2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review

I’m on a train travelling through rural Ontario as I write this, and staring out the window at the snowy country side is making me increasingly excited for the holidays. It has been quite the year and an admittedly absent one from this space. Mainly because I’ve been writing for other publications, but also because admittedly, I’ve lost my vision for what I want my own site to be about. Maybe that will change in 2018. Frankly, I’m not sure yet. In my other life as a PhD student in psychology, I spend the majority of my time researching, discussing, and trying to elucidate around topics pertaining to emotional eating and weight. I’d like to write about what I do in that field in a more informal way in this space (after all, the name “Because I Like Chocolate” always came from a place of wanting to help people have healthier relationships with food). Now that I actually do that in my day to day, it feels appropriate to have an online outlet to share about it. What do you think? Is that something that would interest you?

Because I like chocolate..I made Sarah Kieffer’s pan bang cookies (multiple times)

I did do a bit of food/psychology writing this year, like this piece for Eat North on emotional eating. Actually I did a lot for Eat North. I was super proud to be a part of this piece in celebration of Canada’s 150. Through the process of putting it together, I got to chat with some pretty cool Canadian figures, which lead to interviews with people like Gail Simmons and Jay Onrait. Interviewing is one of my favourite parts of what I do. I love chatting with people and learning about their stories. It’s fascinating and I only want to do more of it in 2018! You can check out everything I wrote for Eat North here (PS there’s a lot of it, 52 articles to be exact).

Probably my best meal of 2017 at Montreal’s Candide

I also began contributing more regularly to Eater Montreal, mostly putting together maps of local restaurants in certain areas or with specific offerings, like this one showcasing some of the best bakeries for bread in Montreal. Plus I had the opportunity to compile this map of the 18 Essential Calgary restaurants, which allowed me to showcase the ever-expanding food scene in my home town (I’m getting sappy now given that I haven’t been home in awhile and am clearly starting to miss it).

Beautiful bread from boulangerie Merci La Vie in the Laurentians

What else, what else? There was the usual writing for Culinaire (I always love getting to do their “Spice it Up” column, like this one from earlier in the year). And in between that, a trip to Japan happened (still figuring out how to write about that from a food perspective, because boy was there a lot of food), many weekends were spent up at the cottage, I wrote my doctoral comprehensive exam, and before I knew it, the year was almost over.

Japanese whisky tasting – the only sad part is that you can’t find most of it in Canada

Wishing you all the best this holiday season, with plenty of festive food and drink to be shared with those you love of course! I plan on making too many baked goods, roasting a turkey, and drinking all the BC wine I can get my hands on! If I can find a bottle of this, that would be the icing on the cake. Happy holidays!

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Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

Fall desserts often involve pumpkin and warming spices, but who says you can’t work a little chocolate into the mix? These Green & Black’s Organic chocolate brownies topped with pumpkin almond butter are the perfect blend of two favourite desserts, pumpkin pie and brownies. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, there’s no better time to try them out than for your holiday meal!

*Recipe courtesy of Regina Braun in collaboration with Green & Black’s

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies
 
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate
  • ⅓ cup butter or coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 cups coconut sugar or unrefined sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pumpkin Almond Butter Frosting:
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-3 tablespoons almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a sauce pan melt Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate and butter/coconut oil on low heat while stirring regularly.
  3. Once melted, stir in the sugar and pumpkin puree, then eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and sea salt. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and fold in without over mixing.
  5. Pour the brownie batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. For fudgy brownies a toothpick inserted into the centre should come out with just a few wet crumbs attached.
  6. Let the brownies cool before frosting and cutting.
  7. For the frosting, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk to achieve desired consistency. Thicker frosting has to be spread, while thinner icing can be drizzled.

 

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.

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

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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A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

Why hello there! What’s happening? I figured since I have a couple days off school it would be a good time to catch up over here on this blog that I seem to forget about 99% of the time. Oops. So what’s going on? Well the November issue of Culinaire is out and I’ve got my usual Tips and Tricks article in it. This month is all about working with spices and you can read about it here (pages 16-17). I’ve also written another food/psychology piece for Eat North, which can be found here. Oh and if you missed all of my exciting ramblings on Facebook, I was on the news! I did a short segment on baking and cooking with apples which was a ton of fun and something I would love to do again. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys public speaking in any and all forms. Well as long as I know what I am talking about that is. There is nothing worse than giving a presentation on a topic you aren’t comfortable and confident speaking about. That being said, when it comes to cooking, I could go on forever.

Outside of food writing, I’m being kept well occupied with grad school applications. It’s a daunting process planning this next phase of my life, especially when the admission rates for clinical psychology are somewhere around 5%. That’s right, it’s easier to get into med school than it is to gain acceptance into a clinical psyc program. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

School itself is good as well. I’m plugging away at my Honours thesis and recently ran participant #19. Only 41 more to go between now and April! It’s hard to believe that after this semester, I only have 3 courses left before I’m finished my degree. Time flies.

Despite all of my food writing, I actually haven’t spent much time experimenting in the kitchen lately. So when Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate sent me some  holiday recipes to share, I was pretty happy to use them as an excuse not to come up with my own material. Sad, I know. But seriously though, how good does this chocolate pecan pie look? Too good not to share, that’s for sure. With the Christmas fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to end a holiday meal. I’m in the midst of helping to plan a work Christmas party and this pie is definitely going on the menu.

That’s it from me for now. Have fun out there! PS. if you bake this chocolate pecan pie, let me know how it turns out. It’s on my to-do list to try it in the very near future!

Chocolate pecan pie
Photo courtesy of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Chocolate Pecan Pie
 
Take your pecan pie to the next level with this chocolate pecan pie, perfect for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 255g (9 oz) Ready-made sweet short crust pastry
  • 85g (3 oz) Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 5 tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large free-range eggs
  • ⅓ cup Superfine sugar (white granulated sugar will work if you cannot find superfine)
  • ½ cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecans (finely chopped)
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecan halves (to decorate)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the shortcrust pastry to the thickness of a quarter. Use it to line an eight inch loose-bottomed quiche pan with 1 ¼ inch straight-edged sides but do not trim off the excess. Chill until needed.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cool slightly.
  4. Place the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl and beat together until smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans, then pour into the pastry. Trim the pastry to ½ an inch above the filling. Decorate the surface with the pecan halves.
  5. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until just set.