Colombian Hot Chocolate

Mariana Zapata wrote . . . . . . . . .

As a Colombian, when I tell my American friends about drinking hot chocolate in the afternoon, they often find it weird or funny. Someone once laughed and told me in a condescending voice that drinking chocolate in the afternoon was for little kids. I’m here to tell you, Colombian hot chocolate is a completely different experience. It’s something you can enjoy at home with your roommates or family.

For most of my life growing up in the U.S., where I immigrated at the age of 10, I carried a secret shameful for any Colombian: I didn’t like hot chocolate. It wasn’t until I moved back to Colombia after graduating college, as I was trying to reconnect with the land I’d been torn from when I was 10, that something unexpected also happened: I grew to love the hot chocolate. And now, it seems like the world is ready to love it with me.

You’re probably familiar with the two most popular versions of hot chocolate: The sweet, marshmallow-topped kind you order on-the-go at Starbucks to fight off the winter cold; and the spiced Mexican hot chocolate that’s become almost as popular. But with Colombia becoming one of Latin America’s rising tourist destinations, there is a growing interest in our culture and, hence, our hot chocolate.

Colombian hot chocolate is proudly served in Colombian restaurants all over the US, and chain supermarkets in neighborhoods with large Latinx populations stock it on their shelves. The fact that I can simply go to Publix to find the dark, comfort-filled Corona tablets (I know, unfortunate name, but it’s the go-to chocolate brand in my home country) is proof that the time for our hot chocolate is here. And no, it is not the chocolate you’re probably used to.

Colombian hot chocolate is not Mexican hot chocolate

Like its Mexican counterpart, traditional Colombian hot chocolate is actually bitter, not sweet. It’s made with tablets of pure dark chocolate, and purists will still only drink it in water, not milk. With the global sweet tooth evolving, many tablets now include added sugar, and most people dissolve them in either full milk or half water, half-milk. The result is a drink so far from Americanized hot chocolate, no one would ever think of adding marshmallows or whipped cream to it.

So if it’s bitter and it’s (traditionally) made with tablets, isn’t Colombian hot chocolate just the same as Mexican?

Like our distinct versions of Spanish, Mexican and Colombian hot chocolate share a foundation and can mostly understand each other, but have their own slang and flavor.

In their simplest form, they both are made by letting the tablets dissolve into a liquid, and then frothing the mixture with a specialized tool called a molinillo. However, Mexican hot chocolate typically includes spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and can even include chilies, which is how the Aztecs often drank it (mixed with corn and without the sugar) during rituals.

Spicy hot chocolate may sound interesting, it’s definitely not something Colombians would ever make. At the risk of shocking those who think of Latin America as a monolith culture, most South American countries don’t actually have much spicy food.

The melty surprise at the bottom of your mug

Colombian cuisine seems to be ruled by the idea that simpler is better, so rather than spice up our hot chocolate, we do something no one else does: we fill it with cheese. Yes, you read that right, cheese. In fact, this is such an important part of the tradition, we have a saying for it: chocolate sin queso es como amor sin beso, chocolate without cheese is like love without a kiss.

For this to work, you can’t just use any old cheese. Usually, you’d go for queso campesino or queso doble crema, two types of Colombian cheese. They’re perfect because of their consistency, and because they melt without fully losing their shape. This is important because what you do is drop blocks of cheese into the hot chocolate, drink casually while you wait for them to melt, and then fish them out with a teaspoon. The warm, semi-melted cheese perfectly complements the frothy beverage and fills your belly and your soul with comfort.

If you can’t find either of these cheeses, you can use buffalo mozzarella or queso oaxaca (which is, ironically, Mexican). If the chocolate is being served in an afternoon luncheon, it is usually also accompanied by bread.

Over the years, I’ve offered — OK, fine, forced — many people to try Colombian hot chocolate with cheese. I’m pleased to report that, despite skepticism, most people actually enjoy it.

Source: Thrillist

Low-fat Orange-Pecan Drop Cookies


2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz nonfat cream cheese
2 tablespoons margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons nonfat vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1 egg white
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence)
1-1/2 cups confectioners'(icing) sugar


  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Coat 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a food processor with the metal blade or in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, margarine and sugar. Process or stir until smooth. Add half of the orange juice, the yogurt, egg, egg white, orange zest and vanilla. Process or stir until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture and process or stir until just blended.
  4. Drop about 60 rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden at the edges, about 15 minutes.
  5. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine the remaining orange juice and the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Using a pastry brush, coat the warm cookies with the glaze.
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 60 cookies.

Source: Cooking for Healthy Living

Grocery Rules for Your Coronavirus Lockdown

Lisa Drayer wrote . . . . . . . . .

Whether you’re housebound for the next couple of weeks from a COVID-19 quarantine, or simply trying to survive a school or work shutdown, you’ll likely be limiting or avoiding trips to the grocery store.

So you may be wondering: What are the best foods to buy when you know you’re going to be stuck at home — and is it even possible to consume a nutritious diet?

Well, here’s some good news: You can make nutrition a priority, and it’s something that is all the more important if your immune system may be compromised.

“Though it might look a little different than normal, it’s possible to eat healthfully when stuck at home,” said Alyssa Pike, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council. “Choosing shelf-stable foods like canned goods, pastas, rice and legumes and utilizing your freezer — [where] you can store breads, meats, vegetables, fruits and more — are great ways to ensure you have a nice variety when your trips to the grocery store are limited.”

Below is a list of foods that are not only nutritious but versatile too. They can be eaten solo; combined with other ingredients to assemble mini-meals; or used as the base for several recipes.

Just remember that there’s no need to buy out the stock at your local grocery store. “Right now there’s no indication that food retailers will be unable to meet the demand of consumers,” Pike said, and “it’s also important to consider the needs of others and not overbuy.”

So only purchase what you actually need — and these items will last you awhile, which is convenient when you’re unable to leave your abode.

What to buy for your pantry:

Beans and legumes

Reach for these on your next trip to the store, because they’re not only long-lasting but also a great starting point for a nutrient-rich meal. “Beans and legumes are excellent shelf-stable sources of plant protein,” Pike said.

Chickpeas or lentils for example, can be mixed with salads and pasta dishes, or used in soups and stews. They can also be used for making homemade hummus, according to culinary nutritionist Jackie Newgent, author of “The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook” and advisor to Lunch Unpacked.

Canned fish

Canned or vacuum-packed protein sources like tuna or salmon are also highly nutritious, and offer a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Nut butters

These are a great source of protein and healthy fats, and pair well with lots of foods, from crackers and breads to apples and bananas, according to Pike. Sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds, is appropriate for those with peanut or tree nut allergies.

Whole-wheat and bean pastas, quinoa and brown rice

These are the nutrient-rich grains to stock up on, and they can be used as a side dish or mixed with proteins and vegetables.

Steel-cut oats

You can cook oats and add savory toppings like grated cheese, sundried tomatoes or even eggs for a quick, nutrient-rich meal.

And note that while eggs do require refrigeration, they still “have a longer shelf-life than most refrigerated foods and can be very versatile as well,” Pike added.

High-fiber cereal

A high-fiber, high-protein dry cereal like Kellogg’s Special K protein cereal or Kashi’s GO cereal with low-fat milk can also come in handy as a quick mini-meal.

Canned, sugar-free fruits and vegetables

Stocking up on canned vegetables, canned fruit and applesauce without added sugar is also wise. Be sure to rinse canned vegetables to get rid of extra sodium.

And don’t forget canned or jarred tomato-based sauces, Newgent said: “You don’t need to make your own sauce, unless you prefer it.”

Dried fruit, popcorn and yes, chocolate

Dried fruits like prunes, apricots, raisins, cranberries, figs are a sweet source of iron, fiber and antioxidants. They can be combined with nuts — including my favorite, omega-3 rich walnuts — or almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts or pecans. Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are also a tasty nutritious option, and can be used for DIY trail mixes.

Popcorn is also a great source of fiber, and you can sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top to turn it into a savory snack or add dried fruit or mini chocolate chips for added sweetness.

You can even indulge in a stash of chocolate, though the healthiest kind is dark chocolate, which is rich in anti-aging flavanols.

“It is certainly okay to incorporate a few indulgent foods, like chocolates or other sweets,” especially during stressful times, Pike said. “As with any eating occasion, be mindful and check in with your hunger before and after.”

Water, shelf-stable milk and coffee

Remember, in addition to stocking up on foods it’s important to stay hydrated.

“The general rule of thumb for emergencies is to store at least one gallon of water per person or pet per day and to have a three-day supply handy. However, if you typically drink tap water or have some sort of filter, I wouldn’t worry about buying copious amounts of water,” Pike said.

Milk is also a good source of calcium and immune-boosting vitamin D, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be refrigerated. “Having a shelf-stable milk or plant beverage on hand isn’t a bad idea if you don’t want to or cannot venture out to the grocery store,” Pike explained.

And caffeine counts too. “Consider whether you have enough caffeine to get you through a few weeks,” Pike said. “You may need to create your own latte or brew your own pot of coffee if you don’t want to or cannot venture to your favorite coffee shop.”

What to buy for your freezer:

Bread, deli meat and fresh seafood

Remember, fresh foods can be frozen, which will allow you to enjoy them at a later date. “Take full advantage of your freezer, including for foods that freeze well but that you might not typically freeze, such as milk, deli meats and breads,” Newgent said.

But dairy products like cheese and yogurt are another story. “Due to texture changes when you freeze yogurt or cheese, I only recommend freezing yogurt if you plan to use it in a recipe, like for a smoothie, and I only recommend freezing shredded cheese that you plan to use in cooking, such as packaged shredded mozzarella,” Newgent said. Hard cheese, like Parmesan, can keep in the refrigerator for weeks though, Newgent added.

Additionally, if you already have fresh fish and meat, consider freezing it. “Animal proteins like seafood, poultry, and beef hold well in a freezer — typically for a few months,” Pike said.

Additional fruits and vegetables

Here’s some uplifting news: Reearch has revealed that frozen fruits and vegetables can have just as many vitamins — and sometimes more — as compared to fresh.

Frozen strawberries, blueberries and peaches can be used for smoothies, while spinach, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus and green beans can be used as a solo side dish or mixed with pasta or rice.

Packaged foods help meet the nutrition needs of many of us, including vegetarians, as well as those who have special dietary restrictions.

“For vegans and vegetarians, packaged alternatives are a good option,” Pike said, including items such as frozen bean burritos, frozen veggie burgers and frozen veggie pizza.

Source: CNN

Is This Nature’s Healthier Meat Replacement?

Thanks to research suggesting they are better for heart health than animal-based foods, many carnivores are on the hunt for the best plant-based meat replacements they can find.

That may explain the increase in popularity of plant-based burgers in fast-food restaurants and grocery stores. But nutritionists say legumes may be a better option.

Lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans and nuts are natural sources of protein and fiber that are a healthy alternative to highly processed meat substitutes.

“The protein in meat is of high biological value, but the protein in legumes is also good quality protein,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University.

“As a nutritionist, what really concerns me is the overall nutrient composition of these plant-based meat substitutes that are sweeping the marketplace. They are really high in sodium. They’re high in saturated fat. And they’re high in calories.”

Legumes, which actually are the seeds of plants from the legume family, are considerably healthier. They’re linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Plus, their high fiber and protein contribute to satiety – which means they help you feel full, so you eat less.

“For people who don’t want to eat meat, what I would recommend is legumes cooked in a healthy way – rather than these plant-based substitutes,” Kris-Etherton said. “A plant-based diet can be very healthy. A plant-based diet can be very unhealthy, too.”

It’s important to know legumes also contain lectins, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. But lectin is typically reduced during cooking, especially with wet, high-heat methods like boiling or stewing, or soaking legumes in water for several hours.

So, if you’re preparing dried beans, it’s wise to rinse them first, then soak them for as long as four hours. Afterward, beans should be boiled in water roughly three times their volume, then left to simmer until tender.

It’s worth noting beans and other legumes have been commonly – and occasionally comedically – linked to flatulence because they contain high amounts of dietary fiber and carbohydrates that are difficult to digest.

“Don’t just all of a sudden eat a bunch of these legumes because you’ve heard they’re great and heart-healthy,” Kris-Etherton said. “The way that you cook them as well can help make them less gas-producing.”

A trio of studies published in the journal Nutrition concluded the concern over beans’ gas production may be exaggerated and that each person can respond differently to different bean types. Still, to help lower the amount of potential intestinal gas and improve the nutritional quality, food researchers suggest discarding the water the beans are soaking in and cooking in fresh water.

Because legumes come in so many different forms, there are a variety of ways to add them to your diet: puree them into dips and spreads, for example, or snack on a handful of nuts instead of potato chips.

“Mix them up in your diet, and they’ll keep you interested,” Kris-Etherton said. “Add some chickpeas to your salad. Use them as a side dish. Rather than potatoes and rice, use some mixed beans as your sides, and then finally, use them as your main entrée instead of a meat dish.

“It’s not just that you’re adding something good to your diet; if you do it as a good substitution, you’re eliminating something that is unhealthy.”

Source: American Heart Association

Study: Eating Fish in Moderation During Pregnancy Benefits Fetus

Advice on eating fish while pregnant has flip-flopped over the years. Now, a new study suggests that the benefit of eating fish in moderation during pregnancy outweighs the risk.

Fish is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for a developing fetus. But some fish — such as swordfish, shark and mackerel — can contain high levels of mercury, which can cause neurological damage.

The new study included 805 mother-child pairs in five European countries. During pregnancy, the women were asked about their fish consumption and tested for mercury exposure.

When their children were between 6 and 12 years of age, the kids’ metabolic health was assessed. Metabolic health includes factors such as waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The University of Southern California (USC) researchers found that children whose moms ate fish one to three times per week during pregnancy were more likely to have better metabolic health than kids whose mothers ate fish less than once a week during pregnancy.

But the benefits decreased if their mothers ate fish more than three times a week during pregnancy, according to the study published online March 16 in JAMA Network Open.

“Fish is an important source of nutrients, and its consumption should not be avoided,” said senior investigator Dr. Leda Chatzi, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“But pregnant women should stick to one to three servings of fish a week as recommended, and not eat more, because of the potential contamination of fish by mercury and other persistent organic pollutants,” she advised in a school news release.

Study co-author Nikos Stratakis, a postdoctoral scholar, pointed out that fish can be a common route of exposure to dangerous chemical pollutants.

“It is possible that when women eat fish more than three times a week, that pollutant exposure may counterbalance the beneficial effects of fish consumption seen at lower intake levels,” Stratakis said.

The researchers now plan to examine the effects of consuming different types of fish with different nutrients and mercury levels. They also expect to follow the children in the study until their mid-teens.

Source: HealthDay

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