Most Craved Food in the World

Do you know what it is?


Chocolate Cake for your Chocolate Craving

—Article updated December, 2014—

The Spaniards brought cacao trees (the source of chocolates) from Mexico to the Philippines towards the end of the 17th century.

Today, you can still find cacao trees growing in the backyard of Filipino homes  — or in the case of the picture below,  right next to a home, so you can climb out the window to the tree to pick your cacao pods…or escape out of the house to the street.

Cacao Tree – The seeds from the light green color pods (which will ripen and turn into a reddish color) are what is dried, roasted and then ground to make chocolate tablets.

Here is a photo I took of cacao seeds drying by the side of the road.  The size and shape are like almonds.

After drying, the seeds are ground up and pounded with wet sugar (and in earlier times, grounded with toasted rice flour or Philippine pili nuts).  The paste is rolled and formed into tablets that are easier to store and dissolve for later use.

And in parts of the Philippines, if you do not have a cacao tree on your property or do not want to mess with opening up the pods and drying seeds, you can go to the market to buy the quantity you need.

Cacao seeds for sale, price difference by size / quality.  Photo

Can you imagine buying cacao seeds like this here in the U.S.?  And roasting your own seeds to make home-made chocolate?  Actually, that may be fun for true chocoholics….

Chocolate is native to Central America and was introduced to Spain in the early 16th century, in Italy and England in the 17th century and in Germany in the 18th century

unripe cacao tree pod

Chocolate “beans” come from the fruit of the cacao tree.  The pods grow on the branches and trunks of the tree.

These days, about 70% of cocoa produced in the world come from African countries and human rights issues continue to plague cacao plantations.  Big chocolate producers must lead in changing these conditions by creating and enforcing policies that address how cocoa farms run (see the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate).

Large scale chocolate production is dominated by

  • USA-based companies Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz International Inc (Cadbury brand)
  • Switzerland-based Nestle and Chocoladenfabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG
  • Japan-based Meiji Holdings and Ezaki Glico Co Ltd

Above data source: International Cocoa Organization

Although most cocoa is produced in Africa, only 1% of chocolate is actually made there.  The company Madecasse is doing something different and creating a whole new category of chocolates…actually growing / sourcing  AND making chocolate bars in the country of Madagascar.  Their chocolate products are sold internationally and through their website.  

As always, a blog post leads me to learn more!  Although I started this post when I learned about the most craved food in the world — and wanting to share my cacao seed photos and information on why cacao trees grow in the Philippines — the next time I have a chocolate bar craving, I’ll definitely consider where and how the cacao is sourced.

Also see Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates and look for chocolates from Fair Trade producers.

I’m happy to see that Costco is making a statement about their chocolate source for their Kirkland brand.  On their box of 70% Chocolate Truffles, a statement about their cocoa starts with:

…Costco is proud to support a cocoa program that improves crops, helps farmers and reduces the environmental impact of farm operations.   Our goal is to procure cocoa beans that are traceable, of high quality, and grown in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

And since Costco is the 2nd largest retailer in the U.S. (after Wal-Mart) and the 3rd largest retailer in the WORLD, their cocoa sourcing policies will certainly make an impact for cacao farmers.

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

Related post:

Champorado origins – a chocolate rice porridge and favorite Filipino breakfast

Book: Artichoke Boy

~ We will add this book to our Favorites Page ~

We live in an area perfect for growing artichokes…so pretty much, if we drive to go anywhere, especially on the way to Tae Kwon Do practice, we see fields with rows upon rows of artichokes.

And so with the boys already familiar with artichokes, it was fun for them to read a book about an artichoke boy and his artichoke-loving family.

The artichokes show up in the pages as ears, eyeballs, hair, knees, and there is even an artichoke bath and an artichoke bed.

But of course, being 4 and 6-year-old boys, the favorite artichoke boy picture page was the when artichoke boy was at the beach — and showed a little of his artichoke derriere.

Seems boys this age laugh out loudly at anything having to do with derrieres, or as they call it, but-buts.

The book is the first written and illustrated by artist Scott Mickelson.  Published by Boyds Mills Press.

Scott is a member of the San Francisco based alternative rock/folk band, Fat Opie,

White Milk

I noticed this ad for white milk at Target.

Isn’t milk…plain old milk…just MILK?  I mean, you don’t send your family member on an errand and tell them, oh yeah, pick up some white milk while you are at the store…you just tell them to get milk.

Just odd, and I have not seen this before.

Babe The Pig…Vegan Campaign?

My grandchildren are watching the movie “Babe”, a 1995 movie about a cute talking pig.  The farmer wins Babe at a contest, and enters a sheep herding competition (Babe entering the contest in the role of a Border Collie).

The movie is sweet, entertaining and well made.

It is also a movie that makes me feel guilty about eating and enjoying my lechon and other pork dishes (and this after I just posted a story about the piggy….see My Germany and Philippines connection).

There are many talking animals in the movie, including a neurotic little duck named Ferdinand….thank goodness we don’t eat much duck!

The animals differentiate themselves by which animals the human “bosses” eat.

The house cat tells Babe “Pigs don’t have a purpose but to be eaten by humans.”  Which makes Babe realize what happened to his mother, father,  sisters and brothers at the at the farm operation where he was born.

The cat adds “Bosses have to eat…they call it pork, ham, bacon…they only call them pigs when they are alive.”

I remember having discussions about eating meat with my friend Patrick.  His family had a farm in Germany.  His perspective, coming from a farming family was that we raised these animals for the sole purpose of eating them, so in essence, the farm-raised ones at least, would not exist without us.

The movie –and thinking about farm animals and then chickens — also reminded me of my Auntie Terrie.  When I was a teenager in the Philippines, my Auntie Terrie, came to visit and decided to teach me how to cook. She was a good cook and I recall that she had a little turo-turo restaurant (translates to point-point — Philippine fast food style eateries), and at one point ran a factory cafeteria.

She took me to the market, where we purchased a live chicken.  Odd to think about that live chicken in our baskets among other food and produce we purchased.  The chicken was tucked in the space under our seat on the jeepney ride home.

At home, she showed me how to kill the chicken and prepare it for cooking.  To her it was just a matter of fact act, and she was passing this knowledge to me.  And I was OK with this (though I have not had to buy a live chicken to cook since then–thankfully).  I wonder how many of us would actually eat meat if we had to take part in killing the animal that we consume.

So…this blog post goes from discussing the movie “Babe” to the topic of meat-eating.  And oh dear, my conflicted feelings since I love animals (I had a friend who use to call our home Dr. Doolittle’s house at a time when we had 3 dogs and 2 cats, a fish tank and a hamster)….and that also, I like to eat certain animals.

Maybe that is the point and the goal of the movie…..beyond entertainment.  To make you think about this —- and to promote becoming a vegetarian.

I googled “movie Babe about pig, vegetarians” and turns out the actor James Cromwell,  who played farmer Arthur Hoggett, is a vegetarian and active in animal rights.  He was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for this movie role.

Babe was a box office and critical success when it was released.

Have you seen the movie?  Did it make you have second thoughts about eating meat or did you become a vegetarian as a result?

100% Natural Water

This ad for water caught my attention because of the big letters “Born Better”.  At first I thought it was some sort of new, better for the environment, bottle — especially with all the news about plastic trash (including many plastic water bottles) harming our oceans.

Reading further, I find the ad had nothing to do with the bottle or container, and was about the water itself…which is 100% Natural.

Really?  Water is 100% Natural?

This ad looks so healthy — the white clouds, blue sky, water and green grass.

But we have to be mindful of what is being sold to us here.  That is, that their particular water is “100% Natural” — “Born Better”.

Guess what…water from our faucet is 100% natural too…and if you want to take the extra step to put your water through water filtering systems or pitchers, it is still 100% natural.

If we are sold on a belief that this bottled water is somehow more “natural” or better for us than our tap water, does that make us feel compelled to buy water in a plastic bottle?  Which then results in even more plastic trash in our landfills because few plastic water bottles actually end up being recycled.  Worse, when bottles are not disposed of properly, they may end up being washed out to sea.

We are doing our best to bring our own reusable water bottles with us and to reduce drinking water from plastic bottles.  Sometimes I forget and don’t have a choice but to buy single use, plastic bottled water (and then we recycle!).

If you are as busy as our household is, it is best to have a few reusable water bottles at the ready —- we have several for each family member.

Here are websites to visit if you would like to learn more about the problem of plastic trash in our oceans — and what we can do: – plastics problem

And let me know what you think of this ad.

UPDATE: I have posted another water bottle related article, after attending the Bioneers Conference titled “No water bottles for sale? No problem…”  Click here to read.

My Germany & Philippine Connection

I was talking to my younger sister about a connection that Filipinos and Germans share.  She laughed and said “what connection?”

Note:… if you are a vegetarian, you might want to skip this post.

The connection? It’s the pig of course.

Crispy Pata!

As in crispy pata, or cooked adobo style, or sweet sticky Filipino BBQ sticks, in sisig, in sour sinigang soup, as lechon —  bamboo pole slowly turned over hot coals and whole pig cooked to crispy skin perfection…and why I don’t think I can ever become a vegetarian.

And…one of the reasons I enjoyed living in Germany.

Filipinos love their piggy.  The Germans love their piggy too.

When I got the news that I would be stationed in Germany, I phoned my sisters…and they said, “Great!  You have always wanted to go there!”

Really? I did?  Apparently when I was a little girl, I spoke of this wish to go to Germany…hmmm, must have been all those castles I heard about.

And as soon as we got there…I loved it.

I loved the green scenery, uber clean streets, loved the villages, the autobahn, loved the architecture and the castles, loved the volksmarching, loved the wine, the people we met, and the food.

Wittlich Pig Festival signWe lived in the western part of Germany while I served in the U.S. Air Force, and among the first festivals we attended was the village of Wittlich’s —very popular — Annual Saeubrenner Fest.

Translation?  Pig Festival!

Picture from the Wittlich Pig Fest courtesy of Sandy…click on this link for the history of the Pig Fest and Sandy’s blog, Rowdy in Germany.

Walking around the festival…and seeing all the roasted pigs….well, strangely, reminded me of the Philippines.

Wittlich Pig Festival 1

Jeff,  however, not used to seeing whole roasted pigs, was a bit startled, especially seeing pig heads on platters.

Wittlich Pig Festival

But no matter, the jaeger schnitzels, curry wursts, micro-brewed and flavorful beers hooked him in right away.

Distance between the Philippines and Germany?  Over 6,000 miles (or over 10,000 kilometers).  But for this Filipina, I felt at ease and happy living there.

We lived in a little town called Dudeldorf (really, I am not kidding,  say it and it makes you pucker and smile).  Dorf translates to village in German.

The town butcher shop was a regular weekend shop stop for me to try the deli meats and German wursts (sausages — which Germans take to a whole other level).  There were always ready marinated pork cuts to buy and take home to cook.

The shops knew my little baby girl, Dominique, through seeing her with babysitter Oma Lonien.  I think because of this —or maybe just because Germans love little kids– Dominique would get a slice of something yummy from the shopkeeper, whether the meat shop or the local bakery…where she got bread, a roll or some other treat.

A true Filipino celebration is not be complete without the Lechon – whole roasted pig.  And there is a part of me that thinks I should be disgusted with looking at a whole animal presented on the table.  And then there’s the other part that says…ahh yes, lechon — party time!

Lechon – whole roasted pig is a part of Filipino celebration and feasts. Photo by Lola Jane

And so even if geographically and culturally at least, the Philippines and Germany are far apart, one of my memorable connections….is the piggy.

Well, unless you count that letter pronunciation thing, like the Germans pronouncing “W” words like “V” and vice versa (wise wersa).  As in…so come and wisit me in my Willage Vittlich.

And so with Filipinos replacing the letter “F” in certain words with a “P”….as in, be carepul, por you might pall opp! (And get hurt and not able to enjoy your lechon at the party!)

Related Germany post:

My New Flan

Nope…that Flan in my title is not a misspelled word.  I’m talking about my new Leche flan, a type of egg custard dessert made of milk and eggs. Leche flan is a favorite dessert for a Filipino party or special occasions.

So….what does this (old) picture of an old fort have to do with Filipino Leche Flan?

Sometime ago, I read about the use of egg white for construction of these old Spanish forts and Spanish colonial era churches.  The egg whites were used as a type of mortar to hold the stones together.

With so many old Spanish era churches in the Philippines,  there must have been an enormous amount of leftover egg yolks during construction.

And not to waste anything…dessert anyone?

How about egg-yolk leche flan, or another favorite yolk-only Filipino treat like the candy called “yema” (ingredients are egg yolks, milk and sugar).

We have made traditional Philippine leche flans, which is ultra rich and made entirely of egg yolks — many recipes call for up to 12 yolks!

But since we now live in the modern era and have advanced beyond using egg whites in our building techniques….I think it is OK to use the whole egg in making flans (unless you just love to separate eggs and make meringues).

I now make my flan using an easy recipe adapted from a condensed milk company.  The recipe calls for:

  • 3 whole eggs (yes only 3! And update May, 2014 — readers also report using 4 whole eggs for a richer flan)
  • One 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • One 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk.

And that’s it.

After mixing the 3 main ingredients, I add either a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract, or a touch of nutmeg or cardamom.  You can also add a bit of orange zest.  Or nothing else if none of those appeal to you.

I am not an expert at sharing recipes, so this assumes you have already made flan before…which requires first making caramel.  Caramel on the pan bottom makes the flan a golden brown–instead of a boring cream color, since the flan is steamed in a water container in the oven.

To save time on the caramel part, I make the caramel (1/3 cup sugar) directly on the metal baking pan I will use for the flan.  I use a standard round or square metal cake pan.  Place metal pan directly on burner and slowly —starting on low heat —melt and stir the 1/3 cup of sugar, stirring until you get a liquid, lovely brown caramel color (fascinating how that dry white sugar turns into liquid golden caramel).   Spread caramel evenly on bottom of pan and pour in the egg mixture.

Place the flan pan into a larger pan filled with about 1/2″ of water.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Note: it may take up to 1 hour to cook, depending on your oven.  You can do the toothpick test — insert a toothpick into the middle of the flan — if it comes out clean, the flan is done, if it is still runny, bake longer until firm.

Cool completely, run a knife along edges, carefully flip to a serving plate, cut and serve.

There will be a bit of caramel liquid surrounding the flan.  It is a little silkier in texture than traditional flans, but overall, super yummy.

And anything with coconut milk is Filipino enough for this Lola —-and less 9 egg yolks too!  Let me know what you think.

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

champorado Filipino style

Champorado – chocolate rice porridge

The Jolly Bee & McDonalds Targeted Ads: Part 3

So I wondered… why are there McDonalds Tagalog / English ads in Philippine newspapers, here in the U.S.?  After all, Filipinos living here in America speak English (as do Filipinos living in the Philippines!)

I think I know why now—- and it’s about Jollibee.

Photo from

I recently read about Jollibee’s plans to set up 280 new stores this year, with 90 in China, as part of a major expansion.

Philippine-based Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC) started in Manila, soon after McDonalds made plans to enter the Philippine market.

At that time, the company founders—who had just started a Magnolia ice cream parlor franchise that also served sandwiches — figured that catering to the taste buds of Filipinos, and making spicier hamburgers would be the way to have an advantage over McDonalds.

Jollibee is now the Philippines’ largest chain restaurant, with over 600 locations (now 800 locations, as I update this post in March, 2014).  There are currently 26 locations in the U.S (mostly in California), and outlets in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Brunei and Hong Kong.  It is one of Southeast Asia’s most successful companies.

Should McDonalds —with their 32,000+ locations worldwide— be concerned?  Well, perhaps enough so…at least for their Filipino-American customers, that they are doing these language specific ad campaigns in California..

The US State Department estimates the number of Filipinos in the U.S. at 4 million, or about 1.5% of the population  (as a comparison, the combined population of the states Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, Montana, Hawaii and Rhode Island is a little over 4 million).

Filipino-Americans are among the most educated, and have the highest incomes compared to other Asian-American groups (and so have money to spend on fast food restaurants, among other things).

Jollibee restaurants are opening up in areas of the US with a large and established population of Filipinos. Though this data is from 2000, areas highlighted with a high number of Filipino-Americans remain the same. New Jollibee restaurants are planned for New Jersey and Virginia.

But the U.S. Filipino market is just a small part of Jollibee’s expansion plans, when you look at the 90 stores they plan for China.

Jollibee has already established a presence in China by taking over several Chinese restaurant chains, including a fast food noodle chain last year.   And with China now an economic power, it may be easier to grow and catch up with McDonalds in China than here in the U.S.

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day 2011!

Did you know that up until 1964, the Philippines also celebrated their Indepedence Day on July 4th?

This date originated when the Philippines was a colony of the U.S., and the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934 set the date for Independence from the U.S. as July 4, 1946.

It was later changed to June 12th, at the urging of Filipino historians and nationalist.

The date June 12th, 1898 was the original date that Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed independence from the colonial rule of Spain, shortly after General Dewey’s defeat of the Spanish navy during the Spanish-American War in April, 1898.

The U.S. gained control of the Philippines through the Treaty of Paris, signed in December 10, 1898.  The treaty included Spain ceding the Philippines, Guam and other Pacific islands for the sum of $20,000,000.