For most of us, the thought of Easter approaching might be a little bitter sweet. All that lovely, silky smooth chocolate artistically formed into enchanting woodland creatures brings us back to our childhood.
I remember waking up bright and early and running through the house checking the corner of every window sill, under every plant pot and inside every lampshade to find the eggs the Easter Bunny had meticulously hidden. Then we would pull on our new (usually quite colourful) outfits and sprint outside to share our treasures with our friends.
Now of course I see chocolate in a slightly different light. Initially I think of just how far I have to run to work off every bite, then I think of how lusciously it slowly melts in the mouth into a smooth, velvety texture, and then the dietitian in me kicks in and I'm reminded that it's rich in antioxidants and boosts serotonin and endorphin levels which improve mood!
Of course, we're talking about DARK chocolate. Milk chocolate has had much of the flavonoids removed and doesn't have the same benefits. So the beautifully crafted milk chocolate Easter bunnies might look great, but they are loaded with sugar, have little antioxidants and do not contain the same vitamins and minerals found in dark chocolate.
So to help you enjoy the wonderful creamy texture of chocolate, while reaping the benefits, I'm posting a recipe for Almond bark that everyone LOVES!
I prepare this using 1/2 pure dark Belgian chocolate and 1/2 semi sweet dark chocolate, but that might be a little bitter for some of you, so here is the original recipe.
Dark Chocolate Almond Bark
1 pound (454g) Semi sweet Dark chocolate
1/2 pound (227g) raw almonds (to add a little sweet/salty edge to it, use salted almonds)
Preheat oven to 350F. Roast almonds approx 15 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.
Add the roasted almonds. Mix well. Pour onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Chill and cut into pieces when firm.
Enjoy & Happy Easter!!!
It has been a while, and I was quite surprised to see how many of you had written saying you were wondering what had happened to my posts. I have to say that I was not aware you were out there!! So thank you so much for letting me know and thank you for continuing to check. I can't say that I've been too busy to post, or that I hadn't had the time, it has simply been because the summer was so absolutely incredible that I have been outside enjoying myself. Summer meals are worked around biking, kayaking, swimming and socializing but once the crispness of the fall breeze blows in, the first thing I think of is cooking.
I'm back! I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer as much as I have! I recently learned that there are quite a few of you out there who missed my blog! I wasn't even really aware that I had regular readers, had I known, I would have been much more attentive to providing you with new reading material!
I want to dedicate this entry to Vegetables!! Many of you know how I push a half plate of vegetables at both lunch and supper. I know that for some of you it is difficult to be creative with vegetables and salads can (I suppose) become quite boring if you don't know how to spruce them up and use a variety of vegetables.
It's almost Epiphany...the day we usually take down the tree and pack all the glitter away for another year. There's often a quiet sadness that accompanies this time of year. The parties are over, the gifts have all been opened, and even the singing has stopped...at least for a while. For many of us, however, our bodies are saying "Thank goodness for that"! The rich foods, abundance of chocolate, wine and eggnog definitely take their toll! Well I have the perfect recipe to help rejuvenate, invigorate and re-awaken our sleepy systems. "winter Citrus Salad" (adapted from Angela Liddon's Oh she glows vegan cookbook). I tried it out at our Oncology Christmas party where it received rave reviews! Serve it tomorrow evening after dinner to lighten your heart and your body as you put away the festive decorations until next year.
Winter Citrus Salad
2 red grapefruit
4 navel oranges
4 blood oranges
3 Tbs (45 ml) natural cane sugar
3-4 Tbs Pomegranate seeds
4 Tbs (60 ml) lightly toasted almond slices
4 Tbs fresh mint leaves plus a few extra for serving.
Segment the grapefruit and oranges:
Slice off the top and bottom of the fruit so the inner flesh is exposed. With a sharp pairing knife remove the peel and pith and cut the segments out from between the membranes. Place the segments on a serving plate.
In a food processor, process the sugar and mint leaves together until it looks like green sugar. Sprinkle over the citrus segments and toss lightly. Sprinkle toasted almonds and pomegranate seeds on top and add a few mint leaves as garnish.
Most of us know the story...three kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but have you ever wondered just what frankincense and myrrh are? As a child, I thought myrrh was dish soap! My mother always purchased "Mir" probably because it was one of the least expensive available. I could never understand why a king would bring such a thing. I finally took the time to look them up.
It turns out that Frankincense and Myrrh are both aromatic tree resins and have been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.
The bark of the Frankincense or Myrrh tree is slashed allowing the resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old. Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation
While Frankincense is used in perfumery aromatherapy, and occasionally as an ingredient in skincare lotions, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwash, gargles, and toothpastes. As for their use as a medicine for a multitude of ailments, there is still not sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy to support it's use.
That said, my favourite gifts are almost always those I can eat. They're fun to make, they don't have to fit, they don't gather dust, and they're usually delicious!!
Here are a couple of my favourites:
MARINATED GOAT CHEESE:Ingredients
- 1 goat cheese log
- 1 tiny chile pepper
- 2 strips lemon zest
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh oregano or thyme
- 1 sprig fresh fennel or ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Cut goat cheese log into 4 equal pieces; Form into balls. Pack all 4 balls in a sterilized wide-necked jar. Add chile, lemon zest, bay leaves, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic to jar. Pour in olive oil to cover cheese.
Seal jar and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hrs.
ROSEMARY & THYME SPICED NUTS2 tablespoons olive oil3 cups mixed nuts (pecans/almonds/peanuts...)2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme1 teaspoon cumindash of cayenne pepper½ tablespoon packed brown sugar1 teaspoon salt½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 300°.
Place nuts in a medium size bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just warm. Add rosemary and thyme and stir until aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat and stir in cumin and cayenne pepper. Pour the flavoured oil over the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir again. Transfer to an edged cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring after the first 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour into clear glass jars, wrap with a ribbon and Voila!!! The perfect gift...delicious sprinkled in salad, easily packed away for an energy boost while skiing or enjoyed in front of the fire with your loved one. Enjoy...and Happy Holidays!