travel + food : cacao in ecuador

When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
— Regina Brett

When my friend and former editor of Style at Home magazine texted me and said, “Do you want to go to Ecuador and shoot a cacao story in the Amazon?” I immediately texted back and said “I am packing my bags now!”

This shoot was truly a dream come true for me - I am a super passionate about food and also about giving a hand up to people around the world. Style at Home has been a longstanding media partner with ME to WE and our Ecuadorian trip was to help highlight the introduction of ME to WE Chocolate That Changes Lives. When you purchase this award winning and super delicious chocolate it helps to provide income in WE Villages.

Our amazing cacao adventure began when I met up with the teams from Style at Home and ME to WE in Quito, Ecuador. Then another flight to Coca and a thrilling but long motorized canoe ride up the Rio Napo. We arrived at Minga Lodge just in time to see the sun set over the Amazon and fall asleep to the noises of the jungle.

I can’t even express how amazing it was to visit the cacao farms and meet the farmers. I learned so much about cacao and how chocolate is made and I’d love to share that with you!

ME to WE chocolate is made from the highly prized Cacao Fino de Aroma. known for for its fruity and flowery flavours. Once the cacao is ripe, the pods and pulp and are allowed to ferment in wooden boxes for about a week or so. Then the beans are left to dry. When completely dry, the beans can be roasted, winnowed and conched, all of which is typically done at a production facility..

We did a more rustic version by roasting our beans on an open fire, and rubbing off the thin papery shells with our hands. The nibs were hand ground into an aromatic paste and then the competition began - each of our team members were given many possible ingredients to add to our chocolate. A winner was declared after we tasted all the creations. Yum, yum. yum! The empty plates speak for themselves!

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All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
— Charles M. Schulz
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What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.
— Katherine Hepburn


yummy organic pesto

One of my favorite times of year is when my basil is ready.  Is there anything more deliciously fragrant than freshly picked basil?  Last night I went out with a huge bowl and filled it to overflowing with fresh organic basil.  I really wanted to make some pesto and was excited when I came across a vegan pesto recipe and decided to give it a try.

I love nutritional yeast (or for fellow Canadians, “good tasting yeast” ).  Some of you may not be familiar with this product – learn more here.   In this recipe the yeast substitutes for the parmesan cheese.  With fresh basil, toasted pinenuts and the yeast, honestly I couldn’t even tell the difference!  It was delicous!

I ended up with seven jars of yumminess and packaged them up for gifts – invite me over and maybe one of these will be yours . . .

More info on the benefits to nutritional yeast.