Spring, is that you? to fight away that cabin fever!
Historically, cabin fever is at it’s peak by the end of February. We have all said enough. Enough of the snow, enough of the bitter cold, enough of the salt covered cars and boots. Then, March comes along and with it brings hints at the hope of warmer temperatures, sunny skies and green shoots of tulips and daffodils. Not this year. Nope. Winter storm Titan has made his path across much of the United States leaving more cold and more snow behind. So in order to help ease the fever around the Endangered Species office, I whipped up these chocolatey, minty fresh cupcakes with our very own Rainforest mint chocolate bars. They are incredibly easy to make (thanks to my list of ingredients to cheat with) and will have you clicking your heels together while looking for that pot of gold. Here’s the run down:
You will need:
1 package gluten free cake mix (I like Bob’s red mill chocolate)
2-3 cups Silk original soy milk (or vegan substitute for dairy milk of your choice)
1 ½ cups vegan butter
¼ cup hot water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 Endangered Species Chocolate Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint bars (6 oz)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp Flax Meal (I like Bob’s Red Mill) + 6 tbls hot water, mix and set aside
3 cups(+) powdered sugar
First, pre-heat your oven to 350 F (375 F for gas ovens). Line muffin tin with baking cups and set aside.
Next, prep your flax meal. This is to replace the 2 eggs that are traditionally found in a cake recipe such as this. If you would like, you can use eggs instead, but the recipe will no longer be vegan.
Cream ½ cup of your vegan butter in a large mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add in the cake mix, lemon juice, 1 cup of soy milk (or substitute of choice), vanilla and flax meal mixture. Mix until combined. The batter should look very sticky. Heat ¼ cup of water for 30-45 seconds in the microwave, and mix it in on high to create and more smooth appearance (this won’t take long!)
Now it’s time to take an OK chocolate cupcake to it’s more daring, fresh, indulgent version…….
Break up one, 3 oz bar of Endangered Species dark chocolate with mint. And don’t worry about that square you ate right out of the bowl before popping it in the microwave – I’ve adjusted the recipe to take sudden urges for chocolate into account J
Microwave the chocolate, stirring every 30-45 seconds until smooth. Then, pour the melted chocolate into the mixer bowl containing the batter. With your spatula, fold the chocolate in. Take care not to over stir as this can result in “flat” cupcakes.
Fill the cups 2/3 full. Place in the pre-heated oven for around 18 minutes to bake until a tester comes out clean.
While the cupcakes do their magic, we can get started on our frosting.
Start by creaming 1 cup of vegan butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla. Mix on medium high until smooth.
Next, chop the other 3 oz rainforest mint chocolate bar into very fine pieces.
Dump the pile straight into the mixer, leaving some of the “dust and bits” on the cutting board for later.
Now we will work on getting a pipe-able consistency of our frosting. Start with about ½ cup of soy milk and another ½ cup of powdered sugar. Mix well and see if stiff peaks begin to form. Continue alternating with soy milk and powdered sugar until a stiff but spreadable frosting is formed. It’s all about your own preference for feel and taste – so go with what feels right!
With your frosting ready and cupcakes cooled, you are ready to assemble. Place the frosting in a piping bag or just a big zip-loc. Cut the tip wide so that the chunks of chocolate will go through. Swirl the frosting however you like on each pillow of cake. Or skip the prettiness and smear the frosting on with a butter knife. These babies won’t last long enough for it to matter how they look!
Remember that dusting of chocolate on your cutting board? Yeah. That’s going ON TOP of the frosting. Pour, I mean, sprinkle your chocolate dusting on each cupcake for a 3rd layer of goodness.
Now, we indulge.
Just sit back, take a bite and enjoy the euphoric trip into spring the bright taste of mint and chocolate will take you on. Heel clicking and rainbow hunts optional.
Enjoy this fresh indulgence!
- Whitney B
A food scientist with a focus on healthy living, Whitney Bembenick is Research & Development Manager at Endangered Species Chocolate. A Purdue University graduate, Whitney has over five years of food industry experience and extensive chocolate training. However, it’s not just chocolate that she’s passionate about; a self-proclaimed foodie she likes to explore new recipes while cooking and baking at home. She also enjoys experiencing all of the wonderful food the local chefs are putting on their menus whether it be in Indianapolis or wherever her travels take her.
Friends, I have a confession. In the spirit of the month for love, it’s time that I come clean: for the past year, I have been cheating on my favorite Endangered Species chocolates!
Despite my love for the grizzly bar, the puffin and even our forest mint, I just couldn’t resist something new. It is dark, mysterious, exciting and oh…so….creamy. And it’s not just one new love…..it’s six. (Gasp!) For the past year I have been secretly having a chocolate love affair with our new line of dairy free crème filled chocolate bars!
Now that the crème filled line has been launched, I can finally tell you what I love about each unique flavor, and why these chocolate bars will be the way to my heart, and hopefully yours, this Valentine’s Day.
First is the Lovebird. Bursting with the freshness of lime and spiked with the sharpness of sea salt, one square just isn’t enough. I choose this one when I’ve had a spicy meal and want to finish with the perfect bite.
Next, the Bumble Bee. Oozing with bright blueberry and warming vanilla, I am taken back to memories of blueberry cobbler on the fourth of July. I reach for the Bumble Bee when I need to feed a late morning craving.
Now we get to the Lemur and the Red Panda. The richness of the coconut in the lemur bar is perfect when I am looking for something extremely indulgent. As for the raspberry orange, the combination makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
The Monk Seal has a certain power of transportation that takes me to a calm, relaxing place each time I enjoy a square. Maybe it’s the journey of taste I experience that makes it so special, starting with sweet garden mint, stumbling over the hint of soft lavender and being left with a cooling, refreshed moment.
Rounding things out, the striking beauty of the Ocelot evokes a luxurious feeling before I even open a wrapper. Then, I reach the rich, salty filling with just a hint of smooth vanilla that awakens my taste buds. I go for the ocelot when I need an afternoon pick me up.
I hope that this Valentine’s Day you too fall in love with one or all of our new crème filled chocolate bars. Or maybe, you will share the love with someone very special. Hey, even the Mayan’s gave chocolate as a special gift, why break a tradition that’s been going for centuries?
Indulge in a little love,
Photo by Whitney Bembenick, R&D manager, Endangered Species Chocolate
January is one of my favorite months. As we welcome a new year, the “newness” that it brings bubbles over into many aspects of our lives. In my home, as in many others, when the holiday decorations come down, the entire house gets a full, deep clean and purge. Clothes that haven’t been worn are donated, office drawers are organized, and all of the laundry gets cleaned AND folded. Even Mother Nature gives us a sense of “newness”. Looking out my windows here at the Endangered Species office this morning, there is a refreshing blanket of crisp white snow stretching out into the vast fields of Indiana.
With all of this newness, comes ambition to revitalize ourselves with healthy eating and living. Did you know that 2 out of 3 of us make a resolution for change at the start of a new year, but only 8% of us actually follow through? And with no surprise, of those that resolve for change, most resolve to lose weight. In those first few weeks of January, it is with great pomp a circumstance that we dump the tins of cookies and bars into the trash to be replaced with fresh fruits and vegetables. We reach for the water bottle instead of the coffee cup and we turn our noses at the candy aisle. Then, the inevitable happens. It’s someone’s birthday in the office and the array of sweet treats re-emerge. After a few weeks of resisting temptation, you decide to have just a small piece, you’ve earned it…and…burp!…a full slice of cake later you’ve not only got a queasy stomach but you feel awful for breaking your new “diet”. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well, because I have tip for you that will save you from the office birthday party cake catastrophe. It may seem a bit counter intuitive at first…..but here it goes…..
Eat. Dark. Chocolate.
Now, because I work for a chocolate company, you are thinking, “yeah right, chick,” but please, keep reading, and you may change your mind.
First, let me share with you a few facts about cocoa. Cocoa naturally contains antioxidants called flavanols. These compounds act as a defense mechanism to fight off the free radicals our bodies produce from doing daily activities like simply breathing! That means that when we consume a food that contains these flavanols (like chocolate), we are helping our bodies fight against cell damage that research has proven can lead to things like cancer and heart disease. But that’s not all! Multiple research studies have shown the direct link between consuming chocolate and improved mental health, clarity and alertness. This is credited to cocoa’s ability to aid the body in producing compounds which help us feel good, as well as the natural stimulants which are found in chocolate like caffeine and theobromine. The darker and less “adulterated” the chocolate the better, as these varieties offer the largest dose of antioxidants in comparison to their sweeter counterparts.
So…proven by research, chocolate is good for the body and soul. Do I have your attention now? Back to that New Year’s resolution tip I mentioned before. What if, instead of focusing on what you want to limit yourself on, you focus on what you want to indulge in more? Because of all the healthy reasons listed above, we know that dark chocolate is a great option when the mood for indulgence strikes us. By giving ourselves that small treat, we are sustaining a more positive mood and fighting off the “bad guys” at the same time. So when the office party strikes, you’ll feel less inclined to reward yourself, because you’ve already been rewarded with a sweet square of your favorite Endangered Species chocolate bar. Which reminds me, it’s time for my daily dose of indulgence J
One last thing…with all this “newness”, Endangered Species has something new to share as well! Keep an eye out for my post next month where I’ll talk about my love affair with chocolate and our brand new filled chocolate bar line.
R&D Manager, Endangered Species Chocolate
What do you do with the overstock of obsolete chocolate bar wrappers? When you’re an eco-minded company, you seek out ways to reuse them. While we keep our inventory tight to avoid waste, rare changes like ingredient updates, discontinuations, and design revisions leave us with wrappers to re-purpose. Some, we shred and use as recyclable packing material in our chocolate shipments. Others, we hand over to Ecoist to make into pretty purses full of purpose!
Ecoist handbags are made through a fair trade manufacturing partnership with artisans in Peru. Fair Trade is a manufacturing partnership that embraces: 1) fair wages to workers, 2) healthy working environments, 3) long term relationships with suppliers, and 4) respect for the local cultural identity. See how the artisans turn pre-consumer waste into environmentally conscious style! And icing on the cake – Ecoist plants a tree for each purse sold!
Enter to win one of 64 Ecoist purses, handcrafted from Endangered Species Chocolate bar wrappers! Add your name to our e-card list between August 5th – September 27th for a chance to win.
Part of the territory of being an ESC employee is volunteering in the local Indianapolis community. Over the years ESC has volunteered at several Indy organizations including the Humane Society and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Most recently ESC employees have been serving lunch at the Wheeler Mission, a shelter that helps the homeless population of Indianapolis.
While the company all ready gives back 10% of its net profits to its partners, it also believes that taking the time to reach-out locally is an important aspect of its overall mission to give back. Most recently ESC teamed-up with the Peace Learning Center to participate in the Indiana Service Challenge.
As part of the service challenge ESC worked on a project for Peace Learning Center’s Be the Change Workshop and Exhibit. ESC employee’s spent a sunny April afternoon away from their desks making a whale out of trash that the Peace Learning Center had collected to represent the types of things that have been found in a whale’s stomach. The hope is that the summer groups that visit the center that are primarily young schoolchildren, will see the whale project and have a better understanding of what happens to their trash when they don’t recycle or properly dispose it.
So how do you give back in your local community? We would love to hear from you and it may just spark some ideas for us!
After 20 years ESC is celebrating in a big way! We have teamed up with the Non-GMO Project to extend our non-GMO verification to our natural chocolate line making all of ESC dark chocolate non-GMO verified.
We’re also extending our collaboration with the Rainforest AllianceTM to our natural line. Rainforest Alliance certification promotes the well-being of workers and helps their communities to adopt better farming practices.
We plan on continuing the celebration by having some more announcements later in the year so stay tuned!
A new year brings two new flavors for ESC our dark chocolate with sea salt and almond and our dark chocolate with cherry are the newest additions to our 3 oz natural bar line. These new gluten-free bars feature a puffin and owl on the wrappers and were selected by our consumer’s after a month-long contest which was held over the summer on our website.
As we continue to develop new flavors in the future we want to know what flavors you would like to see added and what new animal’s you want to see featured on the labels?
As Endangered Species Chocolate has continued to expand its product offerings over the past few years, we’ve never had a place where we could try out new recipes without having to worry about invading precious production space. A small area in production was sanctioned where new product development took place…but that changed a few months ago when Endangered Species Chocolate converted part of an old storage area into a new test kitchen!
Our test kitchen gives us a dedicated space where we can get creative. This new space includes a tiny tempering machine to heat chocolate and stir in inclusions. A mini fridge cools down the chocolate and stores samples until they’re ready to be tasted…I mean tested.
This test kitchen has gotten a workout over the past few months! We’ll be introducing TWO NEW FLAVORS in January and a brand new product line (shhh – top secret) is in the works, set to launch in early 2014. So tell us, what would YOU cook up in our new test kitchen? Comment below with flavors you’d like to see from Endangered Species Chocolate.
I don’t work in our production area on a daily basis, when I have the good fortune of finding myself back there I’m always amazed at how everything seems to work like a well oiled machine. The manufacturing of our chocolate looks as if it’s part of a synchronized dance that is set in place by the humming of machines and shuffle of our production workers.
Our confection creations begin with large tanks slowly stirring the chocolate before inclusions such as raspberries or almonds get poured in them making your favorite bar come together. Once the bars are set into the molds, they meticulously come out of the lines and workers inspect to make sure each bar looks like perfection. They are then wrapped in our labels with an inspiring animal on the cover and boxed-up before moving back into shipping.
In shipping, you’ll see precisely labeled boxes our quality department has put together letting our production workers know about any allergens they contain and eliminating the chance of cross contamination for our customer’s.
Finally, forklifts whisk by you carrying boxes of chocolate as they get set-up on pallets which are then picked-up and shipped off to ultimately end up on the shelves of your favorite store. In my next post we’ll explore ESC’s new test kitchen.
After working at ESC for four years I can tell you what seems like an ordinary day for me isn’t a typical work day for most people. When you first walk into the building you get hit with a whiff of chocolate although like anyone who’s worked here for more than a few weeks sadly, you will be become accustomed to the tantalizing aroma and don’t notice it anymore unless you go back into shipping or production and they are running one of our stronger aromatic inclusions such as mint or orange then you can defiantly smell it (more on that later).
As I wait for my computer to boot up I go into the kitchen and grab some coffee. ESC purchases organic coffee and no disposable cups here; everyone uses reusable mugs and dishes each day. After answering emails and returning some calls I head back into shipping to coordinate samples going-out and I get hit with the nose twitching smell of mint. Which almost immediately makes my stomach grumble and luckily it’s time for lunch. As I walk back to the kitchen and grab my lunch out of the fridge you’ll notice no soda or snack machines around. This is an employee inspired effort to help support company wellness. This time of year I enjoy making salads with produce from my home garden and reading a book while eating my lunch outside on the ESC patio.
After lunch it’s time to start going through the 10% GiveBack applications that have been submitted over the past few months so that we can pick our next partnerships. After carefully reading through some applications and giving my feedback it’s time for a quick meeting. As I walk to the conference room you’ll notice almost all the materials in the building including desks, chairs and even the carpet is made from recycled materials. The rest of the afternoon is filled with phone calls, research, emails and some writing. Late in the afternoon several employees head out back to the work-out room to de-stress and work-up a sweat.
After finishing-up for the day, I gather my things and head out to the parking lot. While you see several eco-friendly cars and employee’s car pooling you’ll occasionally also see employees ride home on their bikes when the weather cooperates. Next time I’ll give you a peek into the factory where our chocolate is made.