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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!

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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…

(Source)

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.

(Source)

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

(Source)

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!

monday morning run

I did it!  I woke up early on a rainy Monday morning to complete my 10 mile long run!  I actually did not notice that it was raining until I was up and dressed, which was probably a good thing.  Once I did notice, I started to dread the run, but as I got into the run it definitely was not that bad (except for the wind!).

I ended up with an average pace of 9:07, but my pace during the run was jumping a little bit due to the wind.  You can definitely tell when I was running along the water, which was much windier.

10 Mile Run

1 – 9:21
2 – 9:04
3 – 9:11
4 – 9:32
5 – 9:05
6 – 9:04
7 – 9:25
8 – 8:56
9 – 9:01
10 – 8:31

Before I set out on my run, I snacked on a banana and a glass of water.  I have found that eating something (even at 4:30am) really helps towards the end of the run.

After the run, I made a big bowl of oats!

I kept it simple today.

In the mix:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 cup water

On the top:

  • 1/4 cup homemade granola
  • 1 tbsp maple almond butter

Delicious breakfast on a rainy morning!  It kept me full for hours, which was great because I had a busy morning.

Once I finally had time to dig into lunch, I pulled out the following from my lunchbag of goodies:

Spinach Salad with Mozarella from Saturday night.

Quinoa with Veggies from Saturday night.

And, some TJ’s Flatbread from Friday night. 🙂

 

Followed by…dark chocolate goodies, in the spirit of my healthy lap of the week!

I couldn’t decided what I wanted, so I mixed some things together: dark chocolate leaves, dark chocolate almonds and dark chocolate covered ginger!  I’m not sure what was my favorite, but at least I got some healthy fats in there with the almonds.

And, now i’m sipping some tea hoping the afternoon will fly by.  We have fun dinner reservations tonight!

healthy lap of the week – eat more chocolate!

Healthy Lap of the Week – Eat More Chocolate!

You may think that I am crazy, but I have been reading the book Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie.  It is unbelievable what raw chocolate (cacao) can do for your health.

 

Now, I’m not saying that eating any chocolate bar will benefit your health.  It needs to be natural, raw chocolate (or dark chocolate).  So, don’t go out and buy a case of Snickers bars!

All chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are the seeds of the cacao fruit.  Once removed from their pods, they taste like rich dark chocolate (with a bitterness) because that is what they really are!  Which is why dark chocolate is the best type that you can eat.  Most good, high quality dark chocolate is minimally processed.

Chocolate (and the cacao fruit) grows on trees! (Source)

The cacao beans are found inside of the fruit, which is ripe once colorful. (Source)

They are found inside of the pods. (Source)

And removed for chocolate production! (Source)

The cacao bean contains numerous antioxidants, more than anything else, including red wine and green tea which have been shown to contain many antioxidants themselves.  However, in order to gain the antioxidants from chocolate, it needs to be eaten as dark chocolate or in it’s natural state (ie. raw cacao nibs or powder).  It has also been shown that consuming chocolate and milk together, greatly decreases the amount of antioxidants that your body can absorb.  Therefore, milk chocolate is a no-no, and so is drinking a big glass of milk with your chocolate bar.  I frequently add raw cacao powder and/or nibs to my smoothies.  Not only am I getting a delicious chocolate drink, but I am also getting the many great benefits of raw chocolate.

Raw Cacao Nibs are delicious when added to smoothies (without milk!!) and cookies! (Source)

 

Surprisingly, chocolate is shown to decrease your appetite.  Many people believe that chocolate is linked to obesity (which is true because of all of the artificially produced candy bars out there), however, if eaten correctly, chocolate is actually proven to be a natural weight loss drug!  If you look at many weight loss products on the market today, more often than not, there is cacao somewhere in the ingredient list because it will suppress your appetite.

Chocolate also contains the following benefits:

  • It has high levels of magnesium, which over 80% of Americans are deficient in.  We need magnesium for heart health, muscle relaxation and to increase our brainpower.
  • It has high amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA), which makes us happy!  Happy people have noticeably higher levels of PEA in their brains.
  • It also contains anandamide and tryptophan, which are both mood-enhancing nutrients that our bodies need.

“Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cacao bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cacao bean has always been and will always be Nature’s #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.”
David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About The World’s Greatest Food.

You can purchase cacao powder and nibs in many natural food stores these days, including whole foods.  I love the Navitas Naturals brand, but anything will do!

 

If you need any other reasons to keep eating chocolate, definitely check out this book!  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll be giving you lots of tidbits here and there until I do!  It has a lot of great looking recipes to try too, but they are all raw, so that needs to be your thing!

Happy Eating! 🙂