Amore di Mona Vegan Chocolate Fudge

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Vegan fudge. Not words you hear paired together too often. That’s because fudge is usually a labour intensive process that involves cooking a mixture of sugar, butter and cocoa to the exact right temperature in order for it to solidify into a texture that isn’t too firm, but isn’t so runny that it’s essentially a glorified caramel sauce. Well not this time. This vegan fudge is made of all of 4 ingredients, 5 if you include the salt used to garnish the tops. Amore di Mona vegan, gluten free and allergen free chocolate is melted down and combined with coconut milk and agave to sweeten the works. Let it chill and that’s it, you’ve got yourself a batch of fudge. Vegan fudge to be exact.

If you would like to WIN some Amore di Mona chocolate for yourself, scroll down to enter!

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Amore di Mona Vegan Chocolate Fudge
 
Author:
Serves: 12-14 pieces
Ingredients
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk (the canned variety, not drinkable tetra packs or cartons), reserving 1-2 tablespoons in case the fudge splits
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 8 ounces (340g) Amore di Mona baking chocolate (4 x 2 ounce squares), chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons agave nectar, optional
  • Coarse sea salt, to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a small pot over medium heat, reduce the coconut milk for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the coconut oil and chocolate until fully melted.
  3. If you notice that the mixture starts to split, in which case the oils will begin to separate from the solids, gradually whisk in the reserved 1-2 tablespoons of coconut milk to help it re-emulsify.
  4. Add in the agave nectar, if desired to sweeten the fudge slightly.
  5. Pour the mixture into mini muffin tins lined with muffin wrappers. Chill until firm, at least one to two hours.
  6. Sprinkle the tops of the fudge with coarse sea salt, just prior to eating. If you salt them ahead of time, it will dissolve into the moisture of the fudge in the fridge and you won’t get the same crunchy texture.
  7. The fudge can be stored in the fridge pretty much indefinitely, but I guarantee it will not last that long. Enjoy!

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Vegan Fudge 1

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Fancy yourself some vegan, gluten-free chocolates? Amore di Mona has been gracious enough to offer a gift box for one lucky reader so be sure to get your entries in!
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Holiday Cooking on a Budget

No time of year warrants sticking to a budget quite like the holidays, yet December is probably the most difficult month to be a penny-pincher; especially when it comes to food. First you’ve got the turkey. A good one will set you back at least $60-70. Then you’ve got to figure out what sides to pair with it. Everyone has their favourites so there really aren’t any you can eliminate. You can’t forget dessert either. Christmas chocolates? Yes please. But $15 for a box of Quality Street or Turtles, say what?

Thankfully good food doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 3 dishes you can prepare to serve up to 6 people, for less than $30. If I did my math correctly, that’s less than $5 per person.

Your friends and family may throw a fit if you don’t have turkey for the holidays, so instead of cooking a whole bird, try opting for legs instead. They are dirt cheap – between $2.50 to $3 per leg – and braising them ensures they stay moist and tender, unlike that dry breast meat that no one likes.

For a side, try making a chickpea salad. Beans and legumes are a great way to add bulk to your meal and are a blank canvas to add a plethora of other flavours. The red and green colours of pomegranate and brussels sprouts scream “holidays” to me!

Finally, dessert is required at all holiday meals, regardless of how full you are. Grandma’s coconut snowballs are the easiest treats you will ever make in your life. You don’t even have to turn the oven on. Still they are a crowd favourite year after year.

I don’t know about you but that’s one tasty sounding budget meal right there. It will have everyone at your table saying “Merry Christmas”, your wallet included!

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BRAISED TURKEY LEGS

Serves 4-6 – costs $14.50

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper and brown them in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You are just looking to sear them, not cook them through.
  2. Remove the browned turkey from the skillet and place it in a large, oven-proof dish.
  3. Add the vegetables and dried herbs to the same skillet you browned the turkey in. Deglaze with chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour the vegetables and stock over the turkey legs. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 3-3.5h, or until tender. You can then use the braising liquid to make a gravy if you like, or you can serve the turkey as is. The turkey can also be braised a day ahead of time and just warmed up when you are ready to serve.

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CHICKPEA SALAD WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND POMEGRANATE

Serves 4-6 – costs $5 total

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2-3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and honey until smooth. Whisk in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine the chickpeas, pomegranate, and brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour in the dressing and stir to combine.
  3. This salad is best eaten after a couple of hours because it allows the dressing to marinate the chickpeas and brussels sprouts. You can ever make ahead of time to serve the next day.

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COCONUT SNOWBALLS

Makes 20 balls – costs $7.50 total

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6-8 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/2 of a typical 350g package)
  • shredded coconut, as needed (about 1-1 1/2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Stir together all ingredients except the shredded coconut.
  2. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and coat each with coconut.
  3. Refrigerate if not eaten immediately.
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Holiday Chocolate Gift Ideas

There is no time like the holidays to eat your weight in chocolate. Whether you are buying it for yourself, or for friends and family, here are my top picks for chocolate gift ideas:

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1. Hand-dipped Cherries from Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut

How can you go wrong with booze and chocolate? Exactly, you can’t. Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut makes the most amazing Kirsch-soaked, double-chocolate dipped organic BC cherries money can buy. Get ‘em while they last as they are only available during the holidays.

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2. Ragusa Blond Chocolate Bar from Camille Bloch

Blond chocolate (AKA white chocolate in caramelized form) has been a hot commodity lately. Try the Ragusa bar with praline paste and whole hazelnuts for that perfect blend of creamy and crunchy.

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3. Bulk Chocolate from Amore di Mona

For the baker in your life, Amore di Mona’s 20 oz. bar is the perfect gift. Not only is it ideal for making decadent chocolate brownies and homemade fudge, it is also vegan, gluten free and allergen free, so everyone can eat it! Win win.

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4. Boxed collection from Lindt

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a big box of chocolates. Lindt offers assortments of everything from their classic Lindor truffles, to their dessert-inspired creme brûlée chocolates. Forget buying them for other people, just get a big box for yourself!

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5. Single Origin Bars from Coppeneur

Fine chocolate is like fine wine; you can taste terroir. Chocolate from the Dominican tastes completely different than chocolate from Ecuador. See for yourself and try some of Coppeneur’s offerings!

Touring the Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut Factory

I will never, EVER turn down an activity related to chocolate. If I do, you will know I’ve gone senile so please commit me. Naturally, when I received an invite to tour the Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut and Cococo chocolate factory, I was on it faster than over-whipped cream turns to butter (good one, hey?).

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Greeted by the sweet smell of chocolate I knew it was going to be an amazing tour from the get-go. If they ever figure out a way to bottle that aroma without it smelling artificial, they will make millions from it, guaranteed. Anyways, I met up with Kristen, their wonderful marketing manager and once we got our coats and hairnets on, it was go-time.

First she showed me the aftermath of the 2012 floods and how it completely demolished their old production facility in the basement of the building. How they managed to get it from this, back up and running, cranking out chocolate like no one’s business, I cannot fathom. All I know is that the chocolate world is all the better for it.

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Then we moseyed up to the current production area and the real fun began. Given that it is just over 2 weeks until Christmas, they were busy creating their signature hand-dipped cherries. They start with organic BC cherries (and you know they are real because they still have the pits in them), which are soaked in Kirsch and then dipped in alternating layers of chocolate, fondant and more chocolate. When you bite into them, you get an immediate liquid burst of boozy, cherry syrup. Needless to say it wouldn’t take too many before you were over the legal limit, but considering they are only available during the holidays, one must splurge. Just make sure you find a DD if you intend to eat more than 5 or 6 of them in one sitting ;)

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From there we continued through the factory, walking by staff doing everything from filling and unmolding truffles, to mixing giant vats of their acclaimed sea salt caramel (used in milk chocolate covered caramels that recently won gold at the Canadian National Chocolate Awards). What really struck me was their commitment to using as many local, Canadian ingredients as possible. Obviously you cannot source Canadian cocoa beans, but they do use an assortment of native products including dairy, fruit, sugar, liqueur and even hazelnuts. In fact more than 50 of their ingredients are sourced locally and 11 other key ingredients are from other places in Canada.

I was also fortunate enough to get to chat with the master chocolatier, Chef Derrick Tu Tan Pho, that oversees the whole operation. I have never met anyone who knows as much about chocolate as he does, or is as innovative with it either! At Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut, new products are constantly in the works but before they go to market, it takes anywhere between 6-12 months of testing to make sure they are absolutely perfect. I’m not sure how to describe how much dedication it takes to test something for up to a year, over and over again until you get it right. It involves a heck of a lot of commitment, that’s for sure.

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As the tour came to a close, I had mixed feelings. Sad that it was over, I was also thrilled to get my goodie bag to take home and taste a variety of finished products, having just seen how they came to be. I’m hard-pressed to pick favourites when it comes to chocolate, but I am of the mindset “the darker the better.” Their dark chocolate caraques are simple but delicious, although you can turn things up a notch with mint or orange flavoured leaves (all naturally flavoured as well, which is great because no one likes the combination of chocolate and toothpaste). Of course their speciality Calgary bar with habanero and sea salt is a long-time favourite of mine so you cannot go wrong with that either. Most interesting though was definitely the dark chocolate oregano fusion bar. Similar to their rosemary fusion except made with dark instead of milk chocolate, it is studded with habanero and sea salt for that sweet, salty, spicy, herbaceous kick.

So don’t just sit there, get out and try some of Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut and Cococo’s delicious chocolate for yourself! For a list of locations across Canada and in the US, and to find one in your area, click here. You can also follow them on twitter @ChocBernCal.

Vegan Nanaimo Bars

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What scrooge of a person doesn’t love a holiday bake sale, especially when the proceeds are all going to charity? This past weekend I participated in the annual Calgary Food Blogger’s Bake Sale in support of Brown Bagging for Kids, a local charity that provides school lunches to underprivileged kids. People got delicious sweets and the money went to a great cause – it was a win-win situation.

I made two offerings, vegan ginger cookies based on this recipe and even better yet, these vegan Nanaimo bars. Now don’t go running to your mommy at the sound of the word “vegan.” You seriously cannot tell that these squares don’t have a hint of butter or eggs in them. In fact, I think they taste better than normal Nanaimo bars because the use of coconut oil instead of butter just amps up all of the coconut flavour. Make these for dessert at your next holiday gathering and they are sure to be a hit. I won’t tell anyone they’re vegan if you don’t.

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For recipes from other bloggers at the bake sale, check out the following links:

Food Mamma, Candy Cane Bark
Scrumptiously Fit Food, Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Dish N The Kitchen, Salted Pistachio Sables
Heather’s EATS, Butter Tarts
Miss Foodie, Hazelnut Shortbread

Vegan Nanaimo Bars
 
Serves: 1 9x13 pan
Ingredients
  • Base
  • ¾ cup coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp. almond milk
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
  • Middle Layer
  • 6 tbsp. coconut oil, softened
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp. custard powder
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar
  • Top Layer
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
Instructions
  1. To make the base, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, cocoa and almond milk in a large saucepan. Heat to melt the coconut oil, stirring until smooth.
  2. Remove and add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground almond and coconut. Stir until well incorporated and pack into a parchment lined or greased 9×13” pan. Bake at 325F for about 10 minutes. Once it is out of the oven, put it in the freezer to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. To make the middle layer, beat together the coconut oil, almond milk, custard powder and icing sugar until smooth. Spread this on top of the base and chill.
  4. Melt together the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave for the top layer. Allow it to cool slightly. Pour this over the first 2 layers, spreading it evenly across the top.
  5. Refrigerate until everything is set, 30-60 minutes. Slice and serve.

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