Here at Endangered Species Chocolate we take our jobs very seriously – I mean, we work with the food of the Gods, people! One could even argue that the staff here at Endangered Species is right up there in importance with doctors, government officials and the President…..right?
Well, no……not at all……most definitely, not.
While some days it may feel like we are running a country or being called to the operating room, the truth is that we at Endangered Species constantly remind ourselves that we are abundantly fortunate to work for a company full of good people that make good stuff for a good cause. And although we believe that it’s important to make chocolate that brings joy to the people who eat it and the animals each purchase helps save, we also know that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. That said, on the first day of October I sent an URGENT, HIGH PRIORITY email to the staff stating this:
EEEEKK! Huge spiders in the break room – enter if you must, but BEWARE!
Our resident spider catcher, Nick, immediately got up from his desk and headed into the infested room. Not too far behind him our Quality Manager followed, carrying a cup to help assist him in his efforts (we are a catch and release facility). A few other curious peers cautiously headed that way – if not to see the spiders but to at least witness the catching. When Nick and the others made it to the break room, they found the biggest, boldest, sweetest spiders they had ever seen……
Filled with chuckles, my office mates were happy to see that the email had been both a trick and a treat!
These spiders are not only easy to make, but they are a great activity to do with your little ones in the spirit of the spookiest season of the year.
If you plan on doing this with children, I suggest preparing the cake balls a day ahead. They will keep on a baking sheet, covered, overnight. To begin, make one 9 X 13 chocolate cake (from scratch or packaged). Let the cake cool completely. Breaking the cake in fours, crumble it into fine pieces into a bowl using your hands or a fork. Next, make 2 cups of frosting (recipe below, or purchase at your grocery store). Fold the frosting into the cake using the back of a spoon or a stiff spatula. Taking 1-2 tablespoon sized pinches at a time, roll out ½ in balls, squeezing and smoothing until all of the balls are formed. If the mixture becomes sticky or too soft, place it in the freezer for a quick chill and handling will become easier.
The prepared cake balls can be set in the refrigerator overnight, or if you are doing everything at the same time, placed in the freezer to set for up to 45 minutes. Once chilled, you will begin the decorating. Melt 3 – 4 Endangered Species Chocolate 72% Dark Chocolate bars, or one full bag of Endangered Species Chocolate Halloween Treats in the microwave. When the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, stir in one tablespoon of vegetable shortening (this is done to thin out the chocolate for easier handling and creates a better coating that will not crack). I like to set everything that I will be using out in stations to make assembly quicker. For the spiders pictured, I used pretzel rods and black sugar crystals. Eyes can be made from almond pieces, raisins, white sprinkles…and more! This is where your children can get creative. If spiders aren’t your thing, these can be made into eye balls (half a marshmallow for the whites), monsters and even pumpkins! If you are making them for an adult party, maybe just colored sprinkles will suit. It’s up to you!
To dip your creation, I suggest gently inserting a wooden skewer into the top of the ball, carefully lowering it into the chocolate, tossing the chocolate onto the piece if needed, and lightly tapping the exposed portion of the skewer before placing it on parchment. Then, using another skewer, carefully remove the rod and tap the coating to smooth. Alternatively, you can use lollipop sticks and leave them inserted to look like the spider’s “web”! These set more quickly and keep better if the finished tray of spiders and other creatures are placed in the refrigerator.
”We must hold to the irreplaceables, to the species delicately interbalanced, to the endangered and threatened animals, to the sanctity of life here on our shores”
–Margaret Owings, Founder, Friends of the Sea Otter.
This year, Friends of the Sea Otter celebrates its 46th year of sea otter conservation and the twelfth anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week. Throughout the history of the organization, Friends of the Sea Otter has dealt with many critical issues facing sea otters on their road to population recovery. Now is no different.
In a couple of weeks, the U.S. Geological Survey will release the results of the Spring 2014 California sea otter census. Last year, the news was encouraging and gives us some hope about the future recovery of this population. The 3-year average (population index) in 2013 was listed as 2,941 sea otters. This was an increase in the average from the previous year’s population index. As we eagerly await the results for 2014, we realize that there is still much work to be done.
We’re still struggling to understand how disease, shark attacks, food limitations and other threats have kept this charismatic marine mammal on the brink over the last three and a half decades.
The saga involving the legal battles to eliminate the No Otter Zone in Southern California continue. The No Otter Zone is an impediment to sea otter recovery. For decades, Friends of the Sea Otter and others have fought to rid the California coastline of this road block,that is keeping sea otters from returning to historic habitat in Southern California. A coalition of fishing groups, represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the lawsuit aims to uphold the decades old No-Otter Zone. Their lawsuit challenges the elimination of the No Otter Zone that was finalized in January of 2013 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Friends of the Sea Otter along with colleague organizations, all represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene on the lawsuit on August 12, 2013. This was granted on October 2, 2013. On October 23, 2013, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the court to throw out the case based on the theory that the fishing groups were challenging the 1987 regulation that set up the No Otter Zone in the first place, and the legal time period for filing such a challenge has passed. On March 27, 2014, the court ruled in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s favor and dismissed the case. The fishing groups appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Ninth Circuit rules in the fishing industry’s favor, the case will be sent back to the district court to decide the central issue of whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had the authority to end the No Otter Zone. We are tracking the situation while we wait for the Ninth Circuit decision and stand ready to fight, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure that the government is not forced to revive the failed No Otter Zone and translocation program.
Friends of the Sea Otter continues to monitor the battle up north. The state of Alaska, its fishing industry, and elected officials have been trying to turn back the clock on marine mammal conservation more than 40 years by advocating for the management of sea otters. How are they suggesting they do this? Their answer: by killing sea otters for the sake of small commercial interest groups.
All sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This makes it illegal to hunt a sea otter or sell any products made from the body of a sea otter, Native Alaskans are permitted to do so, however. In this case, they must sufficiently alter a sea otter pelt into some kind of traditional artifact or handicraft before selling anything made from a sea otter. It is currently illegal for anyone, including Alaskan Natives, to sell unaltered sea otter pelts to non-Alaskan Natives.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a proposal last year to clarify some terms under the MMPA and Friends of the Sea Otter is focusing on their clarification of “significantly altered”. The proposed revised definition for “significantly altered” raised some serious concerns. The definition of “significantly altered” is too broad and at odds with the MMPA and is being conducted without any environmental impact analysis. It isn’t as restrictive as it needs to be and could potentially result in blankets and rugs being made from sea otter pelts without “significantly altering” the pelt as is the intention of the MMPA. This would be devastating for sea otters and increase the market for their pelts.
While U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared in their final documents last year that this exercise of clarifying definitions is in no way a means to allow predator control of sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska, Friends of the Sea Otter is monitoring this closely. Through a grant, we are planning some outreach to native communities, hunters, fishers, and others to remind them about the laws that exist and that sea otters can not be hunted as a means to ease conflicts with fisheries.
With all of these emerging issues, it is even more important to highlight the need to protect and conserve sea otter populations. Sea Otter Awareness Week once again shines the big spotlight on the need for everyone to understand the plight of this species and help where you can. Friends of the Sea Otter continues to do our part. Please help us help sea otters!
You can follow Friends of the Sea Otter on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheseaotter ) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/friendsseaotter ) and learn more about what Friends of the Sea Otter is doing and how you can help at http://www.seaotters.org
Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director and Frank Reynolds, Program Manager for Friends of the Sea Otter
Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.
Good chocolate usually doesn’t sit around long…but when it does, protect your stash from chocolate’s three main enemies: heat, humidity, and odors.
Store your chocolate bars between about 60 and 65°F (about 16 – 18°C). Heat and/or direct sunlight can slowly deteriorate chocolate’s aroma, flavor and texture. Consider a cool closet, dry basement or wine cooler to shelf your stash.
Store chocolate in a dry place. Ideally, the relative humidity should be below 50%. Excess moisture can condense on the bar and draw out the sugar onto the surface, causing unsightly bloom (harmless but disturbs the silky texture of fine chocolate).
Avoid strong odors. Chocolate absorbs strong odors like a sponge. Store your chocolate away from aromatics like coffee or garlic. Also keep flavored bars such as our Rainforest Mint or Espresso Bean bars separate from your plain chocolate and everything will taste as it should.
It would be a lie to tell you that I am ready to be sharing this month’s blog post with you all. Not because it’s not a great recipe (it’s a delicious recipe, in fact), no, I cringe at sitting down to write this because it is filed under the month of August.
Whoa. Hold the phone! When did that happen?
While basking in oblivion under the summer sun and getting through the weeks that got in the way of our weekends, the months of June and July have passed us: now I am simply left gripping tightly onto the last bit of elusive summer that is slipping from my clenched fists more quickly with each day that passes.
With that said, it is fitting that this month’s post features a recipe that quite perfectly embodies my current state of mind. Today I am sharing with you a recipe that features summer’s fresh bounty packaged into a back to school friendly treat. These Whole Grain Chocolate Zucchini Bread Muffins are the perfect snack for mornings when you’re running late, little ones’ lunchboxes that need a touch of homemade goodness, or an after-school snack that prevents pre-dinner melt downs.
Whole Grain Chocolate Zucchini Bread Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
3 eggs (or vegan substitute)
1 cup olive oil or baking oil of choice
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground clove
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp sea salt
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup chopped Endangered Species Chocolate 72% cocoa dark chocolate (2 full bars)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 24 well muffin pan with paper liners.
Beat eggs or prepare vegan substitute (vegan will be a more dense end product).
Add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Stir well.
In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Get crazy with your own way to personalize these muffins. Nut allergies? Swap dried cherries or cranberries. Ultimate chocolate lover? Replace nuts with chocolate OR get crazy and add in white chocolate for a more dessert like experience. Stir your combination into the egg mix.
Using an ice cream scoop (or a spoon) drop the batter into the lined tins. Bake for 20 minutes, test (use a toothpick or similar and insert in the center of a muffin, it should come out clean), and bake at 1 minute intervals if necessary until done. These muffins lose a bit of their luster if they become too dry.
I’m still not quite ready to let go of summer, but when it is time to surrender to the change in seasons, a bite into one of these may help carry away my late summer blues.
A few weeks ago I hosted a housewarming party for one of my good friends. As a special favor for all of the guests, I gave out strawberry pints filled with the goodies that it takes to make s’mores (thank you, Pinterest) along with a small pack of sparklers. The gift tag read, “Take home S’more summer fun”.
As in go home and eat some dessert…
…but despite my plans, very few of the baskets were left unopened, the grill quickly became our makeshift fire pit, and the party kept going well into the evening. It wasn’t until someone said “this basket is like my 8 year old dream” that it dawned on me…..I had created a moment of nostalgia for the guests; and as they enjoyed their gooey, chocolatey treats in one hand, sizzling sparklers in the other, I couldn’t help but relish in the moment of watching these grown men and women sit back, relax and enjoy their summer night. There’s just something special, nostalgic you might say, about summertime s’mores shared with family and friends. That is why if you google search “s’mores recipes”, you won’t just find your typical graham-chocolate-marshmallow combo. No, cooks everywhere are coming up with creative ways they too can re-create the “8 year old dream” in the form of bars, cookies, cakes, trifles and more.
So this month I thought I would share a homemade marshmallow recipe that is my “go to” whenever I get the urge to kick up the average s’more, or give my own special spin to the recipe. Not only are they versatile, they go perfectly with your favorite Endangered Species Chocolate bar and Annie’s Organic Honey Grahams. There are also great natural marshmallows out there for when you don’t have the time to make their own, but I promise after you try these you won’t want to go back to the store bought kind!
(Adapted from thekitchn.com)
- 3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin OR vegan substitute
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 ½ teaspoons Fair Trade vanilla
- 1 full recipe of gelatin (above)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 ½ organic cane sugar
- 1 cup Agave
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup organic cornstarch
1. Coat a 9X13 baking sheet with coconut oil baking spray. Set aside.
2. Place gelatin ingredients in the bowl of a mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer) and whisk together vigorously until the mixture begins to thicken. Set aside.
3. In a 3-4 quart saucepan, combine water, sugar, agave and salt in that order. Do not stir. Over medium high heat bring the mixture to a boil, brushing down the sides of the pot with water using a pastry brush if sugar crystals begin to collect. Insert a candy thermometer into the pan and continue to boil until the mix reads 247-250 F (do not over boil! This will result in too hard of a sugar and the marshmallows will be chewy instead of fluffy).
4. Remove from heat immediately. With the whisk attachment in medium low speed, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Going slowly, add the entire mix.
5. Once all of the syrup is added, increase the speed and cover the top of the bowl with a towel to prevent splashing. Once the mixture begins turning white you can remove the towel.
6. From addition of the syrup to the bowl to the end of the mixing stage, you will mix for about 8-10 minutes. The marshmallows are ready when the mixture is pure white and shiny, and the whisk is creating a pulling motion of the mix away from the bowl (see below)
7. Put the whisk in low speed and drop the bowl, pulling the marshmallow mix down from the whisk. Using an oil-coated spatula, scrape the mix into your prepared pan. Move quickly! This stuff gets sticky.
8. Pan down the marshmallow to fill the pan, coating your hands with the coconut oil spray and smoothing it out if need be.
9. Now we wait! These are best if they sit out uncovered overnight, but they can be ready in about 4 hours if you need them that soon.
10. When the marshmallows have set, coat the front and back with the powdered sugar mix. They are ready to be cut into squares sized to your liking!
Have some fun with these! You can add in a variety of extracts, maybe almond or mint, or you can event add in fruit puree in place of the water to create a popable treat. After making this particular batch, half of the marshmallows made it to become s’mores while the other half…
They became part of a decadent, delightful, evil, rich concoction I’m naming the 5 layer s’more bar. Just the aroma of this beauty was enough to make the whole office flock to the Endangered Species kitchen.
Happy (Indulgent) Summer!
A Summer Indulgence!
If you are anything like me, you understand the anticipation and joy that summer Saturday mornings can bring. I awake each Saturday for a quick run on the Monon Trail and hurriedly shower so that I can be parked and ready, bag in hand, for the Carmel Farmer’s Market. The fresh, local produce, buzz of energy, and delicious breakfast goodies put a song in my step that lasts all day long. There’s something almost therapeutic about running my hands over the vegetables as I make my selections, knowing that the man or woman standing behind the table has put a labor of love into growing the produce before me. This month, I know that soon enough cartons of fresh, red, ripe strawberries will be waiting for me. That’s why when I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you this month, a fresh strawberry chocolate cheesecake just sounded sooooooo right.
Since strawberries haven’t quite emerged at the market, I went to Whole Foods to gather all my supplies. It must have been my lucky day, because Organic Strawberries were on sale! Woot!
Here is what you will need (recipe can be found at the bottom of this post):
To start, make the crust by pulverized one full sleeve of graham crackers either in a plastic baggy or a food processer. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Toss with a spatula or fork. Next, prepare your round pan by first coating with a thin layer of butter, lining with parchment, and lastly coating the parchment with butter as well.This is done for ease of removal from the pan!
Now you can press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, cautious to keep this layer even so that you don’t have any really thick spots of crust.
Place the crust in the oven at 300 F for 6-8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool while you prepare the batter. Increase oven temperature to 500 F.
Begin by creaming all of the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Trust me when I say the Hulk couldn’t mix this entire batter by hand. (medium speed, 1 minute)
Scrape down the sides and add ¾ cup of sugar and a dash of salt. Mix again (medium speed, 1 minute). Add another ¾ cup of sugar and mix (low speed, 1 minute). Scrape down the sides. Your mixture should gradually be looking fluffier than when we began.
Now let’s add 1/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt, the squeeze of ½ a lemon and 2 teaspoons of quality vanilla. Beat on low until just combined. Once there, add 2 egg yolks, mix, 2 eggs, mix, 2 more eggs, mix and the last 2 eggs, mix, all on low speed and just until combined. Over mixing once the eggs are being added will actually whip the eggs, causing the cheesecake to be more meringue like.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and place in the oven.
After 10 minutes, drop the temperature setting to 200 F. The initial high temperature “sets” the cake so that we do not have to use a water bath (which drives me nuts because I inevitably always get water in or on my cheesecake…..am I the only one with this problem?).
After 1 hour 15 min – 1 ½ hours, the cake should be ready to cool. An easy check if your cake is ready to be pulled from the oven is to use a thermometer placed in the center of the cake. Target center temperature is anywhere from 145 F – 155 F.
Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature until it can be easily carried in the pan. Move the cake to the refrigerator to completely cool and set. Meanwhile, make your topping.
Wash and slice one pint of strawberries. I like to cut them in halves, but you can slice them however you like. Add ¼ cup to ½ cup of sugar to the strawberries and set aside (I let them sit for about an hour). Boil down 1 cup of strawberry jam (this Crofters brand that I purchased is Biodynamic – how cool is that!) on a cooktop set to medium heat. Stir the jam with a wire whisk for 3 minutes while heating just to help thicken the sauce and develop a more cooked flavor. Remove from the heat, squeeze in ½ lemon’s juice and add a dash of salt. Add this mixture to the strawberries and toss.
Once the cheese cake has completely cooled and is firm to touch, remove from the pan, using the paper liner to slide the cake off onto a platter. Top with the strawberry mixture. And, because things aren’t decadent until there’s chocolate involved, melt 1-2 Endangered Species Chocolate smooth dark chocolate bars in the microwave and drizzle generously over the entire cake.
The office really enjoyed this very special afternoon treat. Made with organic and GMO free ingredients, this is one cheesecake that you can feel good about (in moderation of course)!
Happy Summer my friends!
1 sleeve of Organic graham crackers (9 sheets)
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter
5, 8 oz packages of Organic cream cheese (40 oz)
1/3 cup Organic plain Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups sugar
Dash of salt
2 egg yolks and 6 whole eggs
Juice of ½ lemon squeezed
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint of strawberries
Sugar to taste
1 cup of organic or biodynamic strawberry jam
Juice of ½ lemon squeezed
1-2 Endangered Species Chocolate 72% cacao Smooth Dark Chocolate bars (3-6 oz)
Guest post submitted by Catherine Olteanu, Lemur Conservation Foundation.
Sobe and Sassy, meet Molson!
Two ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) breeding pairs are among the eight approved breeding pairs for Lemur Conservation Foundation‘s colony this year.
One of our male ring-tailed lemurs, Molson, has a recommendation to breed with both Sobe and her twin sister Sarsaparilla (aka Sassy), two new additions at Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF). Sobe and Sassy arrived in the fall of 2013 from Duke Lemur Center as part of the Ring-tailed Lemur Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP makes recommendations that maintain optimal populations in captive breeding programs.
Sobe, Sassy and Molson spent some time in our enclosures before being released into the forests together. You can watch them enter the forest for the first time in this video.
A Model Mother
Another pair of ring-tailed lemurs at LCF, Yuengling and Ansell, have been a recommended breeding pair for a few years. Ansell has already given birth to multiple, healthy offspring including a pair of female twins born in April 2013.
All of Ansell’s infants were born in LCF’s forests. She is an experienced mother that raised her offspring in the forests while also leading her troop, much like she would do in Madagascar – the only place in the world where lemurs live in the wild.
This chart shows the North American peak breeding and birth times for lemur pairs at Lemur Conservation Foundation.
|SPECIES||PEAK BREEDING SEASON||PEAK BIRTH SEASON|
|Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)||Oct-Dec||Mar-May|
|Red ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra)||Jan-Feb||Apr-May|
|Collared lemur (Eulemur collaris)||Nov-Jan||Mar-May|
|Mongoose lemur (Eulemur mongoz)||Nov-Feb||Mar-June|
The Lemur Conservation Foundation
The Lemur Conservation Foundation, a 200 acre private reserve located in Myakka City, Florida, holds six species of lemurs, including ring-tails. Our free ranging colony lives in native forests in multi species groups much like they do in Madagascar. We are dedicated to the conservation and preservation of lemurs through captive breeding, education, art, observation based research, and partnerships. LCF is a managing member of The Madagascar Fauna Group and two species survival plans, including the SSP for lemur catta.
Last week I had the privilege of attending my very first Tribal Bazaar. This event is held by Whole Foods for employees to learn more about the wonderful brands that are sold in their stores. As a vendor, we had the opportunity to share our newest collection, The Filled Bars, with attendees and educate them on what makes the product and our company so unique. It was humbling to see such an overwhelmingly positive response to both our chocolate and our mission. It was also really cool to listen to employee’s stories about what they do and why they love working at Whole Foods. I can tell you that when you go into a Whole Foods store the people that work there love the products they sell, and just as important can help you make educated choices on the goods you purchase because of events like the Tribal Bazaar.
In between shifts of attendees I had the chance to walk the vendor floor and do a little exploring of my own. These cute little chicks were getting a lot of attention and I couldn’t resist the chance to hold one. Their soft feathers and sweet chirps will instantly put a smile on anyone’s face!
Back to the goods – It amazes me how many awesome vegan products are out there! Since it wouldn’t be fair for me to keep all these cool products to myself (although the samples I brought back may or may not have already been taste tested), I thought I would share a few of the ones that I enjoyed. This is not paid advertising or anything like that – just a girl sharing some cool stuff!
This line of performance drinks and shakes is impressive. The people at Vega are passionate about their product – as they should be! I’m going to try and incorporate some of this in next month’s recipe post…..mmmm chocolate shakes?
I didn’t have much time for lunch, so these Sea Salt Tortilla chips from Late July and fruit gummies from Tasty kept me going! It’s a good thing those chips were portion controlled – I would have gone crazy on a full bag!
I happened to be stationed right across from all the lovely bath products – a personal weakness of mine. The Seaweed Bath Company was gracious enough to share lots of samples with me and I can’t wait to see how their lotion tackles my dry hands. They have a full line of goodies which I also stocked up on. (Psst….the body cream contains cocoa butter…..proof that chocolate can cure anything!)
All in all, it was a successful and rewarding week spent in San Francisco. The flood of compliments given to our chocolate and our cause served as reminder of how blessed I am to work for a company like Endangered Species. I will leave you with a shot of the bay, both enchanting and invigorating. Enjoy!