Spicy Dark Chocolate Truffles

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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!)

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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  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.


Midwinter cornbread muffins with feta, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes

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When it comes to new year’s resolutions, I’ve always been a better maker than a keeper. But this year? I’m killing it.

Walking to work everyday? Check, even if the recent blizzards have meant that facefuls of make-up and a couple of frozen fingertips have been sacrificed to the cause (okay, I’m exaggerating about the frost-bite, but seriously – your stock tip of the day? Cover Girl).

Self-care? Cheeeeck (extra incentive to prioritize bubble baths, yoga, pedicures and good books? Yes please).

Creating more nourishing, delicious recipes from scratch? This one has been the most rewarding because it’s re-connected me with the playfulness of cooking. We have so few things in our adult lives that qualify as the kind of experimental, immersive play that we had as kids. I always forget how enjoyable cooking this way can be: figuring out ideal ingredient quantities, finding inventive ways to use what’s in the fridge, learning from the spectacular failures and relishing the sweet satisfaction of getting it just. right.

Which brings me to these savory cornbread muffins with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh rosemary. They’re moist, full of flavour and healthy to boot. I’m going to eat one alongside a bowl of steaming vegetable soup, but they are also delicious plain, with butter or coconut oil, or with spreads like pesto, lentil pâté, and bruschetta.

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I have not tried to make a vegan version, but it should be fairly straightforward to swap the egg for a flax egg, the butter for Earth Balance and the feta for your vegan cheese of choice.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup flour (I used sprouted whole wheat)
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • pinch saltIMG_0517
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup coconut milk (from the thicker part of the can)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup feta, crumbled
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomato pieces
  • ½ Tbsp rosemary

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, water, melted butter and coconut milk, and then mix together with the flour mixture (do not overmix).
  4. Fold in the feta, sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary.
  5. Pour the mixture into buttered or oiled muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before removing from tins.
  6. I recommend serving warm when the cheese is all melty and delicious.

Enjoy!


The first date.

Starting a blog feels a little like going on a first date. It’s exciting and risky, with so much potential for both the good and the awkward. Will I find kindred souls here or will I say all the wrong things? (The latter spirals into so many more questions: How many others out there share my enthusiasm about juicing and CSA boxes? Does my fascination with seed sprouting render me an incorrigible nerd? Will my DIY perfume have the right allure?)

But like any relationship, I suppose there’s no magic without risk, so I’m jumping into the fray.

I’ve been an avid reader of other blogs– vegetarian cooking blogs, homesteading blogs, wellness blogs – for a couple of years. Websites including mommypotamus, wellnessmama, ohsheglows, theprairiehomestead, cookieandkate, naturallyella, nourishedkitchen, crunchybetty and nerdyfarmwife have taught me about food, about self-sufficiency and about savouring what nourishes me, physically and emotionally. Learning from the community of women who author these sites has changed my life in slow but increasingly significant ways. A wallflower no longer, I’m exiting the sidelines and ushering my own story out into the mix.

This Life Handmade will be the chronicle of my attempts to create a gentler life through intentional and sustainable choices that elucidate the grace of simple things. As much as I’d love to own a hundred acres of sunny meadows and babbling brooks, my reality is a small apartment in a big city, and a full-time career. Cooking wholesome foods from scratch, growing what I can in my little urban ‘homestead,’ making my own non-toxic body products and cleaning supplies, and creating gifts from candles to knitted mittens are projects I’ll undertake here with enthusiasm (and probably with lots of mess!). I’m looking forward to this journey.

Off we go…