New post up at the new blog.

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Moving

Along with moving to Chicago, I am moving to a new blog. Check it out.

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New Home!

Hi friends,

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what I’ve been up to. Well, the short summary is that Brad and I successfully moved into our new home in Chicago. We LOVE our apartment, our neighbors, living in the city, and living near family (who have recently gotten us out of several binds). Not everything was smooth sailing but the move and settling in has probably gone as well as it could.

I spent last week applying for one job (it was a five-step application) and finally got an offer on Friday! So I am going to be working with an after school program in a neighborhood on the south side with one of the highest rates of poverty and crime in the city. I will have twenty-two kiddos to love on and care for. Don’t worry: I will share more details about our move and my new job in the future.

Most of all, I wanted to point you to my new site: justsimplicity.net. I’m hoping to make this a more focused blog on living simply and promoting social justice, so invite your friends to read. I’m going to be posting there every day – God willing – with practical ways to make the small steps to impacting the world. So check it out! I’d also appreciate any suggestions of things you would like to read about!

I’m hoping to keep up this site too and write about more personal topics here.

Absolute Chaos

For everyone who’s wondering where I’ve been at, I’m knee deep in sorting through all our stuff for a big moving sale this weekend and then for the move itself. So I may not get back to posting regularly for a few weeks. But I will give some updates here and there. Wish me luck!

Picky Eater

This is my dog, Maki. Her name is Machiatto, like the coffee drink, but we call her Maki, like the sushi. She is a little ball of crazy, half chihuahua and half boston terrier. We feed her every day at noon, and this is what her bowl looks like when we first feed her (please note that there are three different types of kibble: round, square, and triangle).

This is the bowl after she has finished eating. Yeah. My dog does not like the round kibble. Apparently the square and triangle kibble are too amazing to even bother with the round. Yeah.

Should I file this under vegetarianism?

Homemade: Watermelon Granita

Summer = watermelon.

But sometimes I get a little over-excited about watermelon season and start to buy watermelons before they’re really at their peak. This happened a couple weeks ago when I bought a seedless (seedless was my first mistake) watermelon. It was definitely not juicy enough to warrant summer watermelon excitement. So what do you do with an entire non-juicy watermelon that no one is going to eat? I first considered just tossing it…until I found a recipe for watermelon granita.

Watermelon granita is like watermelon sno cone but way better. It’s a good way to get rid of a watermelon but it’s a little time consuming for my taste. That’s why I got my husband to make it. :)

Here’s what he did:

Chop up the watermelon.

Then blend it.

Then strain it.

Then add the zests and juice of two limes. After you use them up the limes look like this.

You also add a sugar syrup mixture. Stir it all together and stick it in the freezer. After two hours the granita will start to get slushy. After that point, you need to stir it every half hour or so. If you don’t stir, it will just turn into a rock of watermelon ice, so stirring is essential.

I forgot to get a picture of the final product so here’s one I found on teh intarweb.

Feed to little children and they will eat it like this…

…and scream very, very loudly if you take it away from them.

Watermelon Granita (from Grow Organic, Cook Organic)

  • 1 whole watermelon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • finely grated rind and juice of 2 limes

Cut the watermelon into quarters. Discard most of the seeds, scoop the flesh into a blender and process the watermelon quarters in small batches.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into a bowl. Allow the syrup to cool, then chill until needed.

Strain the watermelon puree through a sieve into a large plastic container. Discard the melon seeds. Pour in the chilled syrup, lime rind, and juice and mix well.

Cover and freeze for 2 hours until the granita mixture around the sides of the container is mushy. Mash the ice finely with a fork and return to the freezer.

Freeze for a further 2 hours, mashing the mixture every 30 minutes until the granita has a slushy consistency.

Fair Trade: Chocolate

Chocolate has been around since at least 1100 B.C., when people in central America fermented cacao beans into an alcoholic drink or mixed it with strong spices. Wikipedia explains,

The majority of the Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning “bitter water”. The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquified, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Cocoa in all it’s forms was considered a luxury item among the Mayas and Aztecs and also when it was first introduced in Europe in the 1500s. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that people in all walks of life had an opportunite to eat chocolate.

Chocolate as we know it is made of a mixture of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, milk, and/or vanilla. Dark chocolate contains at least 70% cocoa (solids and butter), sugar, and sometimes vanilla.  Milk chocolate contains up to 50% cocoa, milk, sugar, and vanilla. White chocolate contains up to 33% cocoa, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Often producers at an emulsifying agent like soy lecithin, but this can be left out to keep the chocolate purer and GMO-free.

I found this information from Wikipedia particularly interesting:

Vegetable oils and artificial vanilla flavor are often used in cheaper chocolate to mask poorly fermented and/or roasted beans. In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States, whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as “chocolate” if the product contains any of these ingredients.

Though all this information on chocolate production is interesting and informative, what’s most important is the people behind the chocolate. There are approximately 50 million people working in the chocolate industry today.

The New American Dream website (which is my new favorite website) says this:

Most of our chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast region of West Africa, where cocoa production is an enormous part of the economy. In Ghana, 40 percent of the country’s export revenues come from the sale of cocoa. Unfortunately, very little of the profit goes to the farmers who grow the cocoa beans. Cocoa farmers receive about a penny for a candy bar selling for 60 cents.

In fact, the difficulty in making a living at cocoa farming has spawned an increase in child and even slave labor drawn from poor neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. Children and other workers are forced to work long days picking and processing cocoa beans (it takes 400 of these pods to make just one pound of chocolate). Very few of the children have the opportunity to attend school.

So it is more than likely that the chocolate in Kit Kats, Snickers bars, etc. are made, at least in part, from the labor of child slaves. I’m certain that companies like Nestle and Hershey aren’t purposefully buying children and using them as slaves, but they aren’t entirely guarding against it. And should we feel guilty for eating Kit Kats? Until these big corporations step up and monitor their sources more, yes. Maybe not the Kit Kats we ate before we knew about the fair trade issues, but we, as wealthy Americans, are a part of this machine that runs on the sweat of poor, hungry, people and there probably should be some guilt in that. But that guilt should inspire change! Does that mean that we never eat chocolate again? No! There are lots and lots of great companies out there who are producing chocolate for the benefit of the people harvesting the beans! And I think that it’s incredible that we can choose to use our dollars to support these people.

Is fair trade chocolate more expensive? Yes, $3.50 or more for a bar of good dark chocolate. But the expense is good, in my opinion, for several reasons: 1) We know that more of our money is going to hard-working people. 2) We can keep companies in business who are doing the hard work of playing fair. 3) We learn to make desserts of other things like fresh fruit and spices (mmm…ginger cookies). 4) We may eat less chocolate but when we do, it is really, really good chocolate and we can enjoy it all the more.

More Resources

Stop the Traffik’s Chocolate Campaign: learn more about child slavery on cocoa farms in Cote D’Ivoire

Divine Chocolate: owned and operated by the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana

Dagoba Chocolate: our favorite organic and fair trade chocolate

Fair Trade Chocolate on Chocolate.com: Fine unique fair trade chocolate products including chocolate-covered oreos!

New American Dream: A list of fair trade chocolate products including cocoa powder and chocolate chips

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