Category Archives: Economics

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Coconut Cream Frosting (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Good day, everyone! I hope that this blog finds you well. I am truly appreciating the weather today, such a bright and sunny day, which is a welcome relief from all of the wind and rain we had this past week. The apples I have been purchasing at the local farm have been outstanding, so much so that I have not baked with apples yet this season because SensitiveHusband and I keep eating them before there is any chance of making a muffin or sauce. The carrots, however, I managed to snag for a cake (more on that in a moment). carrot cake cupcakes

Speaking of cake, have you ever eaten “too many slices of suboptimal, day-old cake,” which then inspired you to figure out how best to slice a cake so as not to expose the remains to the air and get dried out? No? To tell you the truth, I hadn’t thought much of it either. Yet this issue has been pondered for well over a century. In 1906 Sir Francis Galton, a British mathematician, discussed the scientific principles of cutting a cake in a letter written to the journal Nature. Galton, who was a first cousin to Charles Darwin, notes that instead of cutting a cake into wedges, you should cut the cake down the middle and remove a thin slice, then push the cake back together, which seals the cake back up. Galton goes a step further and suggests wrapping a rubber band around the outside of the cake to guarantee that no air dries out the baked good. He, who discovered regression to the mean, perhaps only ate cakes with fondant frosting – because I fear the effects of a rubber band wrapped around a luscious buttercream.

Need to see this to believe it? There is an excellent video demonstration by Alex Bellos – check it out here. And see if it convinces you that a wedge slice may not be the only option for parsing out dessert.

Since I continue to think of cake, I will share with you a recipe I made recently for my SIL’s (sister-in-law) birthday. This carrot cake was inspired by a fabulous recipe found in Elana’s Pantry. I chose to sweeten the cake with honey and I used grapeseed oil for the fat. I also crushed the walnuts and baked them into cupcakes. My notes are included in the recipe below. And then I topped them off with a maple coconut cream frosting! I again was inspired by Elana’s Pantry, although I sweetened the frosting with maple syrup, which paired so nicely with the flavors.

Still not sure how you want to slice a cake? No worries, just bake cupcakes!!

CARROT CAKE – INGREDIENTS
3 cups blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup honey (or agave nectar)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

PREPARATION
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey (or agave nectar) and oil
Stir carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients
Stir wet ingredients into dry
Place batter into 24 cupcake tins with liners (or 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans)
Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes (35 minutes for cakes)
Cool to room temperature and spread with frosting

MAPLE COCONUT CREAM FROSTING - INGREDIENTS
1 cup coconut milk (in a can)
1 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
5 teaspoons arrowroot powder
3-5 tablespoons water
1¼ cup coconut oil

PREPARATION
In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, maple syrup and salt, simmer for 10 minutes
In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and water to form a smooth paste
Pour arrowroot mixture into saucepan
Whisk vigorously to combine, then bring to a boil, briefly, until shiny
Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil with a hand blender (or mixer)
Allow pot to cool for 10 minutes
Place pot in refrigerator for 45-120 minutes, until frosting solidifies
Remove from refrigerator and blend again with a hand blender (or mixer), until fluffy
Spread over cake or cupcakes

Chickpea Soup – One Way to Manage Your Produce Budget

Chickpea SoupRecently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected that the lasting drought in California could have “large and lasting effects” on fruit and vegetable prices. Since California produces almost half of all U.S.-grown fruits and vegetables, their weather has budget implications for us all over the country. Experts are estimating that consumers will have to pay as much as 10% to 15% more this year for fresh produce than we paid in 2013.

A March 12 Hartford Courant article includes a host of ways to trim your grocery budget. One way to lower your expenditures is to use canned or frozen produce, which is something I tend to forget about doing. However, many supermarket brands offer organic options and low-sodium options, which are two of the main reasons why consumers avoid them. And then I thought about a chickpea soup that I just tried, inspired by a recipe in Martha Stewart Living from November 2013, and realized that this dish is a keeper for a few reasons. It was quite delicious, only took about 10 minutes to prepare, and was relatively inexpensive to create. This is a winning combination in my book! I omitted the garlic crisps and red pepper flakes, and substituted asiago cheese for parmesan. So if the higher produce prices start to pinch at your wallet, consider trying this chickpea soup as a tasty alternative that uses canned beans.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cans (about 15 ounces each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth (homemade if you have it)
1 cup water
Coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Finely shredded parmesan (or asiago) cheese

Preparation:
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic, season with salt and pepper. Cook until oil is infused and garlic is just beginning to color (do not let brown), 2 to 3 minutes.

Add chickpeas to oil in pot, increase heat to medium-high, and cook until heated through and creamy, about 5 minutes. Smash some of the chickpeas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Add broth and water; simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide soup among 4 bowls. Top with parsley and cheese.

Cheer Up with Maple Syrup – and a Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hi everyone! I hope that you are enjoying (or at least tolerating) the snowy and cold winter weather. Sensitive Husband and I have been busy stimulating the economy by purchasing real estate and a number of various services that go along with it. I must say, based on our recent house-buying experience, that the housing market is beginning to pick up, although slowly. The number of buyers is increasing, although some service providers are still clambering for work. For example, mortgage brokers, real estate appraisers, painters, and repairmen are more than happy to hear about a new house sale, and are available to help at a moment’s notice, which is not the case when the housing market is strong. Needless to say, most of my free time lately has been focused on choosing paint colors instead of trying new recipes. However, spring is almost here, and I am looking forward to more cooking and baking in a new kitchen!

If you have been down in the dumps because of the cold winter, cheer up because spring is a mere three weeks away. Late winter is also a wonderful time of year because the maple sugaring season is typically in February and March. Once the temperature reaches above freezing, pressure develops in the tree and causes the sap to flow out of the taps created by the sugar makers. Then with colder temperatures below freezing, suction inside the tree pulls in water to make more sap. When the fluctuations in temperature lessen, the sap stops flowing. This period of sap flow usually falls within early March to mid April. This year the maple sugaring season will be on the later side because the temperatures have been so cold.

According to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, sap is boiled to evaporate water and to concentrate sugar. The quality of syrup is affected by the particular season, time of season the sap is collected, and how it is processed. The top quality syrups contain about 66% sugar.

Since we received a sampler of maple syrups as a gift, Sensitive Husband and I decided to conduct a taste test of all of the grades since we did not know much about the differences among them. The Grade B maple syrup was the darkest in color and had a rich, smoky taste. The Grade A Medium Amber variety was also quite good, and had slightly smoky and slightly buttery flavors. Grade A Dark Amber was also delicious, with buttery and maple flavors. And the Fancy grade was excellent with even stronger butter and maple flavors. Our taste experiment yielded positive results, in that we enjoyed all of the options! I think Grade B would be best for baking, and the Grades A and Fancy would be good for both baking and pouring over breakfast treats. The trick is to make sure that the maple syrup you purchase is pure, with no added sugars or preservatives, to get the best taste.

So now that we finally familiarized ourselves with various grades of maple syrup, the labels of the grades are about to change. The Grade B label will be eliminated, and the grades will explain more about the taste. Maple syrup producers will be required to use them starting in 2015, although consumers will probably start seeing them this year:

Golden Maple Syrup with a Delicate Taste: light to more pronounced golden colour and a delicate or mild taste

Amber Maple Syrup with a Rich Taste: light amber colour and a rich or full-bodied taste

Dark Maple Syrup with Robust Taste: dark color and a robust or strong taste

Very Dark Maple Syrup with a Strong Taste: very strong taste, generally recommended for cooking

According to the International Maple Syrup Institute, 2013 produced a bumper crop of maple syrup in most areas with the production of lighter syrups being most common. Total production of maple syrup for 2013 in Canada and the U.S. combined was estimated at 170 million pounds, with about 120 million pounds being produced in Quebec.

Skillet Chocolate Chip CookieMaple syrup is a fabulous natural sweetener, and can be substituted for cane sugar in most recipes as a 1:1 swap. I substituted maple syrup for the sugar in this recipe for a skillet chocolate chip cookie in the October 2013 Everyday Food magazine. This cookie is delicious and can be made in just a few minutes. I hope that you enjoy finding many ways to use this delicious natural sweetener.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or maple sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter, maple syrup, and sugar with a spoon. Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flours, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chips. Transfer to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; smooth top.

Bake until cookie is golden brown and just set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

Cinnamon Applesauce is Fit for Fine Dining or Casual Dinners

Greetings everyone! I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season. Even though I have not blogged much lately, I have continued to bake and cook – some old favorites as well as some new creations. I hope that you have had a chance to do what you enjoy as well.

The U.S. Census has put together an interesting collection of facts about the holiday season. I was surprised to learn that more than one half of the potatoes produced in the U.S. come from two states – Idaho and Washington. Also, it is estimated that the value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2012 across the nation was more than $39 billion. In terms of mail, almost 15 billion pieces of mail is expected to be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve by the U.S. Postal Service. The busiest mailing day was December 16, and December 18 was the busiest delivery day. I think it’s fascinating to think about all of the ways that holiday preparations affect the economy.

I have been collecting some statistics of my own. Thanks to all of you who gave an opinion in my last poll – how do you like to enjoy apples and pears? Nearly 30% of the respondents enjoy these fruits just the way they are, with no alterations necessary. Approximately 20% of the respondents enjoy the pie variety, and another 20% prefer them in tart form. So I think that many of you will enjoy this very easy recipe for Cinnamon Applesauce, because it tastes very fresh and similar to pie filling.

applesauce1Start with about 12 apples. I like using Macouns because they are crisp and sweet, but you can use your favorite variety for the applesauce. The most time-consuming part of the applesauce process is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. However, if you have a trusty Apple Corer-Slicer-Peeler, then this step takes about five minutes. If you enjoy making applesauce or any other apple recipe, you will enjoy cooking even more if you have this great gadget.

applesauce2After the apples are peeled, cored, and sliced, place them in a large skillet or saucepan, and cook on medium high heat until the desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Since my apples were sliced rather thinly, and I prefer the end result to be a chunky applesauce, the cooking time was about 20 minutes. However, it can take 30-45 minutes if you have large slices and prefer smooth applesauce.

applesauce3Once you have the desired consistency, stir in 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. The approximately two cups of applesauce is now ready to eat, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

I find applesauce to be a very comforting and satisfying accompaniment to my dinners, especially meals that involve pork roast. I hope that you enjoy this dish too, fit for either a fancy dinner or a regular one.

Speaking of comforting foods, what is your favorite comfort food? This question is the subject of my latest poll, which can be found on the middle of my blog’s home page. To respond to the poll, simply choose one answer from the list (or write in your own) and click ‘vote.’ You will then see how your answer compares to the ones already recorded. I am interested to see what will be the favorite comfort food!

Fresh Pear and Fig Muffins – and Sugar Free Too

Pear Fig MuffinsHello, everyone! I hope that you are enjoying a beautiful day. The weather forecast predicted clouds and rain yet we have sun and a warm temperature. I am keeping myself busy with a bit of baking rather than thinking of decreasing my estimates for GDP growth due to the federal government shutdown.

Early fall is a good time to use fresh pears and the last of the season of fresh figs. If you can’t find fresh figs in the grocery store, a dried version will also be good in this recipe. If you prefer an alternate dried fruit, apricots or raisins would work well too. My inspiration was Five and Spice’s version of Pear and Fig Morning Muffins since the pictures looked delicious. I substituted the all purpose flour with a combination of whole wheat and oat, swapped the butter with canola oil, added some cinnamon, and used plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. Yes, these ingredients worked out very well together. Hopefully our federal legislators will work together soon too.

If you have not yet answered my current survey, please do since economists really thrive on analyzing survey results. Just visit my homepage and in two clicks you can provide an opinion to your favorite way of enjoying apples and pears, along with seeing the current tally of results. Thanks!

Ingredients:
4 Tbs. canola oil
1/3 cup figs, finely chopped (either fresh or dried)
1 small-medium pear, ripe but still firm, finely chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbs. honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. yogurt

Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a small-medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl whisk together the honey, egg, and egg yolk for a couple of minutes, until the color lightens. Then whisk in the canola oil until well combined. Finally whisk in the yogurt.

Pour in the dry ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped fruits on top of the batter. Stir just enough to mix it in, then stop.

Use 2 spoons to drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into the lined muffin tins.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

Sugar and Gluten Free PB&J Cookies

PB&J CookiesHappy Labor Day weekend everyone! The U.S. Census has posted a range of statistics to celebrate the holiday. For instance, in 2012 the largest occupation was retail salesperson; while in 1910 the largest occupation was farmer. The first observance of Labor Day was in 1882 when about 10,000 workers gathered in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the U.S., and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.”

I hope that you are enjoying the long weekend. It’s always nice to have an extra day to relax and to enjoy a range of activities, which for me includes baking. For some of you it may mean back to school, which in my case includes memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Perhaps my thoughts around this time of year inspired me to try a version of Jack Deen’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies that I noticed in the September 2, 2013 edition of People Magazine.

I removed the two types of sugar and substituted with coconut palm sugar and honey. I used my cane sugar free brand of strawberry jam, and also tried some with chocolate chips, as the middle garnish. I hope you like this sugar free version of a very tasty cookie.

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tbs honey
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam* (or chocolate chips^)

*St. Dalfour is a great brand of jam without cane sugar
^Endangered Species makes chocolate bars that are gluten and refined sugar free that you can cut into chunks

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat peanut butter, sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of batter on a parchment paper-ined baking sheet. Flatten dough with a fork. Make a 1/2 inch indentation in the center of each cookie using your thumb. Spoon 1/2 tsp jam (or chocolate chips) into each thumbprint.
3. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Makes 12 cookies.

Chocolate Beet Cake

Good day everyone! We are in the middle of our second week of our community-supported agriculture (CSA) program with a local farm. Each week, we pick up one box (a half share) of fresh produce. At this point in the season, our box has been bursting with greens including spinach, lettuce, kale, and collard greens. It’s exciting to discover what is in the box each week and a fun challenge to use all of the fresh ingredients in interesting ways. The CSA program works well for a farm because there is a consistent demand for the produce, and the program also benefits a household because the prices are lower than what is seen at the grocery store. If you are willing to try a variety of vegetables, a CSA is a fun and economical option.

This week we received two vegetables that we do not eat that often but are such a treat when we do: kohlrabi and beets. I roasted kohlrabi during the week with olive oil and asiago cheese…click here for my simple recipe. Roasted beets are also delicious as an accompaniment to a meal; however, they can also be turned into a sweet and healthy dessert!

chocolate beet cakeI found this recipe from The Simple Lens for Chocolate Beet Cake for Two. I immediately liked the recipe because it did not use any refined sugars and was vegan, which appeals to a number of my friends. I swapped lemon juice for vinegar to keep the acidity level the same. In addition, the yield is two small cakes, which is a nice option for a household that does not want a large amount of cake sitting in the kitchen, tempting people to eat it. This dessert is rich and satisfying and very chocolatey, without being heavy. The beets lend a subtle sweetness to the taste and a soft raspberry hue to the cake. Try this for a fun treat with some fresh beets. You will enjoy it!

Ingredients
For Cake:
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons applesauce (unsweetened)
1/3 cup beet puree (1-2 medium-sized beets)

For Chocolate Ganache:
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons (unsweetened almond) milk
4 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)

Preparation:
1. Prep beet puree: cook beet(s), let cool, process into puree in food processor.
2. Sift together dry ingredients (salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, cocoa.)
3. Combine wet ingredients (lemon juice, vanilla, applesauce, maple syrup, water, beet puree).
4. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
5. Divide mixture between 2 well-greased ramekins.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (or until skewer pulls back clean). Let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from ramekin. (Or just eat right out of it!)
7. Prep ganache: bring milk just to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and syrup.Continue stirring until chips are fully melted.
8. Plate up: Pour delicious, melty ganache over beet cake and serve. Makes 2 (ramekin-sized) cakes.

I am sharing my recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Exclusive! Interview with Owner of Chocholistic

Greetings, everyone! A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kenzie Harrick, a nutrition counselor and owner of a new chocolate company, Chocholistic, and sampling some of the creations. First of all, the chocolate is delicious! It has a creamy texture and satisfies my sweet tooth. In addition, the chocolate is Organic, Raw, Vegan, Non-GMO; and free from Sugar, Nuts, Soy, Corn, Wheat, Gluten, and Dairy. Wow!

I had the chance to ask Kenzie some questions about how she creates these healthy chocolates and her plans for the business. I think you will enjoy reading about this healthy chocolate.

How did your 2011 trip to Costa Rica inspire you to create Chocholistic?
My trip to Costa Rica really opened me up to the power of possibility and the power of ingredients.

When I went to Costa Rica to study with David Wolfe, I had just made a big career move by leaving my job as a Program Manager and Chef for a Raw Detox Center. When I left for that trip, I was really hoping it would give me some spiritual insight into what my next move would be. Chocolate was never in the picture. Until of course, I got there.

The retreat center I stayed at had a raw cacao bar in the middle of their tropical jungle. After seeing how everyone organized their day around trips to the cacao bar, and learning from David Wolfe about the powers of combining superfoods and chocolate, I fell in love with the idea of “chocolate as the answer” to health concerns.

When I got home, I started experimenting in the kitchen with different combinations of herbs and superfoods until my friends and family were pretty hooked. When I had the opportunity to sell them at a local event, I jumped on it, and Chocholistic has snow-balled from there.

What is one of the best outcomes to starting your own business? What is a challenge?
The best outcome of starting Chocholistic has been waking up in the morning passionate about what I do. I believe I’m creating a product that can help people. When you focus on that potential, you push yourself to make it the best. When you rise to the occasion and start seeing your vision unfold, you feel really empowered. And that gives you confidence to make the next bold move.

Of course there are challenges everyday: Having enough chocolate in the fridge, shipping in 100 degree heat, designing retail packaging, being behind schedule… But you have to have patience with the process of creating something you’re proud of and know when to throw yourself in high gear and just figure it out.

What is your creative process in developing new flavors for the chocolate?
When it came time to create new flavors for Chocholistic there were two main questions that led the way of the creative process:

What are the conventional truffle flavors that everyone is familiar with? And what are the most interesting, powerful superfoods everyone needs to be eating?

I enjoy the challenge of combining powerful health foods with delicious (also healthy) chocolate. I also love the challenge of allowing those superfoods to make the chocolate taste better: Like the smokiness of reishi mushroom, the tartness of goji berries, or the crunch of chia seeds. Chocholistic is complex; it’s rich. You take a bite and you feel it. Understanding how Chocholistic is supposed to FEEL helped me develop how the new flavors would taste.

In addition to being available online, one of your short-term goals is to have some stores selling your chocolate by September (hooray!). How do you get your product to retail outlets?
One of the biggest tools in reaching a larger market has been helping people know the power of Chocholistic Chocolate. It’s unlike most products out there… And that’s exciting for chocolate lovers and retail stores. Of course with a new product you start small: local markets and smaller health food stores.

I think it will be about sitting down with the shop owners and communicating how special a product it is and asking them to give it a shot on their shelves. There’s a need for thoughtful, healthy, delicious food. And so far I’ve gotten great feedback.

What is one long-term (1-3 years) goal for your company?
This question is fun! Chocholistic is in its infancy, so retail packaging and consistent online reach have been the goals so far. But looking forward, I want Chocholistic to be known in the national market. I think “health food” has been smaller, niche products and it’s time for everyone to know about really good food. I want people to EXPECT superfoods. I want people to know the importance of Non-GMO and Raw Nutrition and not feel like they have to search to find it. We live in a time where good food needs to stand up for itself. The best way to do that is to make it fun to eat. I think that gives Chocholistic the green-light for growth :)

Is there anything else you would like to share with this refined-sugar free blog community?
It means a lot to me that people get to learn about my journey as it’s unfolding. Everything is new and exciting, which means there will be a lot going on in the next six months. Please join me on Facebook or via our Chocholistic Newsletter. At the very least, live with passion today and be confident in every decision you make. Namaste.

Breaking News: Dessert Poll Results, Bite Taken out of Cookie Price Index, Favorite Flavor Survey

Happy June everyone! Or perhaps not so happy after yesterday’s unexpected jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor. Analysts were disappointed to see that only 69,000 jobs were created nationwide in the month of May and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2%. This information shows that the nation’s economy continues to recover ever so slowly from the recession that ended more than two years ago.

However, there is a glimmer of hope, particularly for economists who also like to bake cookies. I just calculated the 2012 Q2 SensitiveEconomist Cookie Price Index, which shows a drop of 17% from the previous quarter. Thanks to decreases in the prices for organic whole wheat flour, agave nectar, and grain sweetened chocolate chips, the price to bake a batch of my chocolate chip cookies declined from $13.37 to $11.40. The only ingredient that saw an increase in price (of 4%) was the local honey.

This price index result is running contrary to the latest U.S. consumer price food index, which saw a 0.2% increase in March. However, if we take a deeper look at the components of the U.S. index, there are similarities. The U.S. index saw prices for fruits and vegetables, cereals, nonalcoholic beverages, meats and eggs, and other miscellaneous items all increase – yet those foods (except for the eggs) are not included in the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies. The U.S. food index component that saw a decrease was dairy – which is included in my recipe as butter. The U.S. index does not track the prices of many organic or natural ingredients like agave nectar – so that is why the indices diverge.

Speaking of cookies…thanks to everyone who participated in my dessert poll, either at the CTVegFest or online. I tallied the 54 responses and have declared that Ice Cream is the favored dessert of the respondents, garnering 25% of the votes. This was followed by Cookies with 19%, Brownies with 15%, and Pie with 13%. For all of you ice cream lovers, there are two good recipes on this blog: one that requires an ice cream maker (Peach Ice Cream) and one that does not (Banana Chocolate “Ice Cream”). These are great to try as summer gets into full swing.

Now it is time for a new survey question: what is your favorite dessert flavor? Please participate by visiting my blog’s home page, clicking on your favorite dessert flavor, and clicking “vote.” Is chocolate really the king of dessert flavors? Or will strawberry, mint, or another fine flavor win in the end? I look forward to seeing what emerges from the data.