We have a Chocolate Festival – again?


f66585_788a9f4976f447c586ca333a5febcf3c.png_srz_p_672_225_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzCame across this the other day and at first I was flummoxed. We have a chocolate festival? Why have I not been to it before? It’s like going to Paris and not taking the scary, glass-walled elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s like seeing a sign that says wet paint and not touching it to be sure the paint has dried. Some things you just have to do.

If there’s a chocolate festival, well, this is an important thing to know about.

Then I did some research. We apparently did have a festival in conjunction with the Virginia Arts Festival in years past. We did not have one last year. That begged the question – why not?

I checked some Yelp reviews and, as I suspected, the festival was decent but not spectacular. Prices were high, vendors (some at least) were snooty. Attendance dropped. Money was not made. Thusly, last year there was no festival.

How can you mess up a chocolate festival, people? Apparently it happened. We suck.

But we can do better!

Looking at the current list of sponsors, I see some potential. Flour Child Bakery is a family-run business and it is one of the best in town. The Royal Chocolate has been a Beach favorite at the Virginia Beach Town Center since the beginning. Duck Donuts, while not my number one pick for locally-owned and freshly made donuts, is a big hit with everyone at work.

However, Fudge Brother’s Fudge? I went to their website and found it has been “suspended.” It didn’t even rate a 404 Not Found. This does not bode well.

But, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. I would give you a first hand account of the festival, but I will be spending the same week secluded up in the Shenandoah Mountains sampling fine beverages brewed by the Old Hill Cidery and Cross Keys Vineyard. But I digress. Back to the chocolate!

I’ve done my civic duty. I have passed on the information about the chocolate festival. Now it’s up to you to go! In fact, as Monty Hall would say – let’s make a deal.

If you go to the Virginia Beach Chocolate Festival – let me know how it went. You could end up as a guest blogger on Exploding Potatoes!

Think about it. A new culinary critic’s career could be launched.

Apparently not at Fudge Brother’s Fudge, though. Come on guys – let’s see what you got! Now I’m curious.

Send samples!


Dr. Lucy and the Cookies

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Have food allergies? Need to be gluten free? [Gasp] Vegan, even?

A tough road to live on, but it can be done. That said, there is one problem remaining:

Where are the cookies, right?

Of course. Who doesn’t like cookies? Everyone like cookies. Those in the UK even have a different word for them: biscuits. And I’m sure the Brits love their biscuits just as much as we love to snarf down our cookies here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Since changing my eating habits last month, I’ve lost over 20 pounds and three inches off my waist line. But nary a dessert has made it onto my plate. Alas, no cookies for this guy.

Until a few days ago.

That’s when I came across Lucy’s Cookies.”  The cookie’s namesake, Norfolk Virginia medical doctor turned cookie entrepreneur Dr. Lucy Gibney and (I presume) her daughter were at my place of business the other day, handing out samples. When I introduced myself as a gluten free/vegan person they let me know that all of their products would work for me. Wow!  All means more than one – and I don’t even have to check the label. Although I did for fun. You should, too.

The package spells it out for you: all natural; non-GMO; no peanuts, tree nuts, milk, or eggs; gluten free; zero cholesterol; and zero trans fat. But what about taste?

I have had the chocolate chip cookies, the chocolate cookies, and the ginger snap cookies so far. And the have all been great. The ginger snaps even have a tiny bit of Tabasco in them to bring out a nifty bite at the end of the crunch. Who knew? Good choice, ladies.

Full of flavor, a great crunch, wonderful aftertaste. These cookies have it all. And with 3 – 4 cookies per package, you get enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, but not too many calories – in case you are counting them.

Check the website; order some cookies! And, they are available in over 7,000 stores and specialty shops through the US and Canada. You are probably near a package right now and don’t even know it!

* Legal disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration (of any kind) from Dr. Lucy or her cookie company. The review above is based simply on my desire to have cookies that meet my dietary restriction and Lucy’s Cookies satisfying that want.

** If, by chance, Dr. Lucy would like to send me some cookies for a more comprehensive evaluation, I would be more than happy to entertain the idea.

DrLucys dot com – check it out, people. Good health and nutrition doesn’t have to be bland!

Here's the package!

Here’s the package!

Nothing Fancy – Just Cookies!

chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies on a Saturday night!

Tomorrow will bring an adventure involving homemade nann and a Provençal style Tian made with eggplant, tomatoes and onion. Tonight, however, it’s all about cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Nothing fancy. Recipe comes right off the bag of chocolate chips. If you stick with the serving size, the recipe will make 4 dozen. My cookies tend to be a little larger so we cleared 3 and a half dozen. Subtract the 6 cookies eaten during the process (don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing) and we ended up with about 36 Toll House cookies. Perfect for the church pot luck tomorrow. Who knows, maybe everyone will bring chocolate chip cookies. Well, at least one person better bring milk.

I hope you can smell them from where you are tonight. If not, you may need to make some. Remember, good food doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, it can just be – cookies!


Bananas Foster – Eastern Shore Virginia Style!


Alas, no flambé,  but given my track record for safety, this is probably a good thing.  Nonetheless – when in Cape Charles, Virginia, please visit the Brown Dog Ice Cream store. They are just opening up for the season and are offering a new menu item that has caused quite the stir in this peaceful beachfront village: the Bananas Foster Sundae.

No, not the dessert of the same name from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans – this one is similar, yet flame-less and named for the brown dog himself, Foster! Imagine a sundae with warm buttery brown sugar and rum sauce drizzled over a melee of sliced fresh banana, whipped cream and puff pastry – all atop three scoops of a vanilla-based, bananas foster-flavored ice cream. I had one last Sunday and I suddenly have a craving for another – just from typing the description. Caveat – you must be 21 years old to get the adult version. Those under 21 can receive the rum-less version, which is also mighty tasty from what others tell me!

E gads! And I am six hours away by fast car. The weekend cannot get here soon enough!

If you are visiting the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, it is worth the trip. Let me end with a photo so you can start salivating, too!

Bananas Foster Sundae at the Brown Dog in Cape Charles, Virginia

Bananas Foster Sundae at the Brown Dog in Cape Charles, Virginia

The Tao of Chocolate Chip Cookies


Perhaps you have heard of the classic Greek elements of earth, air, fire and water?  These have been long thought to be the building blocks of life as we know it.  Modern day equivalents might be WD-40, duct tape, coffee and chocolate.  But every once in a while, you come across something that transcends the ordinary, contains mystical power beyond reason, and crosses cultural and geopolitical boundaries as freely as the wind blows pollen.

I’m talking about chocolate chip cookies.

Now, I am not going to repeat the recipe I used this morning. It is printed on the back of every bag of chocolate chips made. There are slight variations to be sure, but my go-to version descends from the 1930 originator, Ruth Graves Wakefield and her Toll House Inn.  Stories vary on how her chocolate chip cookie came about, but one thing is clear – the good folks at the inn could not possible have realized how their cookie could change the world.

What do we learn by baking chocolate chip cookies?

Sure, we learn that by mixing together a few tasty ingredients, adding a little heat, and waiting for ten minutes, delicious cookies will result. But what do we really learn?

Discipline.  You can’t leave anything out. You can’t bypass a step.

Discipline – it keep you from eating the cookie dough!


Patience.  With my particular oven, set at 375 degrees F., a dozen cookies takes 10 minutes to bake properly. Any less and they are not sufficiently browned; any more and they will have that unpleasant, charred piece of firewood taste.

Patience – yes – the cookies “do” need to cool for at least a few minutes once baked. Really. You can wait.


Humility. I may think I am a smart cookie, but I doubt I could have thought up chocolate chip cookies on my own. In fact, chocolate chip cookies, in my opinion, come from heaven. Mrs. Wakefield was just the messenger, a modern day culinary prophet if you will. Perhaps she should be made a saint? Worth considering, me thinks.  This is on par with the first goat herder that decided to put coffee beans in hot water.

Love. Who remembers making cookies as a child, learning from grandma or mom? That’s love on a pan, people. And for those who did not experience that rite of passage, why not start the tradition now? (check out the next paragraph.)

Empathy. We like to eat cookies of all types, just ask the Girl Scouts. Each year, in the Spring, they sell literally tons of cookies in order to fund their programs. But we as individuals also bake cookies to simply give away. In December, millions of cookies are sent to friends and relatives (notice the distinction?) One of the best cookie giveaway programs ever involves volunteer bakers from across the land, firing up their ovens in November and December  to produce truckloads of cookies for people who are in prison. Sponsored by the Kairos Prison Ministry, this cookie giveaway program may do more for rehabilitation than any government sponsored program.

So where to from here?

Let’s see if we can harness the power of chocolate chip cookies for the side of good.  If you know someone who could use a little gift of joy, why not bake some chocolate chip cookies and send a tin to them?

Sometimes words are not enough. And as one person recently told me: sometimes it’s best to say nothing and just send cookies.

Now get baking, good people!

Don’t make war – make cookies!

Celebrate Pi Day with Chocolate Mousse Pie!


Chocolate Mousse Pie for Pi Day!

Yes, people, it is March 14th, also known as Pi Day!

What? I need to explain?

Okay, here it is: March 14th is 3-14 if you write month/day.   Pi = 3.14

Get it? I know. You thought today was just Albert Einstein’s birthday, but that’s okay.  Now you know something new!

Pi Day is a geek thing, but anything that gives me cause to eat make pie is a bona fide holiday in my book. Put it on your calendar for next year, show up to work or school with a pie, and you will be the hero for the day!

This recipe came from a wonderful website called CDKitchen. Valerie Whitmore runs the site and has personally tested thousands of the recipes. If it’s on the site, it is worth trying.

Here we go:

You will need either a 9 inch spring form pan or a 9.5 inch (24 cm) glass pie plate

You will also need, in order of appearance:

2o Oreo cookies (The original recipe calls for 2 cups. My pie plate requires a bit more.)

7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

Non-stick cooking spray

18 oz (or 4 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 egg yolks*

5 egg whites*

2 cups heavy cream

* WARNING: consuming raw eggs may cause illness. Use pasteurized egg products to ensure your food safety. I can’t tell the difference; you probably can’t either. But it beats getting salmonella.

This is what you do:

Using a food processor, crumble the Oreo cookies, creamy white centers and all.

Close the bag of Oreo cookies and put away. You know why.

Really, put the cookies away. You don’t need any right now. Think of the pie!

Put the crumbled cookies in a large bowl. Add the melted unsalted butter and stir.

Using a non-stick cooking spray, lightly coat the inside of your pan or glass plate, including the sides.

Spatulize the cookie/butter mixture into the plate and spread evenly to create a nice crust; go up as far as you can on the side. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just not too thick, and preferably even in thickness.

Place the crust in a freezer to set.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate chips. Heat the chocolate in your microwave for one minute. Stir, then heat for another minute. Stir again. This should give you a nice, melty lava flow of chocolate. If you want to heat the chocolate over a Bain-Marie instead, that’s fine, also. The nuke’er is just faster and more convenient for me.

ANOTHER WARNING: The hot, melted chocolate acts like napalm if it gets on your skin at this point so be careful. (You never know if lawyers are lurking around the Internet these days…)

Now add the egg yolks to the chocolate and stir until completely mixed.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks appear, then fold gently into the chocolate mixture.

Whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks appear, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.

Are you tired of whisking  yet? It’s okay. You are done!

Now to put it all together

Take your crust out of the freezer. Pour the chocolate mixture (technically it is a mousse now) onto the crust. Smooth out the top, making sure the mousse has evenly filled the pie plate. Refrigerate or freeze until very cool. This could take 3 – 4 hours. Less if you are hungry.

The cooler the chocolate mousse pie, the better you will like it, so try to let it rest in the icebox for at least an hour.

And stay away from those Oreo cookies while you wait.

Once thoroughly chilled, cut a piece of pie and enjoy!

Pairs well with moo juice (milk!)

Happy Pi Day!!!!

Yes! Lemon Meringue Pie for Dinner!


Lemon Meringue Pie

So my fabulous photographer, whose nickname is  “Double M,” decided she wanted a lemon meringue pie as part of her birthday dinner. While most families would put such a dish at the end of a meal, we are not most families.

Pie first!

And she even baked it! A special thanks to Double M’s grandma for the recipe, here is our version of Lemon Meringue Pie!

First – either make a plain crust or buy a plain crust. Place it in a large glass pie dish and bake it 8 to 10 minutes at 475 degrees F. Set aside to cool.

Now, the filling:

Put the following in a blender, in this order:

– juice and pulp of 4 lemons

– zest of 1 lemon

– 12 egg yolks (save the egg whites for later!)

– 2 cups of sugar

– 6 Tablespoons of corn starch

– 3 cups of hot water (water from the tap is fine as long as it’s hot)

– 4 Tablespoons flour

Blend away until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat on the stove top (medium heat) stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. Take off the stove and blend in 2 Tablespoons of butter. Stir until smooth.

Time to make the meringue!

12 egg whites (see? I told you they would come in handy!)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Put the three ingredients in a chilled metal bowl and using an electric handheld mixer with whisk attachment, beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form. You can do this by hand, but be prepared to get tired, very quickly. Just use the electric appliance. It’s okay, even for you purists!

Pour the lemon mixture into the baked pie crust. Cover with the meringue.

Bake at 400 degrees F. until peaks are a delicate brown.

Keep watch! It won’t take too long.

Once done, you should really let it cool before slicing. You can chill it, also, for excellent slicing.

We couldn’t wait, so as you can see by the picture, the slice started to fall apart a bit. But for a birthday dinner – it was perfect!!

Happy eating! And for Double M, happy birthday!!

Birthday Pie!