I am ever so fond of Dark Chocolate...

It first started when I was a little girl and has only continued to flourish inside me as an adult. My first exposure to Dark chocolate was out of pure sugar desperation. My great-grandparents always had mini assorted Hersey bars in a little bowl at their house. My great grandmother was an unrepentant choco-holic (as she put it) and her husband was, well just like her so it was a good match. There were 4 different kinds of bars in the assorted mix: Mr. Goodbar, Krackel, Milk chocolate, and Special Dark. Naturally everyone ate the Mr. Goodbar and Krackels first because of the peanuts and puffed rice. This left the plain old milk chocolate and special darks behind. Something is always better than nothing so I ate what was available, kipping in mind that if the bowl was empty it would once again be filled. In the true spirit of the depression era and spoiling little children’s dinner, great-grandma did not believed in empty candy dishes. I like to go to her house and it wasn’t only because we both shared a love for 70’s orange decor. It had a lot to do with the clear box she kept in the fridge that was dedicated to storing all manner of Little Debbie’s snacks. I use to think she kept them around just for the grandkids, but then I grew up and realized she was just sharing her stash.

It went from a small fancy for those Special Dark Hersey bars to a fondness for the dark chocolates in See’s candy boxes we got during the Christmas season. Then in my early college years I had started to forsake the cheap wax filled stuff and started to experiment with the finer dark chocolate items available to me. You know the kind you see rarely see near the cash register. I remember a particular favorite being a raspberry dark chocolate truffle ice cream. It was usually only consumed on a warm California summer’s night after a sweet night ride on my longboard with my good friend.

I must also give credit where it is due. During this phase of my life, my aunt Sue became my own personal chocolate Jedi master or chocolate drug lord (you pick). Every time I saw her she would ask me if I had tried a certain kind of dark chocolate, then before I could answer she would whip out a hunk of chocolate and I would swiftly lap it up. You almost needed a high speed camera to really see that there was chocolate involved in the exchange because it was that fast. Thankfully my parents and siblings also shared this love for only the finest of chocolate and it is often a part of our family get togethers.

Today I am into some pretty hard and freaky-deeky dark chocolates. My optimum cocoa content is somewhere between 72- 88% and I have to admit that I have experimented in 100% cocoa (in the form of cocoa nibs). It’s not for everyone, but I like it, so don’t judge me! Below is a list of some of my recent favorites.

  • Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar by Vosges. To those that know me well, the reasons why I was destined to love this bar are pretty clear. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed the first time I tried it because I was hoping for a stronger bacon taste. Despite my slight disappointment, I fully endorse this chocolate bar and Vosges because they specialize in unique flavors. http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/
  • Conacado & Lavender Bluebery by Dagoba. Dagoba makes many great flavors but these two are my favorites. Conacado is a dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic. The flavor is slightly earth and more robust than “normal” dark chocolates due to the regional variety and growing conditions of the cocoa beans in the Dominican Republic. The lavender bar is mild and surprisingly pleasant but admittedly more appealing to females. http://www.dagobachocolate.com/
  • All-Natural Extreme Dark Chocolate by Endangered Species. Weighing in at 88% cocoa content this mega dark bar has both a strong punch and bite so it is not for the faint of heart. Endangered species makes many flavors that I suggest trying but don’t worry their other flavors are not all this intense. My favorite thing about this brand is that the texture is incredibly smooth and melts well in your mouth, making it very pleasant on the pallet. http://www.chocolatebar.com/

From the Muddy Puddle’s tips on enjoying Dark Chocolate:

  • Buy high quality. You may end up buying candy bars ranging between $3-8, but I find when it comes to the high quality stuff, a little goes along way so it will last longer. There are many health benefits to eating dark chocolate, but in order to get any of them you probably should eat healthy high quality brand.
  • Minimize chewing and maximize savoring. Just break off a piece of chocolate and let it melt in your mouth as long as possible. It will last longer that way and leave you more satisfied so you end up eating one piece, not the whole bar, in 1-2 minutes.
  • Have a stash Dark Chocolate stash in a drawer, box or bag . . . always. I thought I would lose control and a stash wouldn’t last long but I found that when I buy the “good stuff” and make sure I am savoring it when I eat, sometimes I will forget I even have a stash. My chocolate fetishes are constantly fluctuating too. Sometimes I will be on a kick for a month, a week, a day or even just an hour. I say just go with it (as long as you, like great-grandma use some moderation).
  • A time and a place. I can enjoy dark chocolate at pretty much anytime or anyplace but here are a few of my favorites. When I was in college dark chocolate and/or one of my roommates was my study buddy of choice. I usually kept some chocolate in my backpack or desk drawer and would bribe myself to complete assignments with pieces of dark chocolate. My favorite time to try a new bar of chocolate is when I am visiting with friends and family. When I am at parties, watching movies or on long drives I like to keep my favorite chocolate bars in my purse or backpack and eat those instead. This prevents me from downing endless mounds of crap, I will regret eating later.


Homemade Cottage Cheese:

(there is an update for this post. You can find it by clicking here)

You will find that this different from store bought cottage cheese in many "wheys." Sorry there was absolutely no helping that one. The texture and flavor is richer in homemade cottage cheese and the amount of ingredients is a lot less. The texture will range anywhere from something between Greek style yogurt and ricotta cheese. The taste is a bit more cheesey and robust. I also find you don't need much of this stuff because a little goes a long way.

This is a crash course on cottage cheese making. There a many ways to make it, in fact the way I learned how to make it and the way I make it now are different. Why did I change it? Three reasons:

  1. To protect the integrity and health benefits of the raw milk by avoiding heating
  2. To make the texture and taste more pleasing
  3. Because I am just flat out lazy and I am not one for following recipes too closely in the first place

Just a warning: I am more theoretical when it comes to making food. If you want a more exact recipe you can find one online. You'll learn more by trying it a few times and by not being afraid to try things differently. The most important ingredient is 2/3 c. of CHILL OUT, It's Just Cottage Cheese. Just have fun learning how you're going to make cottage cheese. Also keep in mind that some factors can change the outcome of your cheese. For example, the type of milk, temperature, and amount of initial bacteria can all be influential factors in the outcome. Lacto-fermentation is like "The Force." It takes time learn, and you might have to run around doing back flips in a swamp with a muppet on your back, but soon you'll be a master and able to sense things that only a few can.

Below are the instructions which also include information about some of "the whys" behind what you're doing (because I like "the ways.")


  • 2-4 quarts (0.5 to 1 gal.) raw skim milk
  • Starter (optional)
  • ¼ tablet of Rennet
  • Sea Salt


  • Pot with lid or bowl and a tea towel (stainless steel or glass is best)
  • Butter muslin or Cheese cloth
  • Strainer

Step One: Skimming Raw milk

Raw milk is unhomogenized, which means the fats that make up the cream have not been altered so the cream when left standing rises to the top. Best conditions for skimming milk is

when it has been undisturbed for at least an hour and it is room temperature. I usually skim the cream with a turkey baster. If you get your raw milk in a plastic milk container just leave it on the counter undisturbed for at least an hour or more so it can separate. Carefully poke one or two small holes in the bottom of the container and collect the skimmed milk into a container. Watch the cream line and when it gets close to the seeping holes pour the cream into a separate container. Once you have removed the cream you can save it for it for making butter, whip cream, pimma cream or homemade ice cream.

Step Two: Now let's get Coagulating

Add 2-4 quarts (0.5-1 gal.) of room temperature raw skimmed milk, ¼ tablet of rennet (dissolved in 2-4 Tbs water), and Mesophyllic starter if you choose to use one into your pot with a lid. (You can also use a bowl and cover it with a tea towel if you don't have container with a lid.) Stir everything with a whisk for 1-3 minutes so the rennet gets mix in well. Cover with the lid or towel and place in a warm place out of direct sunlight where it can be undisturbed for 20-24 hours. Remember you are incubating not cooking them. They are living aerobic critters, so you

don't want to put them in a 150 F oven or in and air tight container. You just want to keep your cheese somewhere cozy and cover it enough that particles can't fall into it.

Note on Rennet: If you've ever wondered how they turn milk to a hard yummy substance called cheese, wonder no more. It's all because of the enzyme rennet which comes from the stomachs of young mammals, usually bovine or goat. You can find more information online about the history and science behind rennet. I prefer to use tablets that are animal based.

Note on Staters & Raw Milk: Raw milk from healthy grass feed cows is full of all the beneficial bacteria needed to start or culture your cottage cheese. If you are weary about raw milk, as I once was, I would enrage you read both sides of the argument. I hold a masters degree in science and was taught to objectively look at both sides of the argument, and especially look at the methods of how they assays were set up. I was truly shocked to find that much of the science opposing raw milk is based on shotty scientific assays. Not to mention that in the evolutionarily scheme of things, humans have been dependant on raw milk longer than we have been dependant on our arguments against raw milk. I argue

that the dangers of raw milk are the result of corruption by industrialization of the dairy farm. Below are links for further reading on the subject of raw milk.




"The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid, ND

Step Three: No Whey, Man!

Wait 20-24 hours and when the cheese has coagulated (becomes a soft white block floating in a sea of yellowish whey) then cut block in to squares about 1/2 inch. Best way to do this is to cut block vertically and then horizontally and not the other way around or you might rip a hole in the universe. A general rule in this phase is to be gentle and patient with the curds. If you are feeling especially aggressive and need to pummel something my suggestion is to make something else like sauerkraut or hand-kneaded bread.

Drain curds and whey (now you know what Little Miss Muffet was eating before that spider hit the scene,) by gently pouring it into a strainer lined with butter muslin or cheese cloth. You might want to use multiple layers of cloth, especially if you are using cheese cloth so that you don't lose too much of the curd. Catch the whey into bowl and set aside (see note on whey below).

The next step is to remove the excess whey from the curds. The whey can make the cottage cheese taste bitter so you will need to do a series of rinses and drains. Rinse curds with filtered water (tap water can have harsh chemicals like chlorine that are added in water to kill bacteria) and let drain. Repeat this step until the water starts to drain clear or a fogy white color (as long as it stops draining yellow then you are done rinsing). To speed the draining of the whey, gather corners of cloth and lift it up and the whey will be able to escape faster.

Note about Whey: You can save the whey and use it for cooking, lacto-fermenting or to add to smoothies. I like to store mine in jars in the fridge. Whey will keep a very long time because it contains natural preservatives like lactic acid which prevents the growth of not so good, putrefying bacteria. It also will prevent molds from growing.

Step Four: Drying the Curds

There are two options at this point. (1) Place curds in the strainer, you can leave it in the cheese cloth, and put in the fridge. Allow it to drain a few hours or overnight and then gently squeeze out rest of the water. This takes longer because cool water drains out slower, but is less trouble if it is late at night or I'm going out. (2) Leave curds in the strainer on the counter for 20-60 minutes or until the water is drained to your liking. This takes less time but you have to be home to put in fridge once it's done.

You can squeeze out any excess water by twisting the cheese into a ball while still in the muslin. Remove the curd from the cloth. You can gently break apart the cheese with a fork and add sea salt to taste. I like Redmond or Celtic sea salt best. You can eat it right away. Store in a glass air tight container and put it in the fridge.

Step Five: Now, The Fun Part

My favorite ways to eat cottage cheese:

  • Mix in fresh garden herbs like: chives, green onions, rosemary or freshly ground black pepper
  • Put it on sandwiches, wraps, on top of salid, toast, or crackers.
  • Add to the top of pizza right after it gets out of the oven.
  • The possibilities are endless, so feel free to share them.