5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers

As the holidays approach, it’s time to start thinking about what to get all of the special people in your life. Here are 5 gift ideas for chocolate lovers (or anyone really), because what’s a better gift than chocolate? Nothing? That’s what I thought.

Pana

1. Pana Chocolate

If you are looking for raw, organic, handmade chocolate, Pana has got you covered. They offer creative flavours from hemp and cacao nibs, to rose, to fig and wild orange. Or for the chocolate purists out there, they also make both 60% and 80% unflavoured raw chocolate. Also, all of their bars are made with coconut oil so they melt on the tip of your like no other.

Chaleur 2

2. Chaleur B Chocolat

This artisanal chocolate producer operates out of Quebec, Canada, producing single origin bars from Uganda and Madagascar to name a few. Their Ugandan milk chocolate is creamy and caramely beyond belief. If you can stop without eating the entire bar, power to you.

Sirene 2

3. Sirene Chocolate

Sirene’s bright yellow packaging alone is enough to perk up anyways day as we enter the wintery months. Sourcing beans primarily from Madagascar and Ecuador, this Canadian company produces a variety of single origin, bean-to-bar, award-winning chocolate. You could buy it for someone else, but I won’t judge if you save it for yourself.

Spencer 3

4. Spencer Cocoa 

Spencer offers only 2 bars; 42% milk chocolate and 72% dark chocolate, but it is a classic example of producing a limited amount of product and producing it really, really well. All of their beans are sourced from Vanuatu, a collection of islands in the South Pacific, so if you’ve got someone in your life that appreciates the unique, this is the chocolate for them.

Montezuma

5. Montezuma’s

This UK company is making flavoured chocolates that are well worth crossing the pond for (or if you can’t do that, order them online). From British flavours like eton mess, and treacle tart, to citrusy offerings like sea salt and lime, and white chocolate with lemon and sour cherry, Montezuma’s makes eating chocolate even more fun than it already is.

Maple Marinated Beets and a recipe for Cranberry Vinaigrette

Maple Marinated Beets
Did you all survive Christmas? Cooking up a storm, then cleaning up a storm? You should have seen the bottom of my roaster from the pomegranate molasses glaze I tried to put on the ham. It honestly looked volcanic. I let it soak, then I scrubbed. Soaked some more, scrubbed some more. I did the baking soda and vinegar thing at least 3 times to try to lift off the hardened lava. There are still a few black flecks at the bottom but I think I did pretty well short of just throwing it in the garbage.
Ok so that was the one direction I was not planning on going in. Story of my life. Get it? I make myself laugh. Sometimes I’m the only one but that’s the fun of it. Clearly I need more sleep after going to bed past midnight and waking up at the crack of dawn to take my sister Boxing Day shopping (that was yesterday, I’ve gotten some more sleep now). Thanks bud, thanks.
Anyways what were we talking about? Christmas cooking, my burned pan, One Direction, ahh yes now for some post Christmas recipes. To be truthful, I made both of these dishes for Christmas dinner. But they are healthy. I compensate for the amount of dessert I know is coming by making sides that are actually good for you. I think ahead, I know.
First we’ve got some maple marinated beets. Super simple, super quick. Other than the fact that beets take forever to cook but that time is almost entirely unattended so we’re good. In my family, we are all beet-aholics. We eat them raw, pickled, cooked, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to beets. I love to bring out their inherent sweetness by pairing them with honey or in this case, good old Canadian maple syrup. Like I said, simple, simple, simple.
Next up, cranberry vinaigrette. Why I cooked 2 full bags of cranberries to make sauce for this, I have no frickin’ idea. All I know now is that I have to find a way to use up about 15 hundred cups of cranberry sauce. Well probably only 3 cups but that’s virtually the same thing. My recipe for the vinaigrette really morphed into the entire salad recipe I made, although I never keep track of measurements so I have given you the rough estimates. It’s all about the techniques really. That being said, feel free to add whatever fruits/vegetables/garnishes your little heart desires. Actually the beets would be really good tossed in the vinaigrette too.
Did I mention my mom got us all an ice cream maker for Christmas? Oh by the way, I have also clearly developed ADHD. No but seriously, there will be ice cream coming. How soon, I don’t know. But it is in the works! And before we go back to eating more sugar, let’s indulge in some salads, shall we?
Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Maple Marinated Beets
Maple Marinated Beets
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
Ingredients
5-7 medium to large beets
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
pumpkin seeds, to garnish

Instructions:

1. Start by roasting off your beets. Depending on how big they are, slice them in half or in quarters (leave the skin on). Wrap them in tin foil, put them on a sheet and stick them in the oven at 350-400F for at least an hour. They are done when you can easily insert a knife into them with little resistance. Allow them to cool slightly before peeling and cutting the beets into bite-sized chunks.
2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard and maple syrup in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss the cooked beets in the vinaigrette, allowing them to marinate for at least an hour or two, but preferably overnight. Garnish with pumpkin seeds before serving chilled or at room temperature.

Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Cranberry Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup
Ingredients
1/4 cup cooked and cooled homemade cranberry sauce
2 tbsp. grainy mustard
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey (if your cranberry sauce is really sweet, feel free to omit this)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
1. Using an immersion blender (or normal blender/food processor), puree the cranberry sauce, grainy mustard, dijon mustard and honey.
2. Once it is relatively smooth, blend in the vinegar and then the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Because the dressing is thicker, I suggest serving it with a heartier green like romaine. Arugula or spring mix would be too delicate. I garnished the salad with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese (which I flavoured with some poppy seeds and good balsamic vinegar) and cashew brittle.
The brittle isn’t as much a recipe as it is a technique. All you have to do is caramelize about 1 cup of sugar (I start it with a splash of water to help the sugar dissolve), swirling occasionally to promote even browning. Once it is golden, add roughly 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Do this off the heat as it will foam up and make sure you stir so that it gets evenly incorporated. Then throw in a couple handfuls of cashews or whatever nuts you like. Pour it onto a parchment lined pan and garnish with finishing salt (I used a Hawaiian black lava salt). Let it cool before chopping. There you have it, a gorgeous winter salad.

 

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

double chocolate oatmeal cookies
Double chocolate oatmeal cookies. That’s all I have to say for today.
double chocolate oatmeal cookies
double chocolate oatmeal cookies

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 25-30 small cookies

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp. Nutella
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 350F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, egg, applesauce and Nutella until smooth.
3. Add the flour, oats, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Stir until the dough comes together. There should be no pockets of flour remaining.
4. Using a cookie scoop, portion the dough onto the cookie sheets (about 12-15 per each).
5. Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes. Cool and enjoy.

Variations

To make these cookies vegan, simply replace the egg in the recipe with 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp. water, let stand 15 minutes). Instead of Nutella, use peanut butter or any other nut butter of your choice.

double chocolate oatmeal cookies

White Chocolate Ginger Cookies

white chocolate ginger cookies
Since we are all on a cookie kick lately, I thought today I would go a bit farther than just giving you a recipe. Instead we are going to revisit an experiment done in 1975 related to, you guessed it, cookies. I am going to start you off with a question; would you rather eat a cookie from a stocked cookie jar or take the last one from the very bottom? Just keep that answer in the back of your mind while I go through the rest of the study.
Ok so in 1975 researchers at both the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina wanted to investigate the impact of supply and demand on people’s ratings of object value. Their object of choice was cookies (I like these researchers already). They had participants come into the lab and on the table sat a jar of cookies. In it there were either 2 cookies or 10 cookies. After eating the cookies, participants had to rate them on taste, liking (would you eat more of it?), attraction (how attractive is the consumer item?) and cost (how much should the item cost per pound?). In the 2 cookie (scarce) condition, not only did people have higher liking of the cookies, they also found them more attractive and said that they should cost significantly more than in the 10 cookie condition. Oddly enough though, there were no significant differences in taste ratings.
So what is the explanation for these results? Well it ties back to the basic principles of supply and demand. When supply goes down, demand goes up and vice versa. It did not matter that the cookies were identical in taste, the fact that they had the potential to run out in the 2 cookie condition made them more elusive. People want what they cannot have and are willing to pay more for things that are in short supply. What surprises me is that this principle applied to something as simple as chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know about you but personally I would rather eat a cookie from a full cookie jar. Who wants to get the last, mangled, broken cookie at the very bottom? Not to mention, if the jar is still full then it probably means the cookies are more fresh. Clearly these participants were not knowledgeable cookie connoisseurs!
Anyways, just something to think about as you bake (or eat) batch after batch of Christmas cookies this holiday season. If you happen to make a batch that does not turn out so well, just put a couple in an empty cookie jar and hope for the best!
white chocolate ginger cookies
white chocolate ginger cookies

White Chocolate Ginger Cookies
Makes 25-30 small cookies

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
50g (1/2 bar) Green and Black’s white chocolate, chopped
about 1/3-1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or as needed)

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 350F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, egg, applesauce, oil, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and vanilla.
3. Once smooth, stir in the flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate. Mix until the dough sticks together and forms a bowl.
4. Put the turbinado sugar in a separate bowl. Using a cookie scoop, portion out the dough and roll it in the sugar. Place the sugar coated cookie dough on the parchment lined cookie sheets, about 12-15 per.
5. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes or until golden and cracked.
6. Cool and enjoy your white chocolate ginger cookies!

Variations

These cookies can be made vegan by substituting 1 flax egg for the egg in the recipe. To make a flax egg, mix 1 tbsp. ground flax seed with 3 tbsp. of water and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so to absorb the moisture. Also, you will need to substitute the white chocolate for vegan dark chocolate. Otherwise follow the recipe as is.

white chocolate ginger cookies

Cranberry White Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles
Ok Christmas baking. I am officially on it. This week I’ve got cookies coming at you left, right and centre. By which I actually mean 3 cookie recipes but considering that prior to Saturday I had made nothing, it’s a pretty big step. First up, cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles!
Believe it or not, all three recipes are variants of the same (healthy!!!) cookie dough base. Applesauce is your best friend here. It adds moisture and chew without the fat. We make up for that by adding white chocolate but you can’t have it all, right? I love Green & Black’s white chocolate because it is laden with speckles of vanilla bean. That’s a double flavour whammy right there.
As for snickerdoodles themselves, until a couple days ago I had never made nor eaten a single one in my entire life. Blasphemy, I know. Apparently my family didn’t think it was important to include them in our Christmas baking traditions. My grandma is even German and according to the trusty source, Wikipedia, the word “snickerdoodle” originated from the German word “Schneckennudeln” which means “snail noodles”. What this has to do with a cinnamon sugar coated sugar cookie, I have no idea. Clearly the German connection was lost somewhere along the lines. Or Wikipedia is not telling the truth which is beyond my realm of comprehension. Wikipedia, not truthful? More blasphemy.
Well on that note, happy baking. Have a cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles-i-licious day! Unless of course you don’t have any snickerdoodles on hand, then I guess you can have a non-snickerdoodle-i-licious day. But what fun is that?
Cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles
Cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles
Cranberry white chocolate snickerdoodles

Cranberry White Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Makes 25-30 small cookies

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
50g (1/2 bar) Green and Black’s white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries (I used blueberry flavoured ones)

1/4 cup white sugar sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 350F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside to roll the cookie dough in later.
3. In another mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, egg, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
4. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, chocolate and cranberries. Mix until the dough forms a ball and there are no pockets of flour remaining.
5. Using a cookie scoop, portion out the cookies and roll them in the prepared cinnamon sugar. Place the sugar coated dough on the cookie sheets, spaced out 12-15 cookies per sheet.
6. Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes or until golden.
7. Cool and enjoy!

Variations

To make the cookies vegan, omit the white chocolate and replace the egg with 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp. water, let stand 15 minutes).