Friday, March 12, 2010

Field Trip: Olympia Chocolate Factory

I promised more field trips and now I've gotta deliver! Honestly, I was all set to post about a perfectly lovely spicy black bean soup that I served this week. If you're following the meal plan, you know that I should've posted this on Wednesday. I'm waaaay behind. I was all set to start catching up on posts this weekend. Then when I sat down to write about black bean soup tonight, I realized that I'd returned the recipe to the library yesterday, along with the cookbook that I found it in. Shoot. I need to check it out again tomorrow and I'll post it later this weekend...or next week. Here's a sneak peak, just in case you're interested:

Excellent soup!

Since my planned post has been unexpectedly delayed, I thought that I'd share why I am so far behind in my posting instead. In order to show you, I need to take you on a field trip.

I helped to chaperone my daughter's class trip to a local chocolate factory this week. Such a hardship for me...NOT! Actually this is my 3rd chocolate factory tour. I took my first chocolate factory tour at Hershey World in Hershey, PA. The next tour was at Harry London Chocolates in Canton, OH. And now I found myself touring a smaller operation, Olympia Chocolates in Strongsville, OH. I have to say that for a chocoholic like me, touring a chocolate factory never gets old. It's still magical...

First stop, a huge vat of fragrant milk chocolate. Mmmmm.

Each student took a turn filling their own chocolate bunny mold.

Here's my little chocolatier, filling her mold. There were two methods to fill the molds. One was to push a little handheld button, as pictured below. (It kind of reminded me of the controller that the nurses handed to me for my epidural. This gave me an idea. I'm thinking of requesting a chocolate epidural should I choose to endure contractions again one day. I tend to find myself ravenous after child birth. What do you mean I can only eat ice chips?! This would remedy the problem.) The other method was a foot pedal, much like the one I use with my sewing machine.

Next we moved on to the chocolate covered pretzel station.

The pretzels rolled over chocolate to cover their bottoms and then onto a refrigerated belt to cool and harden that chocolate.

They continued on their journey under a chocolate "waterfall".

Here's how they came out on the other side.

The best part: they let us eat these chocolate covered pretzels right off of the belt! YUM.

Moving on, we observed the honey bunny assembly. See that big vat on the right? It's essentially a big mixing bowl...but you can cook in it too. On this day, they were heating honey in there. The workers poured popcorn into the heated, pink-colored honey, mixed it around, poured the gooey mixture out, and pressed it into bunny molds. That's what these guys are doing.

Here are the molds in the cooling stage.

And the finished product. Kind of a nice change from the hollow chocolate rabbit, no?There are no words for how wonderful this process smells!

Next, we progressed to the coin press room. Each child had a turn at pressing their own chocolate coin. The plates of some other chocolate coin designs graced the shelf above the press. This was cool! Olympia Candy will design a personalized coin to fit any company, person, or occasion. I'm wishing that I knew about this for my wedding! How cool would it be to have your very own chocolate currency?!

Here's the Easter coin plate.

Each of my daughters took a turn at the coin press.

"Look, mommy!"

Then my toddler realized that the coin room doubled as the "bow room". Lots of pretty pastel bows to top each and every Easter basket. I had fun putting many of them back into the correct bin once my little tornado breezed through the area.

Each child left with their cooled chocolate bunny mold and coin. They didn't forget us chaperones either, we all received a bag of Pecan Almond Crunch Caramel Corn. Tactical move. I am officially addicted!

I made the girls pose for a pic on the way to the car. Note my oldest daughter's outfit. She planned her whole outfit the night before our chocolate factory field trip. Her "chocolate dress"..."chocolate tights"..."chocolate shoes". It was VERY strategic.

Besides chaperoning a field trip, here's the other reason that I seem to be behind this week: the weather. We have been cooped up inside all winter. This week temparatures reached the 60's and the sun shined down on us for the first time in a LONG time. No way were we wasting the opportunity to frolic in the great out-of-doors! We went to the park, hit the bike trail, and yesterday, I dug out the sidewalk chalk and let the kiddos decorate the driveway while I flipped through cooking magazines and worked on the next meal plan. Then a neighbor stopped by to visit with her girls. Then another neighbor stopped by with her daughter. The kiddos were happily drawing pictures and we ladies started visiting. We were absorbed in catching up...everyone seems to hide inside during the long, dark winter here. Suddenly, I realized that my driveway had gotten very quiet. The kids were gone! Oh no. Visions of the swamp that is my backyard (due to the sudden snow melt) filled my mind. I ran (or rather squished) around the side of the house and this is what I discovered:

The girls were making mud pies and mud stew with the materials that were readily available in our backyard. I couldn't be too upset. After all, this was how I began my foray into the culinary arts. After locating a couple more pair of mud boots, the girls were hard at work and lovin' every minute of it!

Clearly, we need to mulch around the playset.

A couple of muddy cooks.

I brought a big bucket of warm water and some old towels out to the deck and scrubbed the girls clean before sending then home in time for dinner.

Could it be that Spring has finally come? Let's hope so!

Stay tuned for Spicy Black Bean Soup, Braised Short Ribs, and Whoopie Pies. I'm planning on "playing catch up" this weekend. I hope that yours is wonderful!


Sook said...

Oh that is so fun! I'd go crazy if I could go to a factory like that. :)

Kim said...

You must be pretty close to where I grew up in Ohio. Strongsville is just a short trip in the car from Elyria. What a fun field trip to the chocolate factory. My kids love those chocolate coins and would've flipped for a chance to make their own.
Your black bean soup looks delicious. I'm looking forward to your recipe.

Julie said...

That looks like my kind of field trip!

Chicago Mom said...

Your yard looks like my yard - filled with mud and muddy girls! :)

Katy ~ said...

Yummm...breathing in all that chocolate aroma....

And those children are just precious! Love to see them happy and playing, being kids.

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