Chocolate and Personality


Did you know you can be defined by the type and shape of chocolate you eat?  New Mexico State University researchers study how ethnicity, fashion, economic status, and religious practices relate to food. Basically, what you eat symbolizes who you are.

A New Zealand therapist carries this further in his book, “Chocolate Therapy:  Dare to Discover Your Inner Center”. Langham, the therapist, provided a variety of chocolate choices to his patients, began noticing patterns in the shapes and types of chocolates different patients chose.  The book goes so far as to suggest a game you can play with friends when they visit your house.  Provide a wide selection of chocolates, watch them pick one, and then use the book to read what it says about them.  His claim is that they will say, “This is so me.”

To give a couple of examples:

-A lover of milk chocolate likes to live in the past emotionally, loves the sweet smooth feeling this type of chocolate provides, remembering his or her childhood.

-A lover of dark chocolate looks forward, thinks toward the future.

-A lover of bitter chocolate prefers the fine things in life, knows what he or she talks about, specializes.

The book also contains an analysis of shape choices and how the shape you choose relates to your inner self.

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Five–Part Two: Santa Anita Rainforest Ranch


After visiting the Tony’s gallery, we headed north on mostly non-paved, narrow roads.  The clouds increased; the landscape became greener if that is possible.  We crossed to the Caribbean side near the Nicaraguan border.

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The previous photos were taken from the bus window on the way to La Anita which is located more or less just above where the a is located in the word Cordillera at the top of the map.  It lies near Rincon de la Vieja National Park (Volcano Vieja) past Volcano Miravalles–the volcano covered in clouds in the previous Costa Rica post.

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As soon as we arrived, we came to the veranda of the building where they process cacao.  This view overlooks the road in and a small pond.

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Ginger plants in front of the pond, bouquets of ginger flowers, and rain clouds greeted us.

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I had no idea that the ginger roots we eat come from plants that look like this.  We later ate lunch in the building in the distance.  First, seated on picnic tables on the veranda, we drank pure chocolate grown on the ranch and coffee grown on another property at higher altitudes.  Cacao requires lots of rain and tropical heat.  This coffee is shade grown at much higher altitudes, e.g. 1500-2000 meters, by 700 families who belong to the cooperative which produces the coffee.  The coffee from here (Finca la Anita, Costa Rican Dota Mountain Coffee) requires much less sugar even for those who love lots of sugar in their coffee.

The couple who own and run La Anita primarily grow organic cacao.  Originally, they sold what they grew and did not process it there.  They decided to accomplish what they wanted, to grow and sell the most sustainable quality chocolate in the world, they would have to control the entire process themselves.  One of their specialties is a healthy replacement for Nutella, La Anita Chocolate Spread.  We bought four little containers and carried them around the rest of the trip.  Rather than spreading it on something, I keep it in the refrigerator and spoon out a tiny sco0p when I want a super treat.

 

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Nearly constant rain and heat produce a botanical heaven.

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A tractor pulled wagon took us through the lushness to the area with the cacao trees grow.

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We finally arrived where the cacao grows.

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In addition to cacao, they grow other crops because cacao takes a long time to grow and the chocolate market worldwide is very unstable.

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Open up cacao and you find all this fuzzy stuff inside.  Yes, it is actually tasty.  Like with coffee, you eat–actually mostly just suck on it–the outside.  The bean is the seed inside.

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If you want to walk around here, sandals are not a good idea–too many snakes, many of which are poisonous like the fer-de-lance.  Yes, they live here.  Like where I live, this requires looking at the ground and paying attention where you are walking. This is the owner.  The name La Anita comes from his wife.IMG_2023

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The view of the lake from the building where we ate lunch.

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This is the hearts of palm plant which shortly after this photo was taken became the main ingredient of ceviche of hearts of palm which we ate for lunch.

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Making ceviche of hearts of palm in the white square bowl.

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After lunch I walked down the road to the pasture with the horses.  In the background are cabins they rent.  From here the traveler can tour several national parks including Rincon de la Vieja National Park which is quite close.

This is one of the rainiest parts of Costa Rica, located on the northern Caribbean side.  It rained several times while we were here.  The rain stops for a while, a downpours arrives, it stops.  This process continually repeats.

 

 

 

Costa Rica Adventure, Day Three–Part Two


After the six mile hike through the Cloud Forest and visiting the hummingbirds, we arrived a bit messy and muddy at a local Italian restaurant which surprisingly served some of the best Italian food I have eaten anywhere.  After this leisurely lunch we headed back to hotel to ready ourselves for the afternoon activities.  Some chose zip lining while the rest of us headed to a local organic coffee farm or remained at the hotel.  For me it was no choice really; I love coffee.

Our guide at the farm had to be one of the most entertaining guides I have experienced anywhere in the world.  He was not only informative but also extremely witty; we chuckled all the way.  After a brief introduction we headed to the coffee plants, tasted raw coffee fruit, and picked coffee.

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Here I am picking coffee as instructed–only the ripe, red berries.

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He also instructed us to taste them.  They were surprisingly sweet.

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Here is the basket where we all put the berries we picked.  Then we headed to the processing area.

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First he showed us the old way, how they used to get the fruit on the outside off with only the seeds, the beans left to dry.

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For good coffee, they spread the beans out and sun dry them.  The roof here shelters them but allows natural drying. These beans have just begun the drying process.  When they are ready, they are a darker, more golden color.

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The next part of the tour involved chocolate.  Here he is hand grinding chocolate into relatively fine pieces.  Yes, in a mortar.  He added a little hot water and raw cane sugar, whisked it around, and gave us all a little cup.  Luckily, it was not a big crowd so most of us received seconds.  When I run out of the chocolate I have here at home, I will consider doing it this way myself.  The difference in taste from this and that which we get ready mixed here in the US is remarkable.

They had sugar cane growing here but only ornamentally.  Sugar cane requires heat.  We were too high in the mountains; it was too cold to produce cane for sugar.  Later, near the coast in Guanacaste, we saw mile after mile of commercially grown sugar cane.  He had some and gave us all a taste.  Yes, we sucked on pieces of sugar cane.  I expected to dislike it, to find it excessively sweet.  Actually, it seemed only mildly sweet and quite tasty.

It was a full day.  We returned to the hotel rather late and experienced an even later dinner at the Tree House, a restaurant in Monteverde built around a large tree.  The live band played a lot of reggae music.  Many of the residents of the east coast of Costa Rica are the descendants of Jamaicans who came many, many years ago to help build the railroad.

The last time I visited Monteverde we had time to wander around the town, shop, and eat ice cream.  I sorely missed not having the time to hang out there a bit and especially eat the ice cream.  Both the cheese and ice cream in Monteverde are, well, yummy and different.  I also missed going to the club next to the Tree House where you find people of all ages hanging out and dancing.  Maybe next time.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


Everyone always grows too much zucchini if they plant even one little hill.  I invented this recipe about a year ago in an attempt to not throw away a bunch of too large zucchini.  Yesterday a friend requested my recipe; I promised her I would post it today.

Combine 3 eggs, 1 2/3 cups sugar, and 1 cup cooking oil in an electric mixer bowl.  Add one teaspoon vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 cup dark cocoa.  Add to egg mixture.  By hand mix in 2 cups grated zucchini and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.  The mixture will be very stiff.  Spoon into oiled and floured bundt pan.  Bake at 325-350 for 1 hour or until done.  Let cool before taking out of the bundt pan.  This is a lovely moist cake and keeps well.