Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!


Your Source for Superfoods Since 1995

Banana Muffins, Coconuts and Play Doh

Yesterday was a blissful day at home. Monday, it was snowy, we didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. It was lovely.

I had just had a fabulous weekend to myself “sans kids”, enjoying some great social time an amazing day at work and some time for me. By Sunday night I was singing!

It nicely carried over to Monday morning, so when they day started with the twins crying for one reason or the other from the time they got up, it really didn’t phase me. I just got them what they needed and carried on. I didn’t “buy in” to the drama and by the time breakfast was over they were both content and playing on their own. And I mean separately on their own, which is unusual as they are usually playing (or fighting) together. Chloe was content in the kitchen organizing markers into plastic cups, pretending to do the dishes in our Fisher Price sink, Luke was in the living room builiding a train track with his Thomas the Wooden Railway. Both totally content and happy to be where they were.

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

I was happy to putz around in the kitchen, cleaning up from breakfast, enjoying my green smoothie and experimenting with new recipes. I had even put dinner into the slow cooker and was basically ‘free’ for the day (ha ha). I had decided to bake, intending to try out a gluten free banana muffin recipe as well as making ginger cookies.

We are not completely gluten free at our house but I have been experimenting a little. I have found that though we are now sugar and dairy free that after eating a homemade muffin I become immediately tired. Deducing that the only thing left was gluten I decided to try out a gluten free muffin recipe. So I made some gluten free pumpkin muffins, had one and did not feel tired. Ah ha I was onto something here.

I buy rice pasta as much as possible and don’t consume a lot of bread. I have found that a little gluten is ok but have to be careful if I have too much. I would say that I am likely sensitive to it as opposed to intolerant. I have a sneaky suspicion though that my youngest son is intolerant to gluten. Just from various things that I have observed when he has it.

Vanilla Bean Cake

Besides everyone benefits; as when I do things like that I do them across the board. I am not making 4 different meals  and I find that we all feel better overall. So I have slowly started to gather a number of gluten free recipes such as Vanilla Bean Cake, Chocolate Dream Pie, Pumpkin muffins, Blueberry muffins and the Banana muffins I tried yesterday.

A fantastic website for gluten free recipes is Karina Allrich’s Gluten Free Goddess. All of her recipes are her own, tried and true. Many of them are dairy free as well but not necessarily sugar free, but I am familiar enough with what to do I simply make the sugar substitution and we are off to the races! This was the Banana muffin recipe I used yesterday and it was delicious. Moist and yummy! The kids loved them. In fact Luke and Chloe were hanging over the counter while I was making the batter, liking the bowl and waiting for them to bake.

I used coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar and boy were they yummy! I did not have any chocolate to add in or her other suggestions but it did not make a difference (and I might do that next time).

All in all it turned out well, even surviving Chloe putting Playdoh in her nose, and having to pause the baking to tend to that. (Yes seriously she did, and she screamed for 10 minutes, reminded me of the time my sister put a tiny doll shoe up her nose – what is it with children and putting small items where they shouldn’t be?)

So if you’re venturing into the world of gluten free try out some of these recipes. Many of them are dairy and sugar free too, yet you wouldn’t know it. (I have a friend who is salivating over the Chocolate Dream Pie and patiently waiting for me to make some so he can have a piece). I have found that there are enough resources and options out there these days to easily live gluten free, etc. without having to sacrifice taste or the treats that we love. True it is a bit of an adjustment but once you get your head around it, it is easy. And I have found that more and more people are going these routes for one reason or another.

Chocolate Dream Pie

If you have found any great gluten free recipes please share them by commenting below. I love to try new things and I am sure other people will benefit as well!

Chocolate Dream Pie

Each year on Valentine’s Day I make some kind of dessert or special treat for me and the kids. It adds a little something extra to the day and something to look forward to. Usually something chocolate, I like to experiment with new recipes and new ways of doing things. Last year I made chocolate covered strawberries, dipping them in my own homemade chocolate, the year before chocolate cupcakes.

This year I made one of our new favorites Chocolate Dream Pie. This no bake, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free dessert is to die for! Made all in the blender it is delicious (and guilt free). There are a few unique ingredients, which might turn you off at first, but trust me you will not be disappointed.

Irish Moss

For instance, irish moss, which is a kind of seaweed gathered on the coast of Prince Edward Island, helps congeal and set your pie. Only a pinch is needed and depending on where you live, may be hard to find. But once you know what you are looking for you can track it down, even if you order it online. I was able to find it here locally in Calgary at the Light Cellar.

My kids love it, of course. Matthew’s eyes get big and he starts to salivate. Luke and Chloe who had their first piece, and when done, promptly asked for a second piece. I also shared it with my girlfriend today who not only asked me for the recipe, but regretted sharing it with her son (who also loved it) because she wanted more for herself 🙂

Quick and easy to make, this recipe won’t disappoint.

Chocolate Dream Pie

Crust

1 c. hazelnut mash (from making nut milk)

1 c. walnuts

3-4 tbsp. agave nectar (I like to use Ojio as it is a higher quality agave)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

Filling

3/4 oz. irish moss (soak a small pinch of irish moss in water overnight, rinse well and use in recipe)

1 1/2 c. hazelnut milk

1/4 c. agave nectar

1/4 pitted dates

1/3 c. cacao powder

1/2 tsp. vanilla powder

pinch sea salt

1 rounded tsp. non-GMO lecithin

3/4 c. coconut oil

For crust: Make the *nut milk and use the leftover mash for making the crust. Put all the ingredients into the Vitamix in order listed. Select variable 8. Quickly turn machine on and off, scraping the sides of the container with a spatula between pulses, until a damp meal is formed.

Press the crust into a lightly greased (with coconut oil) 9 inch pie plate.

For filling: Place all ingredients in Vitamix in order listed. Select varaible 1. Turn Vitamix on slowly and increase speed to 10, then to high. Blend 30-40 seconds or until desired consistency is reached.

Pour into prepared crust. Place in fridge until set (about 1 hour).

*Hazelnut milk

Place 1 cup of hazelnuts, soaked overnight and drained, with 3 cups of water in Vitamix. Selecting variable 1, turn machine on slowly increasing speed to 10 and then to high. Blend for 30 seconds.

Over top of a medium size bowl, pour contents form Vitamix into nut bag. Strain through nut bag. Use milk and mash for recipe. Store leftover milk in fridge.

 

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

I love Valentine’s Day! I have no idea why really, I have yet to have the real romantic Valentine’s that I have dreamed of, but it is one of my favorite holidays.

I find the energy in the air is charged with hope and positive vibes and whether you have a sweetie or not, it is a great day.

I love doing things with the kids as they get so excited about it. I usually make a treat of some kind, whether it be chocolates, brownies or chocolate dream pie (yes there is a chocolate theme here) and I give them a little something, usually a homemade valentine, which might be as simple as a construction paper heart with a note on it.

I usually set up a little scavenger hunt for them as well, something simple but gives them chance to roam the house and explore, looking for things. They love it!

I also love the crafts as there are so many fun and easy things to make around this holiday. One of my favorites is the Toilet Paper Roll Cupid. He is very cute and fun to make. He is a little involved with a few steps that may not be suitable for younger children but they could certainly do it with some adult help.

Cardboard Cupid

I have always loved to the Stained Glass Hearts, where you use tissue and construction paper and put them up on your window. Easy, fun and full of love.

Years ago I was writing for a site call Suite 101 and created an article there which includes cupid as well as some other great crafts such as a Valentine Wreath, photo frame and another of my favorites – the Valentine Person! (I think I love that one because of his ‘accordian’ legs and arms). Go here for details on all these great crafts.

The thing I like about Valentine’s Day crafts is that you can pretty much do anything with hearts – from pictures to people to wreaths and even crystal hearts, which Matthew was making in his class at school, there is no end to the creative ideas and fun that the kids can have this Valentine’s Day!