As you stand in the chocolate aisle of the grocery store, have you ever stopped to think about the story behind each bar?
Knowing that your choice of chocolate has a positive impact on the farmers who cultivated the cocoa beans can sweeten the entire experience. When choosing your favorite treat, make sure it is one that combines pleasure with purpose. Here are three things you might not know about chocolate, and how each one could impact your decision in the candy aisle:
1. The cocoa industry affects over 5 million small holder cocoa farmers around the world. The majority of cocoa is grown on small farms operated by independent farmers in developing countries in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Your choice in the chocolate aisle can go a long way toward supporting these households: DOVE Chocolate partners with CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. This partnership powers the development of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs): savings-led, community-based programs that allow members, such as cocoa farmers and their families, to support each other with low-interest loans and savings plans. The loans help cocoa farming households access capital to improve their farming practices, expand and diversify their businesses, and invest in education and health for their families and enrich their local community.
2. Fifty percent of cocoa farming activities are completed by women, yet women rarely benefit from cocoa-related income. While women play a key role in cocoa farming, many of them do not receive the income benefits they deserve. The VSLA initiative provides women with ways to save money and access small loans. In turn, women in cocoa farming communities can increase productivity on their cocoa farms and even achieve greater equality with their male counterparts. Within the past year, female representation in VSLAs has risen to 80 percent, and many members have increased their initial investments by 58 percent since joining a VSLA.
3. Cocoa is produced by farming households in developing African countries who often lack affordable financial services, according to CARE. Rural Africans have been forced to use whatever high-cost lenders are available in their area. By choosing chocolate that supports VSLA programs, you’re helping women in cocoa growing communities find a safe and community-supported way to access loans and put their money into savings. What’s more, these programs have further evolved with the linkage of many VSLAs and their members to formal Micro-Finance Institutions (MFI). This linkage gives VSLA members opportunities to access more modern financial tools that can increase profitability.
“Today’s consumers are savvy in that they are increasingly conscientious about their impact on the world based on their purchase decisions,” says Leslie Philipsen, Brand Director, DOVE Chocolate. “For example, we are finding that people appreciate knowing that their favorite brands stand behind real commitments to the people who create the products they know and love, and are doing what they can to help them succeed. That’s why we continue to partner with CARE to positively impact thousands of women in the cocoa growing communities of Cote d’Ivoire through the VSLA program.”
“We know when a woman joins a VSLA, her involvement creates ripples of positive change that extend past herself to include the people in her community,” says Marcela Hahn, Executive Director of CARE’s Strategic Partnerships team. “VSLAs are about more than giving women financial opportunities. They are about transformation. We are honored to stand in partnership with DOVE Chocolate, changing the lives of thousands of women and their families in Cote d’Ivoire.”
From now through August 18, DOVE Chocolate will donate $1 to CARE for every purchase of specially marked DOVE Chocolate PROMISES at CVS Pharmacy locations. To learn more about the effort, visit www.dovechocolate.com.
A Hidden Cavern for Cheese Lovers
Down the illuminated walkway under Czech crystal chandeliers, past the ornate Chinoiserie banquettes and the bustling activity of the open kitchen, and through a weighty glass door, lies a hidden temple for cheese aficionados. Decked in warm wood furnishings and cool marble, the Caprice cheese cellar at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is a decadent home where 25 to 30 cheeses nestle together on a bed of straw amid jars of homemade jam. The history of French cheese can be found in a deep inhalation revealing myriad aromas from earth and mushrooms to flowers to grass.
When it was founded in 2010, the Caprice cheese cellar was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Today it is perpetually stocked with a collection of cow, sheep and goats’ milk cheeses, almost exclusively unpasteurised. It is believed that unpasteurised, or raw milk, makes the perfect nurturing ground for probiotics. These living tiny allies endlessly evolve, contributing to the unique nuances of the curds – the same cheese could taste different from one day to the next.
To ensure cheeses mature properly, a highly-controlled environment to maintain a specific temperature and humidity is essential to create a fine habitat. At Caprice, a team of three are dedicated to keep the cheese vault under 10°C and between 66 and 70 percent moisture level.
Stephane Rabot, Director of Caprice, believes not all cheeses are created equal. To build a gourmet haven with local specialties, Caprice flies in artisanal cheeses from France twice every week. Contrasting with milder-flavoured mass-manufactured cheeses, every handcrafted cheese served not only offers more complexity in taste and variety, but also embraces a story behind each cheese.
Among the mimolette and brillat-savarin rests a noble variety: the comté matured for at least 36 months. Made in wheels and discs, only the premium can continue to mature beyond 24 months, a rare 5 out of 1000 wheels. In hard and flexible texture, the maturing period fills each bite with crispy calcium crystals. Sweet and nutty with notes of dried fruits gives each bite a sharp and long lasting aftertaste.
The art of a complete cheese tasting experience demands further skills beyond the quality of cheeses. In Caprice, diners can expect a knowledgeable team for a personalised sensory journey. The only challenge is to decide between pairing with a drizzle of sweet honey or a yellow wine gelée.
Whether it is a tangy roquefort or a crumbly comté, who can resist?
5 reasons to snack on strawberries
The perfect snack needs to check off three boxes: It should be filling enough to get you to your next meal, provide nutrition that fits into your balanced diet, and satisfy cravings, whether sweet or savory. Not an easy task, but juicy California strawberries are up for the challenge.
“Strawberries are an ideal snack because not only do they taste great, they’re also heart-healthy and an anti-inflammatory food,” says Manuel Villacorta, registered dietitian and author of Flat Belly 365. “I love to pair strawberries with yogurt, peanut butter on rice crackers, or cottage cheese. Strawberry smoothies are also a favorite.”
Naturally sweet, yet low in sugar
Many people get the urge to graze around that 3 o’clock slump. By reaching for something that has natural sweetness, you can fulfill that craving without excess calories and sugar. In fact, one serving of eight strawberries has only 50 calories and eight grams of sugar.
Bursting with nutrients
Another reason to love strawberries? “The combination of flavonoids, antioxidants and fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels,” Villacorta says. “Plus, strawberries are full of potassium, which can help manage blood pressure and prevent strokes.” Strawberries don’t stop there; a single serving has more vitamin C than an orange.
Boost your brain
According to a study in the Annals of Neurology, eating strawberries at least twice per week may delay cognitive aging by two and a half years, which includes improvement in memory and motor function. Add in a daily sudoku or crossword puzzle and you’re on your way to a sharper mind!
Great for diabetes management
Nutrient-packed strawberries are a great option for those with diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association lists strawberries as a top superfood for diabetic meal plans. “The anthocyanins found in strawberries may help improve insulin resistance, which means you can regulate blood glucose better,” according to Villacorta.
Snacks anyone will love
Both kids and adults love a good strawberry snack. Try a strawberry oat bar, peanut butter yogurt dipped strawberries, strawberry almond butter snackwich or even strawberry turkey pinwheels to switch things up in your afternoon routine. From quick and kid-friendly to fancy appetizers, visit CaliforniaStrawberries.com for snacks perfect for all ages and occasions.
Snacking can be fun for the whole family with bright colors, simple recipe ideas, unexpected flavor combinations and a little creativity. And if your snacks are full of vital nutrients and health benefits, even better!
What are you waiting for? Pick up some strawberries and get snacking today.
Lessons in Spice: Tutorials in Traditional Tastes
Designed to add a delicious cultural element to any vacation, Malaysian cooking classes at Four Seasons Resort Langkawi teach guests to distinguish local ingredients, sample aromatic spices, and discover traditional cooking techniques with its world-class chefs.
“Food is both wonderfully evocative and nourishing,” comments the Resort’s passionate Director of Food and Beverage Akshay Tripathi. “And Malay cuisine is such a pleasurable amalgamation of flavours. Our classes are designed to share the joy and ease of preparing Malaysian cuisine with guests.”
In keeping with the values of the Resort’s multi-award winning Malay restaurant, Ikan-Ikan, the Malaysian cooking class see guests using 100 per cent natural, Langkawian ingredients sourced from small local producers and nearby organic farms. As Langkawi born and bred chef explains, “It’s the only way to guarantee local, authentic flavour!”
Malaysian Cooking Class
Sampling local delicacies and home-inspired fare is an exciting holiday rite of passage. Held in either the Serai Pavilion or Ikan-Ikan Restaurant, against the backdrop of the Andaman Sea, the Resort’s two-hour cooking class reveals the secrets of Malaysia’s eclectic cuisine.
Participants get hands-on tutelage on how to prepare three traditional dishes – chicken satay and peanut gravy, prawn gulai with pineapple, and mango pudding – savouring the fruits of their labour for lunch. With step-by-step demonstrations, chefs also share invaluable preparation techniques, including how to chop onions and chillies without tears, the correct way to cut chicken, and how to distinguish fresh prawns from bad ones.
A new skill-set aside, guests also come away with an apron souvenir (printed with recipe), a full set of take-home recipes and an Art of Malaysian Cuisine certificate.
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