Friday, 29 March 2013

Live by Chocolates!

When I first discovered raw chocolate, there were no packaged bars in the shops, and buying raw cacao ingredients was something one had to do online. Not so much now. Over he past 5 years, raw cacao has sky rocketed in popularity, and now even some supermarkets sell it. The health benefits of choosing raw chocolate over roasted, processed chocolate have been widely publicised  and the products on the shelves have turned from low quality bars which were not quite hitting the spot, to superior quality bars, truffles, filled, shapes and even Easter

 eggs! The tempering process, essential in getting the shiny, snap-able, melt-in-your-mouth feel of pure chocolate has been learned by raw chocolatiers and made the products which we can now buy into the best chocolates you could wish for. I, for one am a convert to the raw stuff over most other chocolate bars. And without the un-desirable additions of refined sugar, dairy and soya products found in most roasted chocolate bars, raw chocolate lives up to its healthy and delicious reputation for sure. It really is a luxury to feel good about! It is also one of the highest foods in antioxidents and minerals, so can be seen as a health food! You can read about the health benefits of raw cacao in the ingredients info here.

At the cafe, we make all of our own raw chocolate bars, truffles, blocks and balls. We also only use raw cacao in our chocolate thickshakes and spicy hot chocolate. Both made with our homemade almond milk and sweetened with fruit. In the run up to Easter, we are making heaps of raw chocolates for the cafe, our wholesalers and the 'Really good Health Show' at the Forum on Easter Saturday.

I started making my own raw chocolates years ago, before things like cacao butter and coconut palm sugar were available in the shops. It can be as simple as mixing some cacao powder, coconut oil and honey together and setting in the fridge (resulting in a very morish but soft 'chocolate', or as complicated as tempering your chocolate by hand, measuring temperatures and using high powered equipment. I like to make an easy but high quality chocolate now, using cacao butter as the fat and powdered coconut palm sugar as the sweetener. You can either mix it by hand or use a blender, before pouring the melted chocolate into moulds or adding different flavours. I find this method of making chocolate the easiest for most people who want a real, hard bittersweet chocolate. Here is my recipe for a dark and 'milk' chocolate, with some of my favourite simple flavourings to add to the mix.

Who doesn't love good chocolate?! Happy Easter and enjoy the best chocolate you could possible find, especially made by your own fair hands!

Basic dark chocolate recipe

This is the richest, darkest type of raw chocolate, usually the one of choice for real chocoholics. It uses just three ingredients, and its intense flavour makes it perfect for mixing with nuts and sweeter dried fruits, or for dipping or filling with a sweeter soft filling.

250g cacao butter
100-125 g coconut sugar
140g cacao powder

Firstly, melt the cacao butter by placing it in a glass or metal bowl over a pan of simmering water until it melts. It helps to cut it into small chunks for this. .

Secondly, powder the coconut sugar to a fine powder.You can do this by whizzing it in a dry blender jug or a spice/coffee grinder. If you are using a blender, add the melted cacao butter and blend until smooth, then add the cacao butter and blend until dark and silky smooth. If doing by hand, mix the powdered coconut sugar, melted cacao butter and sieved cacao powder in a bowl until well combined. Split the mixture into smaller bowls if you want to make different flavours, before pouring into moulds to set.

Flavours and textures

Coarsely chopped nuts and dried fruits (raisins, gojis, apricots)

Candied ginger (not raw)

Orange oil and cardamom

Whole brazil/macadamia nuts

Chilli chocolate: add 1 pinch chilli powder to a 1/3 batch of dark choc. Add 1 drop lime essential oil for chilli lime chocolates

Add the extra ingredients into your melted chocolate, stirring well in the jug. Pour out into your moulds, tapping the bottom of the mould to disperse any air. Set in the fridge until set hard and ready to pop out. Store in an airtight container.

Raw ‘milk’ Chocolate 
A creamy, sweeter version of the dark version, which uses cashews in place of milk powder to create a 'milk chocolate' taste. This mild chocolate is likely to appeal to all, especially those keen on the sweeter lighter chocolates.
250g cacao butter
80g coconut sugar
50g cashews
70g cacao powder

Start off by powdering the cashews in a blender until a fine powder. Do the same with the coconut sugar, then combine the cacao butter and powder in the same way as described above. Pour into dry clean moulds ( ice cube trays work well if you don't have chocolate moulds) or split into smaller bowls and mix in flavours as above.

We will selling 'make your own raw chocolate kits' tomorrow at The Really Good health show, so you can try making your own at home, or, if you prefer, you can buy our ready made truffle bags on our stall or in the cafe! 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Go-go Green Juice

As I type, my newborn baby girl sleeps by my side. Our little Fern Aila Sibley arrived into our home two weeks ago today, and my life has been over flowing with love, bliss and devotion for this wee bundle of joy ever since. She arrived very fast which was a huge surprise for me! I always imagined a long labour, so labouring through the night with only mild contractions until dawn, and her arrive in our bathroom at 9am before the midwife arrived was a bit of a shock! Thankfully though, there was no trauma whatsoever and we have been snug in our home ever since. Understandably, my life has changed immensely in these past weeks, and I now spend the majority of my time playing, feeding, watching, changing and simply being with our little girl. I have a new passion for everything babies, birth, pregnancy and natural earth mumma. For all of these reasons, my time put aside to work and write may be limited as I re-establish my new life as a full time mother along side my love of food, writing and creating new recipes. So please bare with me.. I will be full of new and exciting recipes as my time allows! I have decided also, and already created a new space online for sharing my thoughts on parenting, babies and birth, including lots of recipes more specific to my diet as a mother, and later on, feeding a hungry baby its first foods! I will keep this space here for all of my veggie/vegan, gluten and sugar free recipes. Things which you will find in my lovely cafe and wonderfully healthy, detox-y organic seasonal stuff! Lets get back to the recipes now as I give to you my favourite green juice recipe. Please check out my new blog, Earth Belly if you are at all as into the miracle of birth and parenting as I now am, otherwise, read on for plenty more healthy yummy posts!

There are heaps of recipes out here for green juice, so I don't expect much more from writing this today than hopefully inspiring you to reach for your juicer or blender and get juicing! A green juice can be as sweet or as hardcore green as you wish, and contain whatever combination of green leafy veggies and sweet fruits you have to hand. Leafy green veggies are high in chlorophyll, which makes their beautiful green colour. Chlorophyll in our diet is very cleansing for our blood, and especially good for us when we are in need of a cleanse (the beginning if spring is a great time to do this). The molecule structure of chlorophyll is almost exactly the same as the hemoglobin in our blood except for the center atom. In hemoglobin this is iron, whereas in chlorophyll it is magnesium. This means that when ingested, chlorophyll actually helps to do the job of hemoglobin (hemoglobin is so vital to the health of our blood – in fact, blood is approx 75% hemoglobin). Other benefits of chlorophyll include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helping the delivery of magnesium, contains vitamins A, K, calcium, folic acid, iron and protein, helps against blood sugar imbalances, relieves gastric ulcers, improves bowel movements and improves milk production in lactating mothers!

I have been getting back into my green juices after the winter when all I wanted was hot food. I feel a daily green juice has helped rejuvenate and hydrate me after the birth of our baby, and get some much needed iron back into my system. Not only that, they taste amazing! I like to 'juice' in my vitamix (high-speed blender) although if you have a masticating juicer, you can juice almost any leafy greens in that too. I have given instructions on how to use a blender to make juice in the recipe below. The ingredients I have used are purely suggestions only. I generally use what ever is in season or in my fridge at the time and urge you to do the same! Happy juicing!

Go-go Green juice

 Makes 1 large glassful 

2 stalks celery
¼ cucumber
8-10 leaves kale, chard, spinach or a few handfuls of mixed leafy greens
Small bunch of parsley
½ apple, quartered
½ a lemon, outer skin removed

In your blender, put ½ cup of water and the lemon. On top add the celery chopped into sticks, cucumber and carrots, and blend until the consistency of apple sauce. Add the green leaves and parsley, and blend again until all smooth.
Pour the mixture into nut milk bag over a large bowl, and squeeze the bag until all the liquid comes out and the bag is just left with dry pulp. This will be a bit harder than with nut milks as the mixture is thicker, but it’s great fun and gets you literally hands on with your juice! Compost the pulp and pour the juice into a big glass, sit back and enjoy, preferably outside or by a sunny window!

 My Green juice with  the Go-Go! Cucumber, celery, kale, apple and lemon.

My Little girl, born 27/02/13.. Happy bubba and happy mumma!