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i’m dreaming of a white chocolate christmas

Brant and I took a baking class on Saturday at the Cambridge Culinary Institute and had so much fun!

It got us into the holiday spirit and was nice to get some new ideas and tips from our instructor.

The class was I’m Dreaming of a White Chocolate Christmas and was (obviously) a class filled with baking with white chocolate.

There were a variety of recipes for us to choose from.  Some people focused on cakes and some kept it simpler, like us.  We decided to try a few different recipes for scones, cookies and truffles.  All of which were easy to make and tasted delicious!

First up, White Chocolate Scones:

Making the dough was fun!

Form the dough into a circle and cut into triangles.

Bake for 20 minutes until slightly browned.

Instructors tip: Stack 2 cookie sheets together while baking so that the bottoms don’t brown to quickly.

These scones were delicious!  Crispy and flaky, just like a scone should be. 🙂

Next up, White Chocolate Dream Cookies:

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Chop white chocolate and toast macademia nuts before adding.

Using an ice cream scoop, form into balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until browned.

Yum!

Last up, White Chocolate Truffles:

These truffles were super easy!

Melt cream, butter, vanilla and white chocolate in a bowl.

Cool for a few hours, or pop the bowl into an ice bath and stir until harded enough to form balls.

To make it easy, we scooped the cooled mixture into a pastry sleeve and portioned out the chocolate mixture.

They don’t need to look pretty because you will be reshaping them once harded.

After a few hours in the fridge or 10 minutes in the freezer, use your hand to form the truffles into round balls.  Serve plain or dip into mixture of choice – we chose crushed pistachios and toasted coconut.

These would make perfect holiday gifts!

All of our goodies.

Other folks in the class make souffles and cakes!

We got a little of everything to sample at home.

It was a great and informative class!  I would definitely do it again!

happy 1st blogiversary

One year ago today, I wrote my very first blog post!  It was a very short post, but it was the start…

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Over the past year, I have had a great time blogging about everything from healthy eating to fitness apparel to my travels to my pregnancy.  It has been fun to get to know others in the blogging community who share similar interests.

I can’t wait to see what this next year holds. 🙂  Thank you for sticking with me and reading my blog!

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The past week, my meals have been very simple.

There has been a lot of this…

A lot of these…

And, a lot of these pumpkin muffins that I burnt to a crisp. 🙂

I love fall!

We did whip up one delicious dinner, however.

Lentil Almond Stir-fry.

This is one of my favorite meals.  It is so simple, but the flavors work together so so well.  I would make it every week…it’s that good!

The only change that I made, was the addition of radishes from our CSA.

And, to make a simple recipe even simpler, I used the pre-cooked Black Beluga Lentils from Trader Joe’s.

Topped with the delicious mint and yogurt sauce…this was a hit!

And, a slice of warm bread on the side.  Perfect. 🙂

theo chocolate – seattle, wa

Can you guess what my absolute favorite part of Seattle was?!  Ok, well, maybe not my absolute favorite part, but it was a pretty good bonus!  On Friday, we visited and toured Theo Chocolate!

Theo Chocolate is located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  It is a trendy neighborhood with fun restaurants and shops, including my favorite Homegrown.

We entered into their lobby where they have samples of and sell a variety of their chocolates, including chocolate bars, truffles, sipping chocolate, etc.

Lots of samples, but we waited for the tour.

After checking everything out, we headed downstairs to learn about chocolate and tour their facilities.  We were armed with hairnets!

We learned a lot about chocolate growing and making throughout the tour.  I already knew a lot of the information from reading Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie (see post here), but it was interesting to learn about the process that Theo uses.

Theo Chocolate is the only organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the United States.  They use only organic and fair trade ingredients, including the extra ingredients that go into some of their chocolates, like hazelnuts and ginger.

They buy from the chocolate growing region, which surrounds the equator.  Many of their chocolate bars only use chocolate from one specific region, while others use a mix.

What does Theo mean?  Theo comes from the Greek name of the Cacao tree – Theobroma Cacao, Food of the Gods.  Theobromine promotes happiness in people!

Their chocolate is delivered to the factory as cacao beans,

and they start the process completely from scratch.

Backing up a bit…cacao pods grow on trees.

When they turn pretty colors, the pods are ready to be picked.  It is imperitive that they are picked right away, otherwise the beans inside start to rot.

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Once the pods are pried open, they reveal a white gel-like substance surrounding each bean.

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The covered beans are then thrown into a barrel and left to ‘rot’, or ‘ferment’.  Skipping this step, causes chocolate to be bitter and unedible.  So, fermenting helps the beans (just like wine and beer!). 🙂

Once the beans have fermented, the leftover get is washed away and the beans are shipped to their various chocolate making locations, including to Theo.

They are shipped in bags, but once at the factory, each bag is sorted threw to make sure the beans are good and washed.  Once they pass the test, the process of making chocolate begins!

D.R. = Dominican Republic

They are roasted here.

Then transfered to the Winnower which seperates the husks from the nibs.  The nibs can then be used as chocolate.

Cacao bean husks

And, Cacao Nibs

Next, the nibs head to the stone mill to get crushed into a paste.

All of the ‘bad paste’ gets dumped out before the paste heads to the mixer.

The mixer is where sugar and/or milk powder is added (for milk chocolate).  Then it heads through the refiner and the conche to minimize the sugar and reduce any acidity.

The chocolate stays in the holding tank until it is tranferred to the tempering machine, which is a very important step!  It binds the butter and solids together.  Then, one of two employees adds any additions and pours the chocolate into molds.

Our next stop, the kitchen where we got to sample lots of goodies!

An employee is making their graham cracker here to be included in the Big Daddy bar.

Everything that goes into their bars and confections is made in their own kitchen.  All of the ingredients are organic as well!

This was made from chocolate scraps.

Theo makes all sorts of chocolate from dark chocolate to milk chocolate.  Some favorites are Chai Tea, Chile Dark, Hazelnut Crunch, Cacao Nib Crunch.  They are all delicious!

We had a fantastic time on the tour learning more about chocolate and the chocolate farmers, along with how Theo chocolate is actually made.  It makes me feel good about buying their chocolate!

nyc weekend recap – part I

Wow – what a whirlwind of a weekend!  I hope you all liked my posts of spring veggies and spring running gear over the past few days.  Now, on to the eats for the weekend.

It was quite the weekend of food finds for me.  I was in the city Thursday-Sunday, and even though I was in an 8 hour workshop everyday, I was determined to get to the places I wanted to go to.  It’s not everyday that I get to be in NYC, so I need to live it up when I’m there.  There are a crazy amount of healthy/vegan/vegetarian/raw food joints that I want to try out.  I got to quite a few over the past few days!

I didn’t document everything that I ate over the past few days, just the things worth mentioning.  Breakfast each day was normal – oatmeal with banana, flax, peanut butter and granola.  Lunch was PB&J, apple and yogurt.  Snacks were granola bars and/or trailmix.  Nothing unusual, but I needed everything to be portable.  I made sure to pack my own breakfast, lunch and snacks so that I would have more to spend on goodies!

My first stop was at Angelica Kitchen for dinner on Thursday night with my sister-in-law.  Angelica Kitchen is a vegan restaurant that uses only organic products and no preservatives or refined sugars.  Apparently, they only buy their produce from local farmers, and serve everything within 48 hours of harvest.

I was so excited when she said that she wanted to try it out!  The place was packed, but we only had a 30ish minute wait, and it was worth it.  Everything on the menu sounded delicious.  They have a variety of entrees, appetizers and juices, but I ended up going with a special of the day.

Millet patties with corn, onion, sweet potato and spices served with a pumpkin pesto over sauteed beans, roasted cauliflower and green beans.

This was so so so good!  I loved everything about it and basically cleaned my plate.  It tasted so fresh and healthy.

Obviously, I saved room for dessert.

Carob Chocolate Cake with raspberry puree and maple tofu whip.

Doesn’t it look so pretty?  Well, I did not like it!  I guess that I am not a huge fan of carob – or there was something else in here that I didn’t like.  It tasted very dry and the maple tofu whip on top did not taste of maple.  Oh well – our dinners definitely made up for it.  I would go back in a second!

After the workshop on Friday, I took a long walk around the city to stretch out my legs and check out a few places.

The first stop was Cocoa V, a vegan chocolate shopCocoa V is a chocolate boutique and wine cafe, according to their website.

It was adorable inside with a bakery case full of chocolates, and a small room of tables set up to wine and dine.  They have so many chocolates to choose from, and expensive chocolate at that!  There were Truffles, Bon Bons, Bark, Brownies, Cupcakes, Hot Chocolate, etc.  They do offer a few menu items, as well, but let’s be honest – I was here for the chocolate!  And, I took it to go.

I purchased a few things: Chocolate Pretzel Chunks, Chocolate Bark with Coffee Beans and Cacao Nibs and a Chocolate Almond Bar.  I ate a bite of each right away, and they were all delicious!!  Very rich and chocolaty.  I am not sure what they use for chocolate, but it did not taste anything like my Carob Cake from Angelica Kitchen.

Then, I made my way over to Union Square for the Farmer’s Market.  I got there just as booths were starting to close down, but I did get there in time for my favorite pretzel stand to still be open.

Where I purchased some pretzels to-go.  They sell the pretzels individually, in 3’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s, etc.  I went with 1/2 salted, 1/2 unsalted.  They are really good!

And, then to my favorite NYC establishment – One Lucky Duck!!

One Lucky Duck is the takeaway section of Pure Food & Wine, a raw vegan restaurant whose menu is entirely plant based and does not use any processed ingredients.  Nothing is heated above approximately 118 degrees in order to preserve vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.  I have not been to the restaurant, but someday I will get there!  One Lucky Duck offers take-out featuring salads, nori rolls, smoothies, juices, desserts and packaged items like granola and crackers.

I got a Pina Colada smoothie which is made up of fresh coconut meat, coconut water and fresh pineapple.  No sugar added!  It was one of the best things I have ever had!!!  Why can’t we have places like this in Boston?  This is why I make visits to new places while in NYC.

I also bought a few things to go…ok, a lot of things to go!  Last time I was here, I absolutely loved everything I purchased, so I needed to try a few others this time.

Rosemary Quackers, Granola, Cinnamon Crispies.

Orange Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Honey Bunches Bar.

The Honey Bunches Bar contains organic almonds, organic oats, organic buckwheat, organic blueberries, organic nutmeg, organic vanilla extract, organic raw honey, Himalayan crystal salt. It is awesome!  Not too sweet, not too hard – just perfect and delicious.

And, lastly Chocolate Truffle Butter.  Made with raw organic ingredients: cacao powder, agave, cacao butter, vanilla beans and celtic sea salt.

They were handing out samples of this on little spoons last time, and it was unbelievable.  Can you tell that I like this place?  Yes, it is pricey, however, you pay for what you get.  It is located in NYC which does add to the price, but a lot of time and preparations go into preparing raw foods.

I hope you liked Recap – Part I of New York City’s vegan/vegetarian/healthy eating establishments.  I am always searching out new healthy restaurants when I travel to other cities and love to give other people ideas.  There are hundreds of places to visit in NYC and I love to read and hear about other people’s favorites, so hopefully you do to!

This post is getting really long, so Part II to come tomorrow…

cherries & chocolate

I made the best smoothie for breakfast this morning!  I was looking around at other blogs to be inspired, since I was getting sick of my smoothie combinations and I came across Kristen’s Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake!  It is all over other food blogs out there, so I knew I needed to try it pronto.

Below is Kristen’s recipe, with the few additions that I made.

Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake
Recipe by Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 3 cups

1 cup filtered water
1 frozen banana, chopped
1 cup frozen cherries (I used 1/2 frozen berry mix, 1/2 frozen strawberries – it was what I had!)
1/4 cup hemp protein powder
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
2 tablespoons raw chocolate powder
splash vanilla extract (I used a few drops vanilla stevia)

added: 1 tbsp cacao nibs, 2 handfuls spinach!

I didn’t have a cup big enough to hold this smoothie, so I used two!

But, obviously, I drank both cups myself.  This smoothie was SO good!  It was the best I have had in awhile.  It tasted like chocolate covered strawberries and I could not taste the spinach at all.  If you haven’t tried this already, you need to try it!

I also had a slice of millet toast with earth balance, flaxseed meal and cinnamon.

When lunchtime rolled around, all I wanted was another Cherry Chocolate Bomb!  But, luckily, I had packed a nutritious lunch to get rid of my cravings.

Whole wheat pita filled with 1 laughing cow wedge, cucumbers and romaine.

Pineapple Chobani with homemade granola.

This was a delicious lunch (I love this Chobani!), but I still wanted some more Chocolate Covered Cherries, so I headed out to Barnes & Nobles for a new beverage that I heard was debuting today at Starbucks – the Dark Cherry Mocha!

Well, I was disappointed!  Compared to my awesome smoothie this morning, this drink tasted really artificial.  I was bummed.  Plus, I have not been drinking coffee, so this instantly hurt my stomach.  I drank about half, which satisfied my craving for the time being.  Next time, I’ll stick with tea!

A few hours later, it was snacktime!  Guess what I had?!

Cherry Semolina crackers from Dr. Krackers and Sabra hummus.

I also had an unpictured apple because I was feeling like I needed more fruit.

I never realized how much I love cherries and chocolate!

Off for a run, then a simple dinner!