Thankfully, the blustery winter weather has finally left New England and there is much more sunshine in the forecast for New Hampshire.

Summer has always been my favorite time of the year. Maybe I’m a tad bit biased because my birthday is in July, but some of my favorite memories, both as a child and as an adult, took place during the warm summer months.

When I was a kid, my parents would pack  my sister and myself up for day trips with family friends to the lake or a local pool. I got to experience overnight summer camp adventures where I first learned about my love for kayaking. Birthday after birthday, family cookouts, 4th of July fireworks. And of course, who could forget the London 2012 Olympics or that summer in its entirety? The list is endless.

Here I am in London during the Summer Olympics in 2012. Man, I miss that place.

Here I am in London during the Summer Olympics in 2012. Man, I miss that place.

This summer will be my first as a New Hampshire transplant (New Hampshire-ian? New Hampshire-ite?) and I have big plans for it. Sean and I recently purchased a chalkboard for our kitchen (a total steal – $20 at TJ Maxx) and I couldn’t help drawing some serious inspiration from one of my favorite blogs, Little Baby Garvin.

IMG_2483

Although my artsy abilities are far more limited than Mrs. Garvin and her Pinterest-famous works-of-chalk-art, I tried nonetheless and put together a bucket list of the things I want to do this summer.

IMG_2486

Things I left off of the chalkboard but still intend on taking part in:

- Lobster rolls & authentic Italian gelato in York, Maine.
– Visit 6 Flags New England.
– Read (at least) 5 new books.
– Go fishing. (Totally on here for Sean…)
- Tour the Crane Estate in Ipswich.

As you can see, we already crossed off the last addition to the chalkboard this week: Tour the Crane Estate in Ipswich. This last Saturday ended up being a gorgeous day, despite the predictions for all-day rain. Sean and I, along with his parents, took advantage of the sunny day by heading to Ipswich to walk around the Crane Estate.

IMG_2452

 

IMG_2480

Enchanting as it is historical, the Crane Estate is fairly large (2,100 acres) and is the backdrop of many weddings and private events. Unfortunately, it was closing early for the day (most likely for an afternoon spring wedding) so our Great House tour was self-guided, but I was happy to get some time outside. The grounds were both breathtaking and breezing, and back right up to the ocean. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few hours or a whole day picnicking and exploring.

IMG_2472

After the Crane Estate, the four of us headed into downtown Newburyport for the rest of the afternoon. We decided to have lunch at The Port Tavern, which is a great place for a delicious meal that won’t destroy your budget. I had a mozzarella, tomato and basil panini on wheat bread that I would highly recommend, and ended up taking half of it home (for a late night snack.) Sean, his mom and his dad, all had pulled pork, which was also very good. I neglected to snap any pictures during lunch, so you’ll just have to trust me.

After a long walk along the Newburyport dock, the last thing on our list was, of course, ice cream! Or in this case – gelato. Dolce Freddo, a family-owned corner gelato shop was the perfect indulgence to end a terrific day out. I ordered my usual – 2 scoops of Pistacio (which was really like 5 scoops of pistacio) in a waffle cone, but their Nutella gelato was a close second choice.

I would say that Summer 2014 is off to a terrific start already.

What’s on your summertime bucket list?

Boston Wine Expo 2014

The Boston Wine Expo was two weeks and yet I’m just finally getting this review up. I think I’ve written and re-written this post five different times, but I really wanted to capture my entire experience at the Expo to be able to share with all of you!

When we first walked in to the Seaport Trade Center, I admit I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the whole thing. I wish I had snapped a quick photo! Colorful country flags hung from the ceiling indicating different areas of the world and the smell of food coming from different vendors around the room made me that much more eager to get started.

Coats checked and souvenir wine glasses in hand, Sean and I began walking around the large room, trying to decide where to begin. They did provide a floor plan and guide booklet, but that effort was quickly abandoned when all we wanted was wine in our glasses.

The first booth that caught my eye was a label that I’ve seen on multiple occasions in the wine shop Sean and I frequent in the town we live in, but have never purchased. From 90+ Cellars, we tried Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. We enjoyed both, though the Pinot Noir was definitely the favorite of the two. It was a great way to start our time at the Expo.

first wine

From there, we dove head first into the rest of the afternoon, tasting all different types of wine, many we had never heard of before. And while Sean and I are primarily red wine drinkers, there were some whites we couldn’t pass up. One of these whites is from New Zealand winery, Vela Wines, called “Twelfth Night”. If the title and beautifully designed label don’t immediately pull you in, the wine certainly will. Normally I shy away from Reisling because of it’s traditionally (very) sweet flavors, but Twelfth Night had a welcoming dryness that I appreciated. The Sauvingnon Blanc and Pinot Noir were also enjoyable.

If you normally shy away from white wine, I recommend Twelfth Night.

If you normally shy away from white wine, I recommend Twelfth Night.

Rioja caught Sean’s eye next. We somewhat regularly drink Campo Viejo, but never really explored other Riojas. The table was set up in a circle and the vendors urged us to try to the lighter varieties before tasting the Reservas. So that’s what we did. (Important note: The Conde Valdemar Crianza pairs very well with dark chocolate.)

rioja1

When we got to the Reserva portion of the Rioja station, we couldn’t pass up a chance to taste a Gran Reserva from 2001. We don’t usually get to indulge in wine that has been aged this long, and the difference was astounding. The depth and complexity of the Gran Reserva was unlike anything I had ever tried before.

granreserva01

Knowing that we would get to experience more Rioja later in the day, we decided that drinking all of this wine somewhat quickly warranted a little bit of food. Lucky for us, we had been granted access into the exclusive Vintner’s Reserve Lounge. Walking in, I felt a little bit like a small child on Christmas morning. Food and wine vendors lined three walls of the room, comfy lounge chairs and tables flanked the entrance and a large cheese display sat center. We took our time indulging in oysters in the half shell, dry Italian reds, and perfectly cooked free-range beef tenderloin from a company called Del Terrunio. Simply spectacular.

oysters

caymus

beef

At 2:30, Sean and I attended the “21st Century Rioja” seminar with tickets courtesy of the seminar. Seven types of Rioja wine were at each place setting and Ana Fabiano, author of The Wine Region of Rioja, led the seminar. Ana discussed a brief history of Rioja, where and how its made, and why it is a perfect match for any time of food. We sampled each of the seven wines, including Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of the Year: Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2004. I personally had never tried the Crianza variety and found Luis Canas Crianza to be remarkable. Sean loved Bodegas LAN Crianza as well. Overall, the seminar was educational and insightful and was absolutely worth the hour spent.

Snapshot of the seminar.

Snapshot of the seminar.

At the very end of the expo, Sean and I stumbled upon a table display full of different kinds of sauce. Yes, sauce! A company called “Hoboken Eddies” and the owner and founder, Eddie himself, was stationed at the table. After sampling the Raspberry Honey Mustard, I was hooked.

I'm not kidding - Best Honey Mustard ever.

I’m not kidding – Best Honey Mustard ever.

Getting to meet Eddie was wonderful as well!

Getting to meet Eddie was wonderful as well!

And if I wasn’t already happy enough with my experience at the 2014 Boston Wine Expo, I received a call a few days later from Renewal by Andersen, a window replacement company, telling me that I won a wine gift basket from their table. Insert happy dance here.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Boston Wine Expo to any foodie friend or wine lover I know. The tickets are worth every penny and you may even consider going both Saturday and Sunday, as Sean and I hope to next year.

Thank you to the Boston Wine Expo, the coordinators of the Rioja seminar, and especially Janet Fouts, for the opportunity to be a Social Media Ambassador for this year’s Boston Wine Expo. I look forward to next year’s event!

Just some of the great moments at the BWE2014.

Just some of the great moments at the BWE2014.

Full Disclosure: I was given 2 complimentary tickets to the Boston Wine Expo and to the 21st Century Rioja seminar. All opinions expressed here are, as always, my own.

Valentine’s Day DIY: The Man Bouquet

I know I’m not the only one who thinks buying for guys is difficult no matter what occasion it is. Last year just around this time, I was scrambling for ideas on what to do for Sean for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to go the chocolate hearts route, and I was feeling crafty, so the DIY Man Bouquet was exactly the perfect solution.

man bouquet

I saw a few of these on Pinterest, but decided to create my own version. These bouquets can be as intricate or as simple as you want, and can range in price from extremely cheap to extremely expensive depending on what you want to include in it.

My arrangement included the following:

  • Nips. Jack Daniels Whiskey is Sean’s favorite. Use preferred booze of loved one. (God knows I’d never drink Jack.)
  • Candy and/or gum. As much or as little as you want!
  • Scratch tickets. I did put in three – a $1, $2 and $5. Bonus points for sports-themes scratchers.
  • A beer coozie. Or a straight up bottle of beer works too. I made the Bruins coozie the centerpiece of the bouquet.
  • Wooden skewers.
  • Large plastic tumbler. Perfect for large glasses of cold beer or ice water. A traditional beer mug would also work.
  • Tissue paper.

To assemble, tape or glue each item to a wooden skewer. Stuff the mug or glass full of tissue paper and insert skewers to form bouquet. I cut the skewers to different heights to get the look I wanted.

Present to your loved one on Valentine’s Day and watch their face light up! Accept praise for creativity and being just plain awesome.

Note: While I did make this for a guy, there’s no reason not to make this for a girl. I have plenty of friends who would love a non-traditional bouquet any time of the year!

Boston Wine Expo 2014 (and a Giveaway!)

I love wine.

I’m sure that goes without saying considering the title of this blog. And I’m really excited that this year I get the chance to go to the Boston Wine Expo at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center in February! The opportunity to try over 300 wines in the span of 4 hours, plus tasty bites and live cooking demos? Sign me up!

BWE

There are also educational seminars that you can attend to learn more about whatever topic tickles your tastebuds. I’m already eyeing the “Cheese and Wine Matching Seminar” where you get to try wines expertly paired with different cheeses. There’s also location-based seminars for those who are interested in learning about wines specific to places like Napa Valley or Portugal. I think deciding on which seminars to go to would be one of the hardest decisions of the day!

And guess what? The Boston Wine Expo wants you there too! I have two tickets to give to a lucky reader for the Expo’s Grand Tasting on Sunday, February 16th! Your tickets will include access to the main event, a souvenir glass with which you can try any of the 300(+) wines that will be available for sampling, complimentary food samples from a variety of culinary producers, and live cooking demonstrations.  I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited.

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me what your favorite wine is and why you’d like to to the Boston Wine Expo! (Don’t forget to leave your name and email address so I can contact you if you win!)

For an extra entry, follow me on Twitter @ChocoAndWine and leave me a comment telling me you did!

The entry period will run from today, January 15th through Thursday, January 30th. I will pick a winner at random and announce it here!

Congratulations to Lauren Boucher for winning 2 tickets to the Sunday Grand Tasting at the Boston Wine Expo!

random blog

And for those of you who want to buy tickets now (before they sell out!), use discount code SOCIAL at checkout for 10% off tickets for either Saturday or Sunday’s Grand Tasting! (You can buy tickets here: http://j.mp/BWETix)

"Life's too short to drink bad wine."

“Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”

*As a blog ambassador, the Boston Wine Expo is providing me with complimentary tickets to the event, as well as a pair of tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are my own.

A look back at 2013

I know I’m not the only person who said this, but 2013 flew by. It was an incredible year for me and I’m a little sad to say goodbye to it. To honor it, I’m looking back on all of the amazing (and sometimes sad) things that happened during it, complete with lots of photos!

2013 started with this guy. At the time, we had been together a whopping 5 months, but I already knew he was a different kind of special.

The first moments of 2013!

The first moments of 2013!

I continued to work for Boston.com as a sports production intern, covering everything from football to hockey, including the Bruins playoff run. Watching games from the TD Garden 9th floor Press Loge is something I will never forget.

I miss these passes.

I miss these passes.

I also miss this view...

I also miss this view…

I went to my first Muse concert and loved every second of it.

May or may not have had many beers at this concert.

May or may not have had many beers at this concert.

covered the Boston Marathon and left the finish line minutes before the bombings. Thinking about that day still shakes me to the core.

<3

Boston Strong

I ran 1 single road race: the Beach-to-Beach 5K in Marblehead for my third year in a row. Not my best, not my worst, but my only. Running and I weren’t close this year apparently.

Nice bright red face there.

Nice bright red face there.

I danced in my 5th DanceWorks Boston show and choreographed my 5th piece, “World Spins Madly On“.

My beautiful dancers.

My beautiful dancers.

I ended the internship I loved on a high note and accepted my first full-time “big girl” job offer a few weeks later with premium chocolate company, Lindt & Sprungli, working in their USA headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire. Yes, there is chocolate around me all day, every day.

Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.

Lindt USA.. where it always smells like chocolate.

BUT I managed to not gain weight in the 6+ months I’ve worked here. Happy dance.

We knew each other a whole year… and that same weekend, I shot a gun for the first time. Irony?

<3

Nice knowing ya for a whole year!

Pretty cool even though I didn't hit anything.

Pretty cool even though I didn’t hit a single disk thingy.

4th of July was complete with this awesome ‘Merica flag cake.

I can't wait to make this again!

I can’t wait to make this again!

I turned 25 in true 25-year-old fashion. On a party bus with my friends.

Party bus!

Party bus!

I moved to a different state (New Hampshire) and in with this guy.

Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!

Putting in contact paper like a pro on our first night!

So cute & crafty. Salt dough!

So cute & crafty. Salt dough with help from Sean’s mom!

And celebrated being together a whole year.

Roses. My fave.

Roses. My fave.

#mush

He’s my fave too. #mush

We road-tripped to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit Sean’s sister Chelsea and her boyfriend Scott. And had an unbelievable time.

Only 4 more hours to go ...

Only 4 more hours to go …

I went on my first real business trip to Savannah, Georgia.

View from my hotel room.

View from my hotel room.

I dressed as a shark to Sean’s Sharknado for Halloween.

"You are the shark to my Sharknado."

“You are the shark to my Sharknado.”

We went to the MSPCA at Nevin Farms’ “Cat Adopt-a-thon”, rescued a beautiful 3-year old tiger-striped tabby, named her Sophie, and fell in love with her.

How could you not love that little face?

How could you not love that little face?

My family went to my cousins’ new house in Maine to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Many hours of football and eating commenced.

My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later...

My cooking and baking marathon for Thanksgiving! 2 pumpkin pies & honey oat loaf later…

I got into the Christmas spirit early with twinkle lights and an American Girl doll Christmas tree. Next year, it’ll be much bigger.

Twinkle lights & snow

Twinkle lights & snow

I had a wonderful Christmas.

Traditional Christmas Eve photo!

Traditional Christmas Eve photo! Also – I’m short.

And finally, we dressed up for New Years Eve (another big shout out to Sean’s mom for costuming us!) and attended a Gatsby-themed party. (And suffered no hangover the next day!)

Circa 1920s for NYE!

Circa 1920s for NYE! Hair courtesy of my new hair wand curling toy.

2013 was fast and fun for me, with so many memories, I probably missed a few. I danced, I laughed, I cried, I loved. I could not be more thankful or happy in the place I am in right now.

Cheers to you, 2014. You have some big shoes to fill.

What I’m Loving

It’s that time of year when my mom starts asking me what I want for Christmas. Is it really the middle of November already? Can we slow down for a minute here?

I’ve been living in Christmas-land at work for almost a month now, planning activities for my company’s social networks, trying not to lose my mind while I look ahead to Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Yes, I am fully aware that it’s November.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching and Christmas on it’s heels, here are some things that I’m loving right now. These are either going on my Christmas list this year or I’m purchasing it or making it for someone else. Either way, there’s lots of giving all around!

Google Chromecast. Have you all heard of these things? You plug it into your TV (at least I think that’s how it works) and you can control your Netflix and Hulu from your phone, turning your smartphone into a remote! Too cool. Definitely consider this as a gift for the tech-savvy nerd in your life.

This North Face. This jacket is on my sister’s Christmas list and every time I look at it, I consider putting it on my own. I’m really loving the Miami Orange.

These chalkboard printables. Little Baby Garvin is just a super cute blog all around. I’m not a mommy, nor will I be for a very long time, but her decorating ideas and entertainment tips are very much me. I have her Halloween “Make Believe” image framed right now and I can’t wait to get home and switch it out for the “Eat, Drink, and Be Thankful” print tonight.

Groupon. Everything and anything. Massages? Boot camp classes? Weekend getaways? Just sign me up for everything.

This crock pot chicken soup recipe. I could eat this everyday. There may or may not be some leftovers in my fridge right now. The fact that I the nutritional stats are so low makes it that much better. Insert happy, non-bloated cartwheels.

iPad mini. This thing is just awesome. Its portable and super light-weight. Easy to type on. It’s not the most inexpensive gift, but great for a splurge or a personal wish list even if people tell you to “keep dreaming.”

The following pumpkin pie recipe. Passed along to me by a family friend (thanks Marie!), this is the best homemade pie I’ve ever eaten/made. It’s super creamy and practically melts in your mouth. I changed it ever so slightly from the original recipe based on spices I had on hand. (Warning: Not low fat. Not even close.)

My New Go-To Pumpkin Pie
Makes (2) 9-inch pies.

Ingredients:
2 unbaked 9-inch pie shells (I used this brand with amazing results.)
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
2 TB. Flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 scant tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups half & half
4 eggs, well beaten

Combine brown sugar, flour, salt and spices in a mixing bowl. Mix in pumpkin, half and half and eggs. Pour into pie shells. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower oven to 325 and bake until the middles of the pies are no longer jiggly (anywhere between 35 minutes to an hour.) Let cool completely before serving.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Make this pie. Everyone will love you.

And finally… This little girl.

<3 <3 <3

Meet our new cat, Sophie! She’s a 3-year old tiger-striped tabby and we adopted her from the MSPCA in Methuen. She is cuddly and wonderful and my heart melts when she meows.  I don’t necessarily recommend giving a cat to someone for Christmas, but she’s too cute not to include in my love post.

What’s on your pre-holiday wish list this year? 

The Perfect Winning Moment

Today’s Chocolate & Wine post is a guest contribution.

Photo Courtesy of Lindt Chocolate USA

Photo Courtesy of Lindt Chocolate USA

Chocolate and wine make a lot of sense together. Both items are certainly luxurious, but they can also lend themselves to a touch of whimsy and fun. Casinos are also getting in on this whimsical aspect; their online counterparts continue to attract a younger fan base through colorful gimmicks, enhanced interactivity and a faster-paced style of game play. What’s more, online casinos can be accessed through the latest smartphones and tablet devices, including the iPhone and Android phones. This means anybody can have their fix of mobile slots games from the comfort of their own home (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Sometimes, chocolate and online casinos can also make an interesting combination. In celebration of this year’s Easter Day, pocket fruity rewarded its loyal players with a generous batch of creamy chocolate eggs every week; one lucky player even won a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 as a special Easter gift. Perhaps the only thing that’s better than winning a huge jackpot (or a brand new gadget) from an online casino is to splurge that money on the finest chocolates and wine.

However, pairing chocolate and wine isn’t easy. It’s a delicate process that requires deliberate experimentation and an assured palate. But when the right chocolate is paired with the right wine, the results can be quite pleasant.

The general rule of thumb in chocolate and wine pairing is to match elegant-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines; similarly, darker chocolates tend to go very well with full-bodied wines. For example, an intense, refined chocolate like the Lindt EXCELLENCE 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate bar goes splendidly with an equally intense and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon.

Much like the pairing (and tasting) of high-quality chocolates and wines, there’s no rush in playing mobile slots games in an online casino. Both activities are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated at one’s own pace. Indeed, tasting a small piece of Lindt EXCELLENCE A Touch of Sea Salt – embedded with hand-harvested Fleur de Sel sea salt crystals for a distinctly flavorful crunch – paired with a glass of earthy, smoky Pinot Noir is already a sublime experience on its own. But when it’s done to celebrate a substantial jackpot win from a particularly lucky mobile slots game? Now that’s a perfect winning moment.

ALL the chocolate! (and my GIVEAWAY winner!)

I gotta say that working at Lindt definitely has it’s perks. Like during the days when I-NEED-CHOCOLATE-RIGHT-THIS-SECOND… it’s right there.

When people find out where I work, the most common response I get is “Oh my God, I could never work there – I’d gain so much weight!” In reality, you probably wouldn’t! (Shameless Humblebrag: I’ve actually lost a few pounds since I started working here! Doesn’t hurt that I have a free gym at my disposal and a trip to Puerto Rico in my future… details, details.) But believe me, it’s a major test of willpower to not mow down on truffle after truffle. Moderation is key when you work in a place like this and I have found a very happy balance! Okay, happy rant over now. Let’s get to this giveaway!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who entered! I will definitely be doing another one of these (maybe just in time for the holidays?!) because I believe in the power of chocolate to make people happy. And I like making you happy. Win-win.

And our winner is…. comment number 9!

Picture2

Congratulations to Lisa!! I’ll be sending you an e-mail about your prize so keep an eye out! And thank you again to everyone who entered!

Picture3