It’s that time of the year…Tax Season. While sea otters don’t pay taxes, we can help them when we pay ours. Since 2007, sea otters in California have benefited from nearly $2.4 million in taxpayer contributions that go towards efforts to protect and recover sea otters in California. This funding is critical because currently this is the major funding source for sea otter research, education and conservation efforts in California.
Each year the California Franchise Tax Board sets a minimum amount needed for each check off to meet in order for the Fund to appear on tax forms in the following year. This year the California Sea Otter Fund needs to reach $283,775.
So, please help sea otters in California during this tax season. They are dependent on any contribution you can make. Just seek out line 410 on your California Tax income form and give as little as $1.
You can find out more information on the California Sea Otter Fund and how the money has been used in the past by clicking here. Spread the word to your California tax-paying friends that they can help sea otters too. Thanks!
Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director, Friends of the Sea Otter
Friends of the Sea Otter, 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. Friends of the Sea Otter is committed to and advocates for the conservation of sea otters and the preservation of their habitat through education, research, and policy decisions that will ensure the long-term survival of this species.
Well hello, 2015! It is with open arms and optimistic minds that we welcome a new year, and all that will be good in it. There is so much for us to look forward to as we turn our eyes to the promise of a fresh start. Maybe you have new goals, new dreams, or new plans that will make 2015 an exceptionally good year. Or maybe, it will be something entirely unexpected that will make this year special.
At Endangered Species Chocolate, we are looking forward to another year of opportunity to do good things. Using good ingredients to make good food for a good cause…..well, you get the drift. And speaking of all things good, this year on the blog, I will be posting monthly recipes using chocolate in all types of ways. While some will be a tad more indulgent than others, this month we are going to “be good” with a healthy treat that will let you have your chocolate, and eat it too! Enjoy the recipe, and put your own unique spin on it. Here’s to a healthy, happy, you know it’s coming………good year!
Chocolate “Truffle” Banana Bites
Ingredients and supplies
• 3 or 4 ripe bananas
• 3 to 4 Endangered Species Chocolate 72% Smooth Dark chocolate bars
• Parchment or Wax Paper
For the “cream” filling
• 8 oz light organic cream cheese
• 8 oz light organic vanilla greek yogurt
• 1-2 tablespoons of honey (or preferred sweetener)
Optional ingredients for fun combinations and twists
• Smooth Almond or Peanut Butter
• Black Cherry Preserves (or preferred flavor)
• Sea Salt
• Almond Pieces
• Vanilla Wafers
• Fine ground espresso
• Chill all the ingredients in the refrigerator for at least two hours, up to overnight.
• Slice bananas into ¼ inch thick coins and arrange flat on parchment or wax paper.
• Mix cream cheese, yogurt and honey in a mixer fitted with a paddle until smooth.
• Begin assembling banana “sandwiches”. Put a dollop of cream filling or optional filling (like preserves, almond butter) on a slice of banana, and top with another slice.
Tips for alternate fillings: If using preserves and almond butter in one (hello pb & j!), put preserves on one slice and almond butter on another. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour before combining the two so that they do not slide off of one another. If making a cookie sandwich, place banana slice on flat side of cookie, dollop with cream filling, and top with another cookie.
• Chill all the banana sandwiches for at least two hours in the freezer.
• Before removing from the freezer, melt chocolate bars in the microwave, heating 30 seconds at a time to guard against scalding.
• For ease of application, 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening can be adding to the chocolate, if preferred (this will make the chocolate thinner and easier for dipping).
• When the chocolate is melted, remove the sandwiches from the freezer.
Cinnamon option: I chose to toss the cream filled ones in cinnamon before dipping them in chocolate. If you are making several types, do this last as the cinnamon flavor will be left in the chocolate.
• Using a fork or spoon, dip the banana sandwiches in chocolate, tapping on the side of the bowl before placing on a fresh sheet of parchment or wax paper. The will harden quickly, so top immediately with sea salt (almond butter sandwiches), espresso (cream filled, think tiramisu!), or almonds (black cherry filled)
• Once finished, place the completed sandwiches back in the freezer to harden.
Best when served chilled, these tasty treats are a great punch of potassium and heart healthy flavanols!
Finding a gift that is meaningful for the people you love can be a challenge. Here are some great gifts that give back to some very important causes!
CELEBRATE THE SEA…
6 out of 7 species of sea turtles around the world are threatened or endangered. Wrap up something that will help save turtle hatchlings. Each $1 raised saves at least one turtle hatchling! Browse Billion Baby Turtle’s Holiday Gift Guide and find the perfect gift.
My pick? The 25 Baby Turtle Adoption Packet – it includes a Billion Baby Turtles bracelet from Pura Vida Bracelets! OMgoodness! $25
Sea otters, though protected, remain vulnerable to threats such as oil spills, pollution, and entrapment in fishing gear. Like a good friend, Friends of the Sea Otter advocates for the protection and preservation of sea otters. Support their mission by becoming a member.
My pick? The Sea Otter Pup Bundle because it includes an adorable set of stationary. $50
A GIFT FOR AFRICA…
African Wildlife Foundation is committed to ensuring the wildlife and wild lands of Africa endure forever. These folks do amazing work. Become a member and receive the gift of pride that you’re making a difference for elephants, rhinos, lions and more!
My pick? 16-month calendar with stunning photos of African wildlife – I’d be reminded of my good deed all year long! $25 and up membership
BEES ON EARTH…
A gift benefiting The Xerces Society helps harness the knowledge of scientists and enthusiasm of citizens to protect invaluable insect populations worldwide. Shop their store to find a fitting gift for the bee and butterfly lover on your list.
My pick? Pollinator Habitat sign. It’s like a “Welcome Home” sign for pollinators to hang in the backyard. Great gift for a gardener. $25
SUPPORT A SANCTUARY…
Chimp Haven offers a safe environment and daily care that enables chimps formerly used in medical research or entertainment industries to live the rest of their lives peacefully. Chimp Haven offers many ways to contribute to their cause; find your favorite way to help on their website.
My pick? As a form of enrichment, Chimp Haven offers its chimpanzees the opportunity to paint. This print by Brent would look great in my home office! $20
And of course, you simply can’t go wrong with a gift of chocolate. Especially when it benefits wildlife conservation! Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of net profits annually to nonprofits like African Wildlife Foundation and The Xerces Society.
My pick? Endangered Species Chocolate Holiday Bars – these flavors are only around for a limited time so I snag them while I can. My favorite is the Dark Chocolate with Peppermint Crunch! $2.99
Yes, yes, yes! The Holiday Bars are here! And with their arrival comes a conundrum – which one to try first. They’re only around for a limited time so there’s no time to dilly dally. Luckily, we’re here to help. To discover which one we think you should unwrap first, pick a word below that best sums up your feelings about the holiday season!
-Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Chai-
Curl up in your favorite spot with a warm beverage and savor bite after delicious bite of dark chocolate blended with a mixture of warm, holiday spices. A perfect way to set the mood for contemplating the meaning of the season.
-Dark Chocolate with Peppermint Crunch-
The burst of peppermint aroma and delightfully crunchy cocoa nibs will instantly put you in the holiday spirit and give you an energetic boost to tackle your holiday to-do list!
-Dark Chocolate with Pumpkin Spice & Almonds-
It’s a flavor that sends a signal to your brain that the holidays are here! Nibble a bar while you plan a month’s worth of epic events that spread good cheer and enhance everyone’s holiday celebration.
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.
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