Category Archives: Chocolate

Oakland’s Renewal Mill Takes Reuse To Another Level

Renewal Mill's brownie mix does both a body and a planet good.
Renewal Mill’s brownie mix does both a body and a planet good.

See those deep dark, fudgy brownies above that are just calling your name?

Not only are they gluten-free and vegan, but they have a couple of very unexpected and intriguing ingredients in them:

Namely, spent vanilla beans leftover from making vanilla extract, and spent non-GMO, organic okara, the byproduct of soymilk production from premier tofu-maker Hodo Foods of Oakland, no less.

Renewal Mill, based in Oakland and helmed by an all-woman team, is on the noble mission to take food waste from large food manufacturers and convert it into new, delicious, and nutritious uses. Recently, I had a chance to try samples of a few of its products.

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Big Daddy’s Cake

Bake your father a "Big Daddy's Cake'' this holiday.
Bake your father a “Big Daddy’s Cake” this holiday.

Big cake?

Big yeah!

We’re talking three sticks of butter and six eggs in this baby.

Could there be a more apt treat for Father’s Day than “Big Daddy’s Cake”?

This substantial cake — full of nuts, a “tunnel” of chocolate inside, and glazed with still more chocolate — is from the new cookbook, “Chocolate Is Forever: Classic Cakes, Cookies, Pastries, Pies, Puddings, Candies, Confections, and More” (Little, Brown and Company), of which I received a review copy. It’s by the legendary self-taught baker Maida Heatter, who passed away in 2019, but not before inspiring a legion of bakers, both amateur and professional ones.

This collection of nearly 100 chocolate-centric recipes features everything from “Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte” and “Hungarian Seven-Layer Cake” to “Key West Chocolate Treasures,” “Viennese Chocolate Ice Box Cookies,” and “Chocolate-Chip-Cognac-Coffee Ice Cream.”

This particular cake will bake up to the very top of a regular Bundt pan, so be sure to use a large-sized classic one, not one of the smaller, more fancifully designed ones.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout Of Late, Part 1

Such a treat -- beignets from The Village Pub.
Such a treat — beignets from The Village Pub.

When shelter-in-place first took hold, I took it to heart, cooking all my meals at home from pantry and freezer ingredients, and from grocery deliveries, so I wouldn’t have to venture out needlessly. But wanting to support my local restaurants, I also bought gift cards and donated to GoFundMe campaigns.

As restrictions have lessened, though, I’ve felt more at ease about getting food to-go. I prefer to pick it up myself rather than going through third-party delivery apps that tack on an extra charge to restaurants. Plus, after listening to a highly informative “The Tim Ferris Show” podcast with guest Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, I also realized I now needed to use those gift cards pronto. Kokonas, who owned a derivatives trading firm for a decade, explained that while the revenue from gift cards help restaurants in the short-term, they remain a debt on their books. Indeed, the worst-case scenario would be for every well-meaning patron who bought a gift card to descend upon that restaurant the first week it reopened to use them when the establishment had no revenue coming in.

So I’m making a point to use those gift cards I purchased in March for food to-go now, and to even order more beyond the card’s amount to give the establishment an extra boost.

Here’s where I’ve picked-up food in recent weeks, paying my own tab.

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Maida Heatter’s Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples

Made with a chocolate dough and a peanut butter dough, no two look quite exactly alike.
Made with a chocolate dough and a peanut butter dough, no two look exactly alike.

In my household, there is a clear division of labor.

My husband is responsible for mowing our minuscule lawn, unclogging drains, and figuring out which smoke detector in the house is causing that incessant beeping.


I make sure we always have a stash of home-made cookies on hand.

It’s an important job, and one that I take seriously.

Oh sure, my husband will indulge my whims to bake cookies with ingredients such as cardamom, rose water, chicharrones, corn nuts, or five-spice — as long as I don’t neglect the mandatory chocolate on a regular basis.

That’s why “Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ripples” appealed so much. After all, when I practically have to hide all the mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from him until after Halloween, I knew this cookie would be right up his alley.

It’s a recipe from “Cookies Are Magic: Classic Cookies, Brownies, Bars, and More.” Have truer words ever been printed?

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Enjoy A Warm Chocolate Lava Cake — In 40 Seconds

Would you believe it only takes 40 seconds from fridge to microwave to dig into this perfect, warm chocolate lava cake?
Would you believe it only takes 40 seconds from fridge to microwave to dig into this perfect, warm chocolate lava cake?

I’ve made the original chocolate lava cake many times. The warm little cake with the contrasting gooey, molten chocolate center that became a sensation was purportedly invented by Michelin-starred New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten when he accidentally removed a cake from the oven too soon.

It’s not a difficult cake to make, but it does take a little practice to know when exactly to pull it from the oven so that the center is not overdone, rendering it merely a uniform chocolate cake through and through.

Pots & Co. not only takes the guesswork out of that, it but alleviates all the work — period.

The London-based company makes Chocolate Fudge Lava Cakes that come ready made. All you need do is pop one into the oven for 12 minutes or into the microwave for 40 seconds to get perfect results.

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