Decadent Chocolate-Almond Popsicles



Do you remember straining to hear that merry tinkling of the ice cream truck? When I was a kid, it was a rare treat in our neighbourhood, so when you heard those faint first notes, it was a mad dash to run inside, find a parent, plead for change, and race back out before the truck disappeared around the corner. Most of the time we were placated instead with those garishly coloured, super sweet freezies that came in a box of a hundred and cut the corners of our mouths with their sharp plastic edges. At the time though, anything cold and tasty would do. Occasionally (the spectre of future dental bills looming large, I imagine) my mom would make homemade “juice popsicles” for us, which consisted of pouring whatever juice we had in the fridge into plastic moulds and freezing overnight. Can’t beat the simplicity of that.

These days, I’ve been experimenting with jazzing up those juice popsicles of my childhood. Summer has returned to the city with its full force, and I’m finding myself craving a cold treat all the time. These creamy, fudgey pops hit the spot – I could (confession – can, and sometimes do) eat the whole batch in a day. Full of healthy fats, mineral-rich cocoa powder, and protein from hemp seeds and almond butter, they are super nourishing. A fantastic alternative to those delectable (but much less nourishing) bars in your local convenience store freezer, these are a big crowd pleaser for all ages, and are vegan, gluten-free and sweetened only with banana.

Happy summer!


  • 1 can coconut milk (or sub half for coconut cream to be extra decadent)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 3 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1 banana


1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until perfectly smooth (if not using a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, you may have to blend for longer to ensure the hemp seeds get thoroughly incorporated).

2. Pour into popsicle moulds (this batch makes 6 popsicles in my medium-sized moulds). Freeze overnight for best results.





New year, new yoga mat bag!



Over the years, I’ve gotten increasingly skeptical about New Year’s resolutions. I used to like the idea of a fresh start, of making a list of everything I didn’t like about myself and making the commitment and a plan to change. Cut out sugar! Get up at 6 every morning to exercise! Meditate for an hour a day! And on and on. I’d begin motivated and optimistic, following through with my new routine for about a week before things began to slide. A few years ago, I realized I needed a new game plan. I made smaller and fewer goals, integrated into my existing schedule. I accepted that failures are part of the process, and focused on consistency of effort rather than perfection. I try to think of myself and my life as whole and happy, and of these goals as merely reminders of my existing priorities.

I guess that gets to the crux of my beef with New Year’s resolutions. There’s the sense that we’re all fundamentally not good enough, that we’ve each inherited the lifelong self-improvement projects that are our bodies and minds. So this year I’ve quite literally taken a page from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which, if you haven’t read it, I completely recommend!). Her guiding principle is that of joy, and so I’ve been thinking lately about what things in my life bring me that joy, and which don’t. Blogging, for example, is something I want to make more time for – expect to see me more frequently than you have over the past few months! And yoga. I love yoga. I love the way I feel after I do a really tough class, full of backbends and hip openers and sun salutations. I recently joined a great studio in my neighbourhood, and have been enjoying spending more time on the mat in 2016.

My mat itself, however, had been getting dirty and scuffed from being awkwardly hauled back and forth to class without a proper carrier. I had some extra fabric left over from a make-up bag I had made as a stocking stuffer for my mom over the holidays, and I found an ingenius DIY tutorial from Sewaholic. For directions, check out her awesome blog post here.

My fabric was thin, so I reinforced it with interfacing where the button holes were sewn in. Otherwise, I followed Sewaholic’s lead very closely. I’m so happy with my new bag – it definitely adds a little extra joy to my yoga routine!

How are your New Year’s resolutions faring this February?

Apricots 4 Ways

(Alternate title: How to Process 31 lbs of Fresh Apricots in a 20 Square Foot Kitchen in 5 Days).


Last weekend, I signed up at the last minute for an apricot pick with Not Far From the Tree, a fruit sharing project run by some pretty fantastic people. They partner with local tree owners to pick and distribute fresh fruit between those owners, food banks/charitable meal providers, and their volunteers. Check them out at Not Far From the Tree and, if you’re inclined, volunteer, donate or sign up your tree!

There is nothing like spending a sunny afternoon up in an apricot tree, breathing in the sweet aroma and tucking away those plump orange fruits into my bag (and, I’ll admit, one or two into my mouth). After we’d picked 250 lbs (!!!) and divvied up the shares, I shuffled back home, laden with my 31 lbs of apricots. Four large bowls and most of my counter space were not sufficient to contain it all. Hmmmmm.

I knew I didn’t have enough room in my freezer or my cupboards for everything, so I had to split the haul between both (plus some ready-to-eat recipes!). Here’s what I made:

1. Apricot Crisps

I made four of these in three days, and with some help from friends, we’re just finishing the last one today. They are so easy to make and, as long as the fruit is ripe and fresh, taste amazing. I’m a traditionalist, and like them a little warmed up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top; my husband prefers the slightly healthier topping of yoghurt/honey/vanilla (pictured below).




  • 4-5 cups apricots (halved or quartered, pitted)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 T – 1/2 C cup brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruit and personal preference; I used 1 T because I like the apricots to retain some tartness)
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/4 t nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)


  • 1 C oats (I used organic, gluten free)
  • 1/2 C flour (I used sprouted whole wheat)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T – 1/2 C brown sugar (again, use your discretion as above; I used 1 heaping T)
  • 1/2 C coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 t nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the apricots with the rest of the filling ingredients and stir to combine.
  3. Combine the oats, flour, salt, sugar and nutmeg. Then slowly add the coconut oil, stirring constantly. (I like to do this step in a food processor, but it’s not necessary). Make sure the oat mixture is fully coated with oil (if not, add more).
  4. In a greased 8″ x 8″ pyrex dish, add the filling and smooth out. Then spread the topping evenly. Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes. If you like your top extra crispy like I do, put oven on broil for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully so it does not burn!
  5. Cool for at least 10-15 minutes before enjoying.


2. Apricot-Brandy Preserves


On Tuesday, I canned a few jars of this very adult dessert – it’s full of warm spices and booze, and I am imagining that it will hit the spot later this year when the snow starts falling. I modified the recipe from Waitrose here. I took the sugar way down (to just 30g per batch) and I also used less brandy (about 150ml) since I found the flavour too strong in the recipe. I canned the jars in a water bath canner. (I will post about canning at some point, but I always suggest consulting an authority like Pick Your Own or Bernardin Home Canning if you’re not familiar with the process. Safety first, people)

 3. Apricot-Coconut Sorbet

I put away a big zip-lock freezer bag of pitted and halved apricots, and I have been using them to make this healthy (no added sugar!) and delicious sorbet from one of my favourite blogs, Oh She Glows.


4. Apricot-Ginger Jam

You didn’t think I’d forget to make jam, did you? Well technically, as I’m sure the connoisseurs will know, it’s not jam because I didn’t use any added pectin or heaps of sugar to make it. However, even though it’s a little runnier in consistency than a traditional “set” jam, the chunkiness of the halved apricots makes up the difference, I think. The ginger gives this jam a distinctive zing, making it perfect on buttered toast, or even on top of brie or another soft cheese.



  • 6 C apricots, halved and pitted
  • 1/2- 1 T ginger, grated finely
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  1. In a wide-bottomed saucepan, simmer the apricots until they start releasing their juices. Then add the ginger, brown sugar, lemon juice and nutmeg.
  2. Continue cooking for about 25 minutes, stirring often, until the jam is almost the desired consistency you like. Then add in the honey and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the jam is just right to your taste. Taste test, and add extra sugar, lemon or spice as needed.
  3. Freeze or refrigerate jam (up to 2 weeks), or can it (adhering to the safety IMG_1164standards for your region – see my note re: canning above).






And believe it or not, I still have about 3 pounds of ripening apricots left! What should I do with them? What are your favourite apricot recipes?


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Handmade Crib Quilt in a Day


I never used to get babies. From the vantage point of my early twenties, babies meant throwing away all of the best things about newfound adulthood (staying out late, having extra income, making my own schedule, sleeping in, weekends!) and accepting sacrifice and sleep deprivation as their dubious replacements. And all for poopy diapers, terrible twos, tweens and teens? Please.

But last month I became an aunt, and I think I’m starting to get it. My nephew has the tiniest fingers and toes, the cutest smile (probably just gas, but still) and the most penetrating gaze when he locks eyes with me. I’ll leave the sleepless nights to his parents, but I have to say I’m enjoying my new role. Babies do have their charms.

I made the little guy a few handmade goodies to celebrate his arrival, including a knitted organic cotton blanket, a cloth book about zoo animals, and a crib quilt in shades of yellow, turquoise and blue (Thank you, Youtube). This was my first quilt and my first project on my newly beloved Janome Sewist, and it turned out really well. So well, in fact, that I decided to make a second one for my cousin’s soon-to-be baby, which I’ve pictured here. Since I had fumbled through a lot of trial and error the first time, this second quilt was a quick and easy project that I completed in roughly a full day. I’m posting directions for the quilt I made here, but keep in mind that you can easily change the overall quilt size, the square size, the number of different fabrics, etc. You can also buy binding instead of making your own for an even quicker project.

The finished product!

The finished product!


This finished quilt is roughly 33″ x 44″ (6 squares wide and 8 squares long).

* 8 different cotton fabrics (about 1/4 meter of each), including some patterned, some solids and some with fun pictures or designs. Try to ensure that the patterns/designs are different sizes.
* one package of quilt batting
* 2 meters of fabric for the backing and binding
* a neutral thread for the cover and a thread that matches the backing fabric
* iron and sewing machine

Prep: wash all and iron all of the fabric, trimming any loose threads.

Here’s how it comes together:

1. Cut out forty-eight 6″ x 6″ squares (I use a rotary cutter and a square quilting ruler, and cut 3-4 squares at once). Don’t forget to use your cutting mat!
2. On a large, flat surface (I used our bed, but a dining room table or the floor work well too), lay out your squares in whatever order or pattern you think looks good.
3. Put a post-it note on the first square of each row (i.e. R1, R2, etc) and stack the rest of the row underneath. Put the stacks in order from R1-R8.
4. Beginning with R1, pin together the first and second squares and sew together with a 1/4 inch seam. Do the same with 2 and 3, and then 3 and 4, etc. Don’t forget to back stitch at the beginning and end of each seam! When you have 6 squares sewn together, you’ve completed R1. Press down the seams using an iron with a steam setting.
5. Do the same as above with R2. Then pin the bottom of R1 with the top of R2, and sew together with a 1/4 inch seam. Press down the seam.
6. Rinse and repeat the last two steps with the remaining rows, until you have completed your quilt cover. Yay!
7. Now it’s time to make the “quilt sandwich.” Lay your backing fabric flat on a large surface (I did it on the floor), and then your batting in the middle, and your cover on top. Pin through the three layers in the middle square, and then move outward, pinning in the middle of each square, until you’ve reached the edges. As you move along, check the backing side periodically to ensure you’re not getting any bunching. Once you’re confident that your sandwich looks good, cut the backing fabric and the batting to match the cover, but leave about 1″ extra on all sides. You’ll tidy it up later, but you’ll find that the backing fabric and batting can pull in as you start sewing, so you want to give yourself a bit of a buffer.
8. “Stitch in the ditch”: stitching on the cover side, along all of the lines of your quilt (i.e. you’ll have 5 vertical lines and 7 horizontal lines). No need to stitch along the border of the quilt, since that will be taken care of in the binding step. Trim the edges so that the batting and backing fabric are aligned with the cover.

Stitching in the ditch

9. The last step is the binding. I’ve linked to a tutorial here, which shows you how to make your own binding using 2 1/2 inch strips of the same fabric as you used for the backing. It also shows you how to attach the binding, however, if you’re like me and plan to use your machine to bind (rather than hand sewing), you’ll want to attach the raw edges of the binding to the back of the quilt first, and then do the final binding on the front (using one of the fun stitches on your machine, like a zigzag, or a square stitch like I did!)

Ta-da! A warm and beautiful quilt for your little person to snuggle with for years to come.


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Simply Saturdays

Simple & Beautiful Vase Idea for Spring Flowers

IMG_0794It is officially spring! I always forget how much I’ve missed the warmer months until that first glorious sunny day in March. Suddenly everyone emerges from their winter hibernation and the streets are full of people walking, window shopping and soaking in that much needed vitamin D.

I have a few favourite spring traditions that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks. At our place, spring means that we can cook our signature barbeque recipes, start seedlings in a sunny window, go on bike riding adventures through the city and dig into a bowl of homemade gelato. It also means that tulips are abundant at the local fruit and veggie stand, and I can pick up a bunch with my organic produce for just a couple of dollars. There’s nothing that says spring like coming home to a fragrant bouquet in my home.

This diy vase idea is so simple, and it transforms a regular utilitarian mason jar into a thing of beauty. I picked up a pre-cut square of fabric from a craft store for $2.50, though if you have leftover fabric lying around from a project, this would be an ideal use.


  • square of fabric – 20″ x 20″ (my fabric was thinner so I doubled up, but you could easily use a piece half the size if the fabric is more opaque)
  • about 30″ of twine (or you could use a shorter length of ribbon or cord)
  • one wide mouthed, half-gallon mason jar


Place the mason jar on a table. Fold the fabric in half, and wrap around the jar, with the folded edge at bottom. Have someone hold the fabric in place while you wind the twine around the mouth of the jar a few times and tie in a bow. The fabric at the top looked a little tall to me, so I folded about 1/2″ down on the inside of the jar. Voila!

Tip: Use a canning funnel when pouring water into your vase.

Extended instructions: I didn’t sew my fabric because the loose edge faced the back and wasn’t visible where I’d put the flowers. But, you could certainly sew the back seam by hand or quickly with your machine for a more professional and permanent look.

This could be a cute decorating idea for a baby or bridal shower, or even (if you fancied up the fabric and ribbon, and sewed the back edge) for a great centrepiece. The fabric can also be thrown into the laundry if it gets dirty (follow washing directions for your fabric; hang to dry) or reused for another project later on.



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Choco-Nut Banana Pops!


Do you remember that merry, tinkling tune that heralded the arrival of the ice cream truck? I remember it so vividly – that joy and anticipation of a frosty treat on a hot day.

(I also remember the panicked frenzy of trying to find and coerce a parent into handing over a dollar before the truck slowly disappeared down a neighbouring street and its happy music faded sadly away. But I digress.)

As I see it, one of the chief pleasures of being young is not having to know (or care) that the delicious taste of those ice cream sandwiches and tri-colour popsicles is inversely related to its nutritional value. While my seven-year-old self didn’t care much about ingesting processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavours and colours, the knowledge sure does wreck the experience for me now (one of the major popsicle brands lists Blue 1 and Red 40 as ingredients. Yum?) But this knowledge also makes me feel extra good about scarfing down these decadent choco-nut banana pops, made from real foods I can buy at my local supermarket.


  • 3 Tbsp chocolate chips (I like the Enjoy Life brand, which is vegan)
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1/3 cup hemp hearts
  • 2 bananas


  1. In a double boiler (I have a small saucepan that I fill about 1/2 way with water, and use an insert, otherwise the chocolate can burn), bring water to almost a boil, and melt the coconut oil and chocolate chips. Once melted, add the cocoa powder and stir until it has dissolved without lumps.
  2. Arrange the nuts, nibs and hemp hearts on a cutting board (as I did) or put each in a separate plate (which might be less messy if your kids are helping!)
  3. Cut the bananas in half, and roll each in the chocolate about three quarters of the way down. I had to spoon some of the chocolate on parts of the banana to ensure even coverage.
  4. Roll the chocolate part of the banana in the chopped nuts, pressing down so that they stick. Then sprinkle the hemp hearts and cocoa nibs on all sides.
  5. Place the bananas on a plate in the freezer for 20 minutes to harden the chocolate.
  6. Enjoy!

If you want to add popsicle sticks, do so before freezing (cutting the bananas into thirds might make it easier to eat this way).

This recipe is also endlessly customizable: you could use any kind of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, etc) in place of the walnuts and peanuts, and you could use chia seeds or flax seeds instead of the hemp hearts. Small chocolate chips could replace the nibs, and you could even drizzle the pops with a homemade caramel or cherry sauce if desired!

How to Make Organic Vegetable Broth for (Practically) Free!


We have officially entered deep winter here in Ontario – snowstorms, black ice and bitter, terrible cold. All week I’ve been nursing steaming cups of tea, sinking into fragrant hot baths and really enjoying those extra few minutes under my warm comforter before I get out of bed in the mornings. And I’ve been eating soup. Lots and lots of soup. This week alone I made leek and potato with thyme, butternut squash and ginger, and a creamy tomato with chickpea croutons.

Being a little warmer and happier this week has come at the cost of many boxes of vegetable broth. My favourite brand uses organic vegetables, isn’t from concentrate, does not have any strange ingredients and has a low sodium option. With all that goodness, it’s of course also not cheap! At $4.99 a box ($3.50 if I stock up when it’s on sale), it’s one pantry item that it really pays to make from scratch. Throwing in a couple of loosely chopped onions, a few carrots and pieces of celery, and a smashed garlic clove costs almost nothing and will yield about 4 liters of rich, flavourful broth.

Or, if you want to take the good news even further, you can make the same broth for free (basically), by keeping the vegetable scraps that you’d otherwise compost or throw away during the week. (I don’t know why, but this kind of repurposing makes me positively giddy. Waste not, want not, right?) I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer, and before I peel or chop stock-friendly vegetables, I give them a quick wash so that any scraps are clean and can be tossed in the ziplock. When the bag gets full, I take it out and make a batch of broth.




  • when cutting onions, I usually peel off the last layer along with the outer skin, more generously than I otherwise would  (as in the picture above).
  • always wash the vegetables quickly before peeling  or chopping – it’s much easier to do it before everything is in tiny strips and pieces
  • I recommend using only organic vegetables, since the outer skins and peels are where all the pesticides in conventional vegetables are. You could make a pretty toxic broth using only the scraps of those veggies!
  • In my ziplock, I save onions (green/spring, shallots, yellow, red and white), carrots, celery and sometimes the white and light green parts of leeks. I wouldn’t recommend including anything with strong colours (beets) or flavours (cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc).
  • If you have any veggies that are too wilted or old to cook with, but they haven’t gone bad, you can toss them in the ziplock too (hello, rubbery celery sticks!)


  1. Bring 6 liters of water (preferably filtered) to boil in a large stock pot.
  2. Add 6 loosely packed cups of vegetable scraps, and (if not in the scraps already) add one smashed clove of garlic, one diced tomato (or 6-8 cherry tomatoes) and 2 bay leaves.
  3. Bring the water back to a boil, and then simmer for 4-6 hours. Season to your liking (I add a pinch of salt and a few dashes of pepper).
  4. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer, and pour into canning jars. If you start with 6 liters of water, you should end up with about 5 liters of broth.


Store in the fridge for up to 7 days (or if you’ve used freezer-safe plastic containers, you can store it in the freezer).

Make soup & stay warm, friends.



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How to Grow Alfalfa Sprouts in a Mason Jar


Every once in a while I splurge at my local health food co-op and pick up a wee container of mixed sprouts to give my salads more protein and flavour. Most of us are familiar with the crisp, mild taste of beansprouts, but I was surprised by the diversity of options out there: from the fresh, light crunch of alfalfa sprouts to the sweetness of pea sprouts to the spicy kick of radish sprouts.

I was recently gifted Ann Wigmore’s The Sprouting Book: How to Grow and Use Sprouts to Maximize Your Health and Vitality (by someone who obviously knows me well). Needless to say, I’ve been devouring the information in its pages and the sprouts it’s teaching me to grow in equal measure. Sprouts bookWigmore explains that sprouts have been a part of human diets for over 5000 years, that research during the first World War showed they were better at treating scurvy than lemon juice, and that the US government launched a campaign to teach people how to grow sprouts as a viable alternative to meat during WWII. Cool beans(prouts).

Sprouts are often touted as a “future food” by many nutritionists because they are little powerhouses of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. As a vegetarian, I was especially impressed by this claim:

“Among the sprouts, lentils are the richest single source of high-quality protein. Seven cups of sprouted lentils contain approximately 58 grams of protein – more than enough to meet the U.S. RDA for an adult male!”

Wigmore also notes that all eight of the essential amino acids – the ones we need but that our bodies can’t make internally – are found in sprouted seeds, beans, grains and nuts. She advocates eating a variety of sprouts to ensure you get them all.

Buuuut buying sprouts is expensive! ($4.99 at my local store for 1 cup).  Especially if you want to eat enough of them to really access all of the health benefits I’ve summarized above.

The solution? Enter my favourite diy sidekick: the functional, attractive and versatile Mason jar. You won’t believe how easy and cheap it is to grow sprouts at home like this, with no special equipment needed. This is my slightly modified version of the jar method in Wigmore’s book.

Items Needed:

  • Package of alfalfa seeds, organic is preferable (I used Biosnacky brand)
  • Wide-mouth half gallon Mason jar
  • Two squares of cheesecloth, approx. 6″ by 6″
  • an elastic band
  • a strainer
  • a large bowl for harvesting


Step One: Measure 2 Tbsp of alfalfa seeds into the jar. Fill the jar up halfway with filtered or spring water. Cover with cheesecloth, secure with elastic band, and let soak for 5 hours.

Step Two: Pour out the water through cheesecloth and place the jar at a 45 degree angle in the strainer so the remaining water can drain out. I put the whole thing in the sink to avoid a wet countertop. Let drain for 6-12 hours.

Step Three: The budding sprouts will need to be rinsed and drained twice a day until they are ready to harvest. To do this, put the jar under a gently running tap and allow the water to overflow the jar. There may be some foamy water (due to the waste products the sprouts produce). Then drain the water and place the jar in the strainer as described above.

The sprouts on day 3.

The sprouts on day 3

After the second or third day, you’ll see the seeds have started to sprout. Continue rinsing and draining twice per day. On the last two days of sprouting (day three and four for me), you can place the jar in a sunny spot (after it has drained for half an hour or so) to promote chlorophyll development.

Notice the hulls gathering on the surface, especially in the left corner and around the edges

Notice the hulls gathering on the surface, especially in the left corner and around the edges

Step Four: After your sprouts measure about 1.5″ it’s time to harvest! Fill a large bowl with cool water and empty all of the sprouts into it. Gently agitate the sprouts in the water, and they will shed their hulls (the brown, outer part of the seed). You’ll see the hulls collect on the surface of the water and at the bottom of the bowl. Scoop out the hulls on the surface, then gently scoop all of the sprouts and put in a strainer lined with a paper towel. Dump out the remaining water and the hulls at the bottom of the bowl. (Note: you won’t get all of the hulls, but they are not harmful so no need to shoot for perfection!)


Blot your sprouts gently, then store in a glass jar in the fridge. They’ll last about a week. Enjoy in sandwiches or salads, or as a healthy garnish!

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Easy and Luxurious – Organic Lavender and Sweet Orange Body Oil

It has been so cold here lately (yesterday our thermostat read -23, and we heard that the windchill brought it down to -35 – yikes!) This morning I bundled into layers and layers and layers of tights and sweaters and scarves… to take out the garbage. I am officially in hibernation mode until spring (or at least until tomorrow when I have to go back to work).

Living in southern Ontario means that the air here is not only cold but also so dry. I used up the last of my body moisturizer fending off the itchy, chapped skin that is our regional scourge in wintertime, and I’m replacing it with something even more soothing and hydrating – body oil. Bonus: I don’t even have to go outside to get it.


I started making diy body products after reading about many of the harmful ingredients in conventional brands – things like phthalates, parabens and triclosan that scientists are saying are harmful to us and to the planet (check out the David Suzuki Foundation’s “‘Dirty Dozen’ Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid” for a scary basic rundown). My general rule is that I won’t buy any product that contains ingredients that I don’t recognize (weird chemical names? No thanks. Sneaky, vague qualifiers like “fragrance” hiding nasty synthetics linked to asthma and even cancer? I’ll pass). There are a few brands that I can get at my health food store or online that do use safe, natural ingredients and that have comprehensive anti-animal testing policies. But I’ve also found that for many items, it’s easier and much less expensive to make my own.

If you’ve never ventured afield from lotions and butters, you are in for a treat. Not to knock homemade lotions and butters (recipes to come!), which are also wonderful, but body oil has the distinct advantage of being ridiculously easy to make. It’s also endlessly customizable (Crunchy Betty has some great recipes for other combinations here). But this Organic Lavender and Sweet Orange Body Oil is my favourite – it’s ideal for an after-shower treat, and its gentle scent relaxes and rejuvenates. I chose grapeseed oil because it absorbs quickly (more quickly than olive and avocado oils, I find) and hazelnut oil for its beneficial fatty acid content (it’s especially clearing and calming for irritated skin). I also added carrot seed essential oil for its antioxidant and anti-aging properties.


  • 2 parts organic, cold-pressed grapeseed oil
  • 1 part organic, cold-pressed hazelnut oil
  • 10 drops organic carrot seed essential oil per 1/2 cup oil
  • 15 drops organic sweet orange essential oil per 1/2 cup oil
  • 10 drops organic lavender essential oil per 1/2 cup oil

** If you have any sensitivities or allergies to the ingredients above, feel free to swap out the oils (olive or avocado for the grapeseed; apricot kernel, sweet almond, rosehip seed for the hazelnut), or consult your physician if you have concerns. If any of these ingredients are new to you, I recommend that you do a patch test to rule out any issues.

I used the frosted glass bottle pictured above (which holds about 1/2 cup oil), but you can customize the recipe to whatever size container you plan to use (I recommend tall bottles and, if you’re worried about spills, something with a flip-cap). Using a funnel, pour the base oils directly into your container, then add the essential oils. Finito! This body oil makes an amazing gift, especially in a basket full of other handmade products. I make it in small batches and plan to use within 6 months.

Unhappy dry skin evaded once again. You’ll skill have to bundle up to go outside though; there’s no diy solution for weather (yet!)

Spicy Dark Chocolate Truffles


I have to admit – I am ambivalent about Valentine’s Day.

On one hand, getting showered with chocolate and flowers and a reservation at a fancy restaurant seems like an unequivocally wonderful thing. But if in reality it means treats full of refined sugars and artificial ingredients, wilted roses with obscene price tags and squeezing into a tiny table at an overbooked bistro, isn’t that a pretty low bar for romance?

My husband and I usually pass on the big gestures in favour of a simpler evening. This year we’ll tuck into a favourite home-cooked meal, a stellar bottle of pinot noir that we’ve been saving and some nourishing chocolates with a little heat to ring in the holiday right.

These spicy chocolate truffles give me nothing to be ambivalent about – they’re dark and decadent, with a nice kick that is warming from the inside out (an especially welcome surprise during this chilly time of year in Canada!). Best of all, they’re made from whole food ingredients and are full of antioxidants, good fats, and essential vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, selenium, beta-carotene, copper and manganese. Dark chocolate, coconut oil, raw honey and cayenne pepper join forces to pack a pretty impressive healthy punch . They’re even vegan! Though often truffles are dusted with cocoa powder (or sometimes coconut shreds) to finish, I chose to roll these in hemp hearts to give them a little extra protein and omega-3s. Take that, drugstore chocolate boxes!

(All this to justify that we ate the entire batch in one sitting the day before Valentine’s Day. Good thing I wrote down the recipe. Happy holiday, all!)


  • 80 g of 100% baking chocolate
  • 25 g dark chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Cocoa Camino)
  • 75 g coconut milk (the thicker part in the can)
  • 25 g coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1/2- 1 tsp powdered cayenne pepper
  • tiny pinch sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4-5 Tbsp hemp hearts



  1. Chop the baking chocolate and chocolate chips finely. Pour boiling water into a bowl for 15 sec to warm it. Dump the water, dry the bowl, and add the chocolate and cocoa powder.
  2. Heat the coconut milk and coconut oil over low heat until just before it starts to boil. Add in the vanilla extract at the last second, give a quick stir, and pour the hot liquid over top of the chocolate.
  3. Stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate has melted, and add in the honey, salt and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Taste test and add the extra cayenne pepper if like me you like the heat! If it’s not sweet enough for you, add 1 tsp of cane sugar or extra honey and taste test again.
  4. Put the mixture into the fridge for about one hour, or until it is cool, but not solid yet.
  5. Sprinkle hemp hearts onto a cutting board and roll balls of the chocolate in it to coat. Store in the fridge, but let them sit out for a few minutes before serving.

Makes about 15-20 truffles, depending on size.