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!

How to make Raw Organic Chocolates

Last year I took a class at The Light Cellar, here in Calgary, on how to make Raw Organic Chocolate. No sugar, no dairy and all natural ingredients. I was thrilled to find this course as I had been looking for an alternative so that we could still enjoy chocolates at Christmas, Easter and whenever else we wanted some!

I had taken a chocolate making class before, bought the kit, came home and never made chocolates again. This time was different. The difference was you actually make your chocolate from scratch, from natural ingredients and it is very easy (the other class you made your chocolates from premade chocolate bars or pieces that you melted and molded into your own chocolates. I found this process finicky and the pieces were presweetened; so you could not choose your own sweetener).

Chocolate actually comes from a cacao nut, which is made into various forms, such as cacao powder, paste, butter, etc. Making the chocolate is super simple, using four basic ingredients and only takes a few minutes. All you need is cacao powder or paste, cacao butter, some kind of sweetener (honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.), and vanilla.

The first step is to melt the cacao butter in a bowl – use the double bowl method with the butter in the top bowl set over a bowl of boiling water (boil water put it into bowl and set on counter; then set your smaller bowl with cacao butter on top)- be very careful not to get any water into the top bowl as it will ruin your chocolate! Once the butter is melted add the vanilla bean and let it infuse (with a knife slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds with a spoon – put into cacao butter). Sift your cacoa powder in another bowl and add to taste, then add sweetener of choice. Voila! you now have a nice chocolate sauce which you can leave as is, pour into a pan refrigerate or freeze, or use as a base and add other ingredients.

The instructor did not give us exact amounts of ingredients to make our chocolate. He would provide a starting point and then encouraged us to taste it; to make it how we wanted. He recommended we start with a 1:1 ratio, mix it and go from there. More cacao powder made it a darker, richer chocolate, more sweetener made it sweeter – adjusting it according to our palette and preferences, so we had to taste it as we went along! He also encouraged us to use natural sweeteners and ingredients. For instance, we were using vanilla beans for our vanilla -actually cutting them open and scrapping out the inside. He said we could use vanilla extract but encouraged us to use pure extract if we did, not artificial.

Cacao powder

He described using these pure ingredients as “upgrading” – making it more natural, tastier and better for you. He also told us how we can add other ingredients to our chocolates that not only taste good but are high in nutrients, minerals and vitamins,  making it a superfood. Ingredients like goji berries, nuts and seeds, coconut and algae. Maca root powder, honey and mesquite powder. He even recommended in one recipe that we try a little cayenne. It was actually really good!

As for the cost, the ingredients to make your chocolate is quite reasonable. The instructor said that in the time it takes for us to go and buy chocolate at the store, we can make it at home faster with fresh ingredients for about $1.50 to $2 per 50 g – which is comparable to what you would pay at the store.

Shaped ice cube trays work great as chocolate molds

I also love the fact that I can add all these “superfood” ingredients to my chocolates so that chocolate really is good for me and the kids. So when they ask if they can have some chocolate, I can say “yes” without feeling guilty or worrying if they are having too much.

It’s also so much fun to make (I’ve already made 3 dozen caramel cups and orange ginger snowmen for Christmas) and easy to do with the kids. You can get different kinds of molds to make different shapes for your chocolates. Experiment and have fun!

In one of my previous posts I described various natural sweeteners that you can use not only in your everyday cooking and baking but for your chocolates as well. Check out that post for more details.

In an upcoming post I will share more about what you can add to your chocolates and method.

For your information The Light Cellar sells ingredients to make chocolate in bulk and is very well priced. I buy all my ingredients there and usually come out of the store with a big box of items! I find it hard to get out of there with only one or two things.