Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Tip for Chocolate-Lovers to Help Prevent that Holiday Weight Gain!

Seeing Chocolate this Holiday Season Make You Want to Eat it?  Research shows that over-indulgence is attributable to certain types of advertising - or simply too much advertising!
A few days ago I read an article that highlighted the results of a study on thin models in chocolate advertisements.  The research showed that even the most restrained consumers (i.e. those on diets) over-indulge when they see thin models advertising chocolate.
This got me to thinking about chocolate and how easy it is to over-indulge during the lead-up to celebratory times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine's Day. I am usually at the point where I have trouble pulling my pants over my thighs before I realize that I have been over-indulging. I often wonder why that sweet-tooth has crept up on me again, then realize that it is because I am absolutely surrounded in sweets. Well, I am a chocolatier, cake decorator and baker, so I am usually surrounded in sweets, but not to the level that the holidays can bring on. 
In the lead-up to Christmas, every step through the grocery store, pharmacy or mall presents a new sweet temptation that is not normally there during the rest of the year. This year alone, I have seen a release of new dessert products like never before, such as the President's Choice Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops or PC's mini cupcake chocolates. Who can resist throwing such goodies into the cart with the rest of the weekly grocery order?
We are also surrounded in sweets through television and print media. Morning news programs, daytime talk shows and national magazines use this time of year to display images of delicious products or recipes that can make a holiday dinner extra-special. Even if one does not read the recipes, it is impossible to get away from the images. 
Interestingly, the same article also pointed out what I have known for years: Women instantly want to eat chocolate when they see a picture of it or simply hear it mentioned in conversation. The article said that the researchers "...also found the women had a strong impulse to consume chocolate when presented with negative messaging - including warnings that chocolate could lead to obesity." (Ref) So even when being told we might get fat from eating chocolate, all we hear is the word "chocolate" and our mouths begin to salivate.
So for a chocolate lover, what is the solution?  Well, here is one major tip to help stop the annual weight gain this holiday season, while still enjoying your favourite chocolate:
Eat only what you truly enjoy and
do not consume unwanted calories. 
So what does that mean exactly?  Well, here are my five 'tips within the tip':
1. Do not eat what you do not like. If you are a chocolate lover and only like chocolate desserts, do not add that slice of apple pie to your dessert plate. And if you are out enjoying dinner and that sweet vanilla cake arrives at your table, pass it along to some who might like it better and think about that special dark chocolate truffle or chocolate bar that you might have in the cupboard for a special occasion.  Then, just wait the evening out and treat yourself at home.  Because what will happen if you eat the vanilla cake that you do not really want?  You'll still eat chocolate when you get home because you were craving it in the first place! So instead of consuming twice the calories, wait it out and you will be proud of yourself for your self-control.
2. Pack a small piece of your favourite chocolate in your purse or coat pocket for every event - even the company Christmas party.  Again, if you are a chocolate lover, you cannot count on the served dessert being chocolaty. This will save you from consuming those unwanted calories.
3. Ignore your friends' and family's criticism.  If you opt out of the stuffing or ham or mashed potatoes because you never really liked it anyway, just so you could eat a bigger piece of chocolate cheesecake later, who cares what other people think?  They will eventually come to accept your eating habits, so just ignore their comments on the missing ham until they accept it as your normal behaviour.
I am one of those people who lives in fear of lumpy mashed potatoes because of one childhood experience that I will never forget, so I just don't eat them anymore. And I recall a lot of the comments that people have made to me over the years when my plate has looked sparse because mashed potatoes were missing from it.  Some people said things like: "Oh what, are you on the Atkins diet now?" and "Are we not eating carbs anymore?" or my favourite, "Watch out, you might become an anorexic" Funny, they were always quiet when they saw me eat a man-sized piece of chocolate cheesecake after dinner. Unless to comment on the unfairness of my great metabolism that I can eat dessert and get away with it.  Um, it is not metabolism, it is because I skipped the mashed potatoes!
Now all that said, the same goes the other way: if you are a fan of mashed potatoes and prefer them to chocolate, then eat the potatoes and ignore the chocolate! And then ignore your friends' comments later when you choose not to eat dessert.
4. Wait for the good stuff.  Hold off each day as long as possible until you get something that you really want to eat. If your husband is eating a cinnamon roll for breakfast, do not give in and have one yourself because it smells good (unless your true love is cinnamon rolls!).  Wait until your lunch break when you can visit your favourite cafe and pick up that dark chocolate bar that you always enjoy.  Or even try to wait until evening time to have that slice of rich, chocolate dessert. If you give in to your sweet tooth first thing in the morning, you will be giving in all day and consuming more sugar and more calories.
5. Forget the homemade Christmas cookies. Those things are never chocolaty enough anyway!  If you are a chocolate-lover like me, you will never be satisfied with the homemade shortbread's with jelly in the middle or the sugar cookies.  Just choose the one that is most chocolaty (to make your host or grandmother happy) and wait until you can get your hands on something more chocolaty at home.
6. If you have to, make a list of your absolute favourite desserts and chocolates this Christmas season.  So that next time, you will think before you eat those unwanted calories. If you love gourmet chocolate truffles made with real cream, just ignore that Pot of Gold box that is sitting on the buffet table. You know you are just going to end up grossed out because you accidentally took the sweet, orange chocolate cream with the white icing centre. Wait it out, and eat from your special truffle stash at home.  And if you do not have a special chocolate stash, stay up a little later and make up a batch of cream truffles (and try not to eat the entire batch before it sets or while you are rolling them into balls!).  Trust me, you will be proud of yourself for waiting. And you can freeze the extras so that you do have a special stash the next time.
So when you start craving chocolate simply because you heard the word 'chocolate', do not worry about over-indulging.  Just make sure that you are choosing the chocolate that you really want to eat, and not eating your not-so-favourite dessert simply because it is there.
Now, if I can just follow my own tips, this will be a not-so-sweet sweet Christmas season!
Full reference for the article mentioned above:  
Chocolate adverts portraying ‘ideal’ thin models may tempt even the most restrained of consumers to overindulge, suggest researchers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Ultimate Canadian Chocolate Lover's Gift-Giving Guide

Need a gift for a Canadian chocolate lover? Or are you putting together a Canadian care-package? You have come to the right place! I have developed the Ultimate List of Canadian Chocolate Makers.

Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers and truffle, praline and ganache artisans have popped up all over the place in recent years. The following list is not complete, so if you know any that should be added, please add a Comment below or send me an e-mail at

Also, see the list of specialty craft chocolate retailers for where you can buy 'bean to bar' chocolate, and monthly subscription services in Canada.

For a full and regularly updated list of Canadian craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers, click here.

  • Soma Chocolatemaker (Toronto, Ontario) - for the real chocolate connoisseur, Soma is the best small-batch artisan bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Canada.  They use high-grade beans and mostly Criollo and Trinitario beans but occasionally choose very high quality Forastero beans to make flavourful fine chocolate with a smooth and luxurious texture.  Soma also makes beautiful gourmet truffles and filled chocolates as well as divine drinking chocolates.  You can visit their two locations in Toronto or order via e-mail.  Check their website for more information:

  • Hummingbird Chocolate Maker (Ottawa, Ontario) - makes chocolate in small batches using single origin beans.  They make an amazing Hispaniola Dominican Repubic Bar that brings out powerful cacao bean flavours. Their chocolate is smooth and buying their full range of chocolate bars would offer a flavour experience perfect for a chocolate tasting party or as a gift for any connoisseur. Available in Ottawa Farmers Markets or on Website:
  • Beanpod (Fernie, B.C.) - an excellent choice for milk chocolate lovers is the Fernie BEAR Bar made with milk chocolate and Honeycomb - so sweet and tasty!
  • Olivia Chocolat (Cantley, QC) Making raw chocolate with maple sugar and a range of dark chocolate bars. Available online or in stores. Check their website for more information:

  • ChocoSol Traders (Toronto, ON) - pedal-powered and stone ground chocolate that is good for the soul and the environment.  Try their drinking chocolate or ChocoSol's Hemp Gold bar.  You will see hemp and chocolate in a whole new light!

  • Living Libations (Haliburton, ON) - This chocolate is definitely for that chocolate-lover who also cares about their health. The chocolate is made from raw (unroasted) beans to maintain its nutrients and antioxidants and several superfoods are added to assist with our health. Also, there is no dairy, soy, nuts, refined butter or sugar. Buy online on their website at:

  • Giddy Yoyo (Orangeville, Ontario) - makes Wild Ecuadorian Chocolate that is raw (unroasted beans) and organic.  A range of flavours from fun to healthy (incl. spirulina, a superfood that is not often found in chocolate). Available in several stores across Canada and in one store in California
  • Barry Callebaut Canada Inc. (St. Hyacinthe, QC) - this is a little larger than the others on the list!  Barry Callebaut makes chocolate and cocoa products in its large manufacturing facility near Montreal for both the food industry and artisan chocolatiers and chefs.  I love their couverture products for enrobing chocolate, available at a series of wholesalers and online stores across Canada, like Signature Find Foods in Toronto. If you are a consumer wanting to improve your home baking, you can make a purchase Vanilla Food Company. I love Callebaut White Chocolate Callets - these taste and look way better than any white chocolate that you will get at the grocery store!  
  • Choklat (Calgary, AB) makes single origin & single estate chocolate from bean-to-bar, controlling the entire process from start to finish. Now with three locations in Calgary, Choklat’s popularity is growing.  They sell in cash only, and no online shipped sales are accepted (you can order online for in-store pick-up only). They use high quality and rare beans, for instance, they make a Porcelana 70% bar.
  • Habitual Chocolate Roasters (London, ON) Local to London, this bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker makes a range of origin chocolate, including some high-percentage milk chocolate bars. Check out their line-up here. They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers and Artisans Market located in the historic Confederation Building in London, ON. Beans from various exotic locations are roasted, ground and moulded on site.

Filled Chocolates & Truffles:
  • The Chocolate TOFFLE by Ultimately Chocolate (Manitoulin Island, Ontario) - a decadent dark chocolate toffee wrapped around a milk chocolate truffle in three different flavours: Peanut Butter, Peppermint, and Hazelnut.  Artisan and hand-made with organic and fair trade chocolate.  Available on or on FoodiePages, or in Loco Beanz coffee houses on Manitoulin Island, and at other local retailers. Ultimately Chocolate also makes salted dark chocolate toffees, milk chocolate toffees and giant Peanut Butter Truffles.
  • Koko Chocolates (Ottawa, Ontario) - available on
  • Manitoulin Chocolate Works (Kagawong, Ontario) - try their Mint Meltaway filled chocolate along with a range of other flavours.  Available in store only.
  • Soma Chocolatemaker - Try their balsamic filled chocolate and their Poprocks.  Amazing flavours and amazing taste!
  • Christophe Morel - a range of gourmet gift boxes are available on the website.
  • Purdy's Chocolates - "Canadian Chocolatier since 1907. Creating hand-crafted premium chocolates from our Chocolate Kitchen in Vancouver, British Columbia." (ref: @PurdysChocolate)
  • Roger's Chocolate (Victoria, B.C.) - They've make Advent calendars and a large range of Christmas selections: Ice Wine Truffles or the Ice Wine Truffle Dark Chocolate Bar (which I tasted and liked!) would make an excellent Canadian-style gift.
  • Cococo Chocolatiers Inc. (formerly Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut) (Calgary, AB) -
  • René Rey (North Vancouver, B.C.) - Try their Organic Hedgehogs and HempHogs (truffle-filled chocolates in the shape of a hedgehog). René Rey makes everything right from the cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and nibs stage and make their own Hemp Paste, Almond paste and Hazelnut paste from their own recipes.
  • Truffle Treasures (Ottawa, ON) - with two locations in Ottawa, Truffle Treasures offers a variety of hand-made truffles, chocolate and hot chocolate.
  • Saxon Chocolates (Toronto, Ontario) - I love their new 64% dark 100 calorie chocolate bar. For filled chocolates, they have Hazelnut Truffle Firecracker gift packages as well as tins of the same truffles. They make an abundance of chocolate Christmas treats available at many retailers across Canada.  Check their website for more information.
  • President's Choice - has a huge selection of packaged products - most chocolate is made in France or Europe but the company is Canadian.
  • Laura Secord - a range of filled chocolate boxes for every chocolate appetite.  Check it out at: In its history, it was Canadian-owned, then it wasn't, and now it is Canadian-owned again!
  • Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal) - It has been three years since I was there, but I remember this chocolate shop being beautiful and styled like a jewelry store and their products looked slick, stylish and delicious. Check it out:
  • Laurent Pagés Pattiserie/Chocolaterie (Blainville, Quebec) - I have never been to his shop, but have been taught by him in Montreal and have seen his excellent work making beautiful filled chocolates:!/page_services
  • Truffle Pigs by Hagensborg (Burnaby, B.C.) - I've tried these many times and I love them.  Check out my review here. These are available in their Burnaby store or in several stores across Canada, or you can buy online:
  • Barkleys (Richmond, B.C.) - Check out these all-natural Canadian-made truffle bars.
  • rochef Chocolatier (Gatineau, QC) - a selection of pralines and truffles, as well as bars and hot chocolate.  The list of stores is here, but you can also buy any of these products online.
  • Anne of Green Gables Chocolates (Cavendish & Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island) - Enjoy P.E.I. Oysters (chocolate, pecans & toffee), chocolate caramels, truffles or assorted creams in Anne's famous playground and one of Canada's most beautiful places to visit. Or buy online at:
  • Brokmann's Truffini (Delta, B.C.) - these truffle bars and bonbons are filled with natural ingredients and very tasty. Read my recent article about their Double Dark truffle bar here.
  • Theobroma Fine Chocolates (Barrie, ON) - Decadent chocolate truffles for special events and weddings. Also available at select retailers.

These are just some of the ones that I have tried or heard about. There are so many chocolatiers that I cannot possibly list them all here - find your local artisan chocolate maker and you will find wonderful filled chocolates in your city!
 For more chocolate-makers in Canada, check the recently launched chocolates and candies category for great chocolate gift ideas from Canadian artisans from all across Canada:  

Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate by Canadian Companies:
  • Camino brand by La Siembra Co-Operative (Ottawa, ON) - chocolate bars, snacks and instant, organic and all-natural hot chocolate pouches make for great stocking stuffers - buy in stores across Canada or buy online:

  • Just Us! (Halifax, NS) Similar to Camino, Just Us! is the East Coast Fair Trade and organic coffee and chocolate marketer. You can buy their chocolate bars, bark and hot chocolate products in their cafes or, if you live elsewhere in the country, you can buy online at:

  • Theobroma Chocolat (Quebec) - an excellent range of perfectly-portioned chocolate bars made with organic chocolate and organic ingredients.  Try their banana or raspberry dark chocolate bars - so tasty and great stocking stuffers! A list of Canadian retailers who carry their products can be found here.

  • President's Choice Organics brand. The list is available here.

  • Organic Fair Inc. (Cobble Hill, B.C.) This maple and sun dried apple chocolate bar is certain to make any Canadian chocolate-lover happy. 

  • Denman Island Chocolate (British Columbia, Canada) - Located in British Columbia's Gulf Islands, Denman Island Chocolate makes 10 flavours of perfectly portioned chocolate bars that are soy, peanut and gluten-free. The chocolatiers use fresh local and imported ingredients to create just the right favour balance with the organic and Fair Trade certified chocolate that is made for them in Europe. Denman Island Chocolate bars are sold at retail outlets across Canada and the U.S.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chocolate with Hemp: The Next Big Trend?

Chocolate and hemp products seem to be popping up all over the place this year. In fact, in the last few months I have found three chocolates bars with hemp, just by chance. It began with Living Libations in the Spring, when I sought out their raw chocolate bars and discovered that a main ingredient in their chocolate was hemp.  Then a few weeks ago, I was shopping in Bulk Barn and came across the René Rey’s Organic HempHogs, a milk chocolate-coated hemp-flavoured truffle in the shape of a hedgehog.

My final hemp-and-chocolate discovery was at the Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show where I met ChocoSol Traders.  This Toronto-based bean-to-bar chocolate maker focuses on the symbolic elements of the cacao bean and on being environmentally sound. They make a chocolate bar called Hemp Gold, which I purchased immediately to compare to the other hemp-flavoured chocolate that I had collected.

With five simple ingredients (cacao, hemp seed, maple sugar, cacao butter and sea salt), ChocoSol has created a very interesting flavour. The Hemp Gold bar tasted, oddly, like peanut butter. But perhaps the combined flavours of salt, hemp seed (which has a nutty flavour) and maple sugar create a flavour that is reminiscent of breakfast and my breakfasts always includes some sort of nut butter.

Although all three chocolate bars have a similar nutty flavour to them, they are very different from each other. So to compare them, I can say the following about each:
Living Libations' chocolate has a softer
texture than typical chocolate bars.

ChocoSol`s Hemp Gold is a solid chocolate bar that is not overly processed, so it is not pefectly smooth. But that means the chocolate retains more of its antixoidants because it is minimally processed with ChocoSol's stone ground and pedal-powered production techniques.

Living Libations chocolate is a savoury meal rather than a sweet dessert with its thick, pasty texture and power-packed punch of superfood ingredients.

René Rey’s HempHogs truffle is a coconut oil-based truffle and is very smooth, and is also covered in organic milk chocolate, which makes it sweet with a nearly irresistible texture.

So which one did I like the most?  Well, I liked what the Living Libations chocolate was doing for my health and digestive system, but in terms of taste it was a toss-up between ChocoSol’s Hemp Gold bar and the HempHogs truffle. But being a dark chocolate lover, I most enjoyed and appreciated ChocoSol`s Hemp Gold bar.

Why Hemp?
Hemp has been around for many years, but it seems to be trending now more than ever.  One reason is the increased focus on our health coupled with the belief that we should be eating more ‘complete’ grain products. A complete grain has the usual energy-inducing carbohydrates, but also proteins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients. Hemp is considered one of these ‘complete’ foods because it: “contains all 21 known amino acids, including the 9 essential ones adult bodies cannot produce.” (ref)
Also, we may be seeing it more in Canada, (all three of the chocolate makers mentioned above are Canadian) because we have more access to hemp seeds and hemp oils than in the U.S. In fact, “virtually all hemp nut and oil in U.S. foods are imported from Canada” (ref) because our government allow the plants to be grown in this country. The U.S. government, on the other hand, does not allow farmers to grow hemp because they do not differentiate between hemp and marijuana.
Hemp is also considered environmentally friendly because it has a high yield per acre of crop and requires very little pesticide use. So with increased environmental concern, hemp is emerging as one of the potential solutions and its popularity has increased in North America and Europe.

Is Hemp Chocolate the Next Big Thing?

So the real question is: will this hemp-and-chocolate trend turn into the next big thing?  I do think we will see hemp being incorporated more and more into the flavour range already offered by chocolate manufacturers who make chocolate with ‘healthy’ nuts, seeds and fruit, like almonds, hazelnuts, acai and blueberries. But I do not think hemp will become the next big flavouring in most commercial chocolates, for example, how hazelnut paste is found in so many internationally successful products like the Ferrero Rocher or how peanut butter is incorporated into…well….everything in North America. But who knows?  Perhaps HempHogs will become an international hit and we will find them sitting on store shelves along side Reese Peanut Butter Cups in a few years.

If you know of any other hemp-and-chocolate combinations, feel free to add them to the comments below.  And if you are interested in Hemp Chocolate but cannot find any in your area, maybe you can try your hand at making your own.  Check out my posts on making chocolate from the bean in your own kitchen. 

You can likely find Hemp seeds at your local health food store or online from Manitoba Harvest (see left). I used a package of their raw shelled hemp seeds called Hemp Hearts (pictured on the right). 

If you are in the Toronto area, ChocoSol also sells 400g of hemp for $10 in at least five farmers markets (see list here) and they carry whole hemp seed as well as hemp hearts.
Chocosol uses Peterborough hemp.

Here are the package details of the three chocolate bars that I tasted this week:

René Rey Organic HempHogs® "Milk Chocolate Truffles with Hemp Nut Cream Filling"
René Rey Chocolates Ltd., North Vancouver, B.C. (Canada)
Ingredients: cane sugar*, cocoa mass*, cocoa butter*, skim milk powder*, hemp nuts*, coconut oil*, hazelnuts*, soy lecithin*
*ORGANIC  MAY CONTAIN: other tree nuts and sesame seeds.

AltogetherNow Cacao Clarity Chocolate Bar
Living Libations, Haliburton, ON (Canada)
Ingredients: Brilliant organic raw Bali cacao wow, hemp, maca root, guayusa herb, camu camu, raw honey, vanilla bean, peppermint, grapefruit, cococréme.

ChocoSol TRADERS Hemp Gold bar
ChocoSol TRADERS (Toronto, ON, CANADA)
Ingredients: cacao, hemp seed, maple sugar, cacao butter and sea salt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Live Healthy with Living Libations' Chocolate

Chocolate is a general term these days.  It is used to describe anything from candy bars, such as Mars and Hershey's, to Mayan-style hot cocoa beverages that are all the rage. And most accurately, it is used by connoisseurs and fine chocolate makers to describe solid chocolate made with quality ingredients.

However, the term 'chocolate' is also used to describe some of the newer types of artisan 'bars' that are made with cacao beans. Taza Chocolate stone grinds the beans to make a gritty-textured chocolate. The Canadian equal to American Taza is ChocoSol, based out of Toronto. Soma Chocolatemaker also makes an 'Old School' chocolate bar with a crumbly texture to replicate the way chocolate was made before the conching machine was invented (by Rudolph Lindt in 1879).

You might be wondering what is so special about gritty chocolate?  Well, the idea behind this trend is: the less you process the cacao beans, the more nutrients and antioxidants are maintained in the final chocolate product.

One Canadian company is taking this 'minimal processing' concept to the extreme with their raw chocolate creations.  Living Libations, a Haliburton, Ontario-based business, is creating chocolate that is made from raw (i.e. unroasted) cacao beans. They also add ingredients like hemp seeds, maca root, camu camu and other 'super foods'. So not only does the cacao retain more of its nutrients and antioxidants because it is uncooked and minimally processed, the resulting 'chocolate' is packed with added nutrients like minerals, vitamins and protein.

I first caught wind of Living Libations on a TVO documentary called "Semi-Sweet: Life In Chocolate" which aired back in June. The documentary followed four groups of people around the world and how their lives are affected by chocolate. Ron and Nadine, the couple behind Living Libations, were presented as extreme hippies who have been positively affected by it. They revere it as the 'food of the gods' and agree that it offers intense nutritional powers, especially in its raw form.

Described by an online writer as "a nutty New Age cou­ple liv­ing in rural splen­dour", Ron and Nadine apply their unique outlook on life to the creation of chocolate that is completely different from anything else in the Canadian market. One Globe and Mail article described their chocolate as "a paradigm shift. What they’re basically saying is this isn’t candy. This is food." I agree; from what I have tasted of their product, it is food. And unlike any chocolate that I have ever tasted.

First I tried Living Libations' "More than a Feeling, the Benediction is Where You Are Chocolate Bar" which is raw, organic and made with cacao beans from Indonesia. Along with the cacao beans, which are stone ground, it includes 10 other uber-healthy ingredients, including raspberry, hemp, maca root and gogi berries. The flavour was very strong and my initial reaction was not positive.  However, I decided to persevere and eat a piece a day for a week, and by the end of the week, the flavour grew on me and I found myself looking forward to this daily snack.

The second chocolate bar, called 'AltogetherNow Cacao', tasted very similar but had a hint of mint flavour . And although the other ingredients were different, it too included hemp and maca root.  So I wrote to Living Libations and asked about the importance of these two ingredients. They told me that hemp seeds are high in protein and contain Essential Fatty Acids.  The maca root is also very high in protein and has over 22 amino acids and minerals. They also told me that clinical research demonstrates it to be a powerful fertility and libido enhancer for both men and women. So if the nutrients are not enough to convince you to try this chocolate, the libido enhancer may be your reason.

I found myself getting caught up in researching Living Libations and their ideas about raw chocolate.  That lead me to David Wolfe and Shazzie, who wrote the book called "Naked Chocolate".  Shazzie is a woman from the U.K. who seems to be very similar to Nadine in the products that she promotes and the message she is giving to the public about all-natural foods and how they affect our health.  Shazzie also sells a line of raw 'chocolate bars' in the U.K. that are similar to the creations made by Living Libations.

What I noticed about these four individuals is they use creative ways to describe what raw chocolate can do for our health, body, mind and soul.  From the documentary, I wrote down quotes such as: "it is opening our Guinea Libations".  Huh? And finding a straight-forward description of each of their chocolate bars was not easy. But deciphering what Living Libations' chocolate was all about was the fun part in making a purchase decision.

The only real downside to this chocolate, for the average health-conscious consumer, is the price. With each bar costing about $20, one has to be selective. But there are no worries about gobbling up $20 in one sitting. It will certainly take a week or longer to work through one chocolate bar. One small piece a day can do wonders for your health, as I learned.  And eating too much at once can make you light-headed, as I also learned.

The best part about their chocolate is: "no sugar, no dairy, no cacao powder, no cacao butter", this is just cacao beans and real ingredients with no unnecessary processing.  So regardless of whether you call it chocolate or call it food, it is definitely unique, all-natural and healthy. Those are three things that I am always willing to sink my teeth into.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show

Toronto Chocolate: Part 3

Earlier this week I was in Toronto where I attended the Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show, which took place at the Roy Thompson Hall on Sunday, November 4th.

This guy was being congratulated by everyone on the
show floor for his winning chocolate-eating abilities.
Hmm, I wonder how they knew that he had won the contest?
Was it the trophy that tipped them off?
Or maybe it was his beard...oh wait, that's not a beard!
So what is the Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show? It is a trade fair where guests can walk from table to table and learn about chocolate products made by the various exhibitors, sample them and make purchases at reduced prices (well, some of the products appeared to be priced higher than in retail stores, but there were some great deals too). Other activities included chocolate and wine tasting seminars, a kids' chocolate activity centre, chocolate-making demonstrations and a chocolate eating contest. And as you can see from the picture, the chocolate contest is a happy (if not messy) event!

The exhibitor list was varied and showcased everything from shortbread to chocolate bars. It included ChocoSol Traders, an artisan and fair trade-oriented Toronto chocolate maker who allowed guests to grind their own cacao beans and blend their hot drinking chocolate with some bicycle action (see the photo on the right).  I decided then and there that I need one of those bicycles! The lady in front of me felt the same way - she was very happy to grind her own hot chocolate.  And so was the person behind me. I was disappointed that I was not chosen to work the bike, but I think it was my four-inch heeled boots that caused me to be overlooked (mental note: next year, wear flats).

Also in attendance was Laura Slack Chocolate Artist, Giddy Yoyo who makes 'organic heirloom raw chocolate' bars, and samples of BRIX Chocolate for Wine provided by B & M Marketing (Canada) Inc. and more. 

Unfortunately, I missed out on registration for the Wine and Chocolate Pairing seminars. I had really wanted to attend one, despite the extra cost to sign up, but by 1:00 p.m every seminar was booked. I had checked the website to buy advance tickets for the seminars, but could not find out how. So that would be one of my few recommendations for the show to include next year.

My only other recommendation is for the show to increase its exhibitor list next year.  After touring the entire show floor, I was surprised that I had gotten through it so quickly, even with waiting in long line-ups at some of the tables.

The cost was about $20-$25 per ticket (depending if purchased online or at the door); I would have liked access to more chocolate, confection and pastry makers for that fee. In fact, after touring the show floor, I found myself looking for Soma Chocolatemaker. Being Canada's most well-known bean-to-bar chocolate maker with two locations in Toronto, I thought they would have a table at the show or participate in the event in some way. Also, I know of many more luxury chocolate makers in Toronto who were not at this show.
Even though the Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show was a little on the small side, I found the afternoon to be enjoyable, particularly when my mother and I took a little rest from the show to enjoy a glass of wine and some dark chocolate that I had purchased. Including a licensed bar in the show was certainly a nice touch by the event organizers.

If you are a chocolate-lover or are shopping for holiday gifts for others who appreciate fine chocolate and desserts, I highly recommend that you attend next year's event.  Check the website for more information. For more information on chocolate in Toronto, read Part 1 and Part 2.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

President's Choice Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops: Finally, a cake-pop designed for me!

Maybe you saw the commercials already? Or maybe not, but you have passed them in the stores without really noticing them.  Or maybe you have never even heard of them before.  Whatever the case, I am talking about the newly launched President's Choice Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops and I recommend that you run out to your nearest Loblaws, Superstore, Valu-Mart or other grocer that carries PC products and buy a box right now! If you like rich, very chocolaty desserts like chocolate cheesecake, and anything covered in semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips, then this is the dessert for you to try.

I have avoided 'cake pops' for a while now.  I own a cake, pastry and chocolate business (Ultimately Chocolate on Manitoulin Island) and people are always asking me if I make cake pops.  But I am not the type to make anything that is too trendy. I like creating new products and setting my own trends.  I also do like working with trending flavours, like pink peppercorn, sea salt, hemp, and other interesting herbs, spices and health foods that are being paired with chocolate these days.  But cake pops?!?  Definitely not something that was on my radar.  Until now.

Being a crazy cheesecake lover (and lover of all super-rich, heavy and overly chocolaty desserts), I am only upset that I did not think to ever turn my chocolate cheesecake recipe into a cake pop.  But President's Choice has done it again. They have tackled a current trend and then brought it to a whole new level of coolness....and flavour.

Since buying the box last night, I have tasted the lollipops both thawed and frozen (I was being impatient when I brought the box home from the grocery store). Although they taste great both ways, it is better to let them thaw to a nice cool refrigerated level - just an hour on the counter will be enough. That is when they are yummiest.

It is funny - I bought these for the first time last night and I just saw the new President's Choice television commercial for them a few minutes ago.  So it is a very new product indeed.

The Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops come in a package of 10 (280 grams) and can be found in the freezer section, near other frozen President's Choice desserts. If you are not a chocolate-lover (what?!?), then you might like to try the Salted Caramel flavour instead. The cost was $6.99.  Happy Holiday entertaining everyone!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Night of Indulgence: Chocolate in Toronto (Part 2)

Taste Canada - The Food Writing Awards

Christine Cushing
was the Awards Emcee!
On Monday night, I attended Taste Canada - The Food Writing Awards, which honoured the best Canadian food books published within the last year, as well as a Gala event with wonderful wine made by the Niagara College Teaching Winery and fantastic food provided by various chefs, pastry chefs, chocolatiers and other bakers. Celebrity chef Christine Cushing hosted the event, and another great Canadian celebrity chef, Michael Smith, won an award for his most recent book. Several other people were honoured for their fantastic work within the culinary industry this year.

Yup, that's me at the event!
This event was a great excuse to dress up and experience an evening of pure food pleasure. In addition to the unbelievable savoury dishes, I tasted pastries from Sucre Boutique, a Toronto-based pastry chef who makes artisinal pastry and custom cakes, Elm Hill Cookies from Oakville and handmade filled chocolates by the students of George Brown College.

Most importantly, the recently launched FoodiePages was sponsoring the event by giving away 50 different artisan food products from 50 Canadian producers who are signed up to sell products on the website. At least ten gala attendees took home a large gift box of my signature product, the chocolate TOFFLE, a milk chocolate truffle surrounded by a rich, dark chocolate toffee. I was proud to be part of such a wonderful event!

To learn more about Taste Canada - The Food Writing Awards, visit: and for information on the 2012 Gala event, click here. Although there is no information about the 2013 event as of yet, check back on that website for ticket information. The fantastic food, drink and dessert selection was well worth the cost of the ticket.

For more information on chocolate in Toronto, read my article from June of this year on specialty fine chocolate that I have found in Toronto.  Also, check back tomorrow for an article on the Toronto Luxury Chocolate Show, which I also attended earlier this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Simple Recipe for Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

Yesterday I was trying to come up with a ganache recipe to fill some tarts shells and what I came up with was a semi-sweet chocolate ganache with sea salt. It tasted so fantastic and it was thick enough to be easily rolled into truffles, so I thought I'd share the recipe here on my blog.

My first batch was made with Camino's 56% Semi-Sweet Organic & Fair Trade Couverture and it was incredibly good. I then made a batch with a Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate bar and that had similar results, but with a slight vanilla flavour (Camino's chocolate has no vanilla in it, but Lindt's does).  You can buy the 300 gram Lindt bar at most grocery stores in the U.S. or Canada or, if you are in Canada and looking for Fair Trade and Organic chocolate, you can substitute the Camino professional line of couverture chocolate with Camino's 56% baking chocolate or Camino's 55% Dark chocolate bar, which is available at many Canadian grocery and health food stores, or online.

Here is my recipe:

Salted Dark Chocolate Truffles:

You need:
President's Choice was my
 choice of fine sea salt for this recipe.
  • 8 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate with 50% to 60% cacao solids (see above for chocolate brand suggestions or see below for truffle recipe using the Lindt Excellence Sea Salt chocolate bar)
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt (if you just want a hint of salt, use 1/2 - 3/4 tsp sea salt, for a bold, salty flavour use the full 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt (for decorating only)
  • For finishing: 8 ounces of semi-sweet (50%-60%) or bittersweet (70%) dark chocolate for rolling OR cocoa powder


Step 1: If chocolate is not already in pellets or drops, chop it into 1/2-inch to 1-inch sized pieces and place in a heatproof bowl (preferable if the bowl is also microwavable in case you have trouble melting the chocolate).

Step 2: Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stove until it reaches the boiling point.

Step 3: Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until smooth (if it does not melt fully, microwave for 5 second intervals if it is in a microwave-safe bowl. If you are using a stainless steel bowl rather than glass or plastic, place over a double boiler and stir until melted. Add the 1 tsp of fine seat salt and stir until it is fully mixed in.

Step 4: Let set on counter overnight or for 8 hours. Then refrigerate for 1 hour in order to make it stiff enough to roll into balls.

Step 5: Once set, take a small spoon and scoop out small spoonfuls of truffle mix.  Roll between the palm of your hands to make balls.  Place each truffle ball on a piece of wax paper.

Step 6: Roll in cocoa powder or melt & temper another 8 oz of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate and dip truffles using a fork.  Place on a new sheet of wax paper. Place a few pieces of the coarse sea salt on top while still liquid. Let cool and harden.  Then eat!

Alternate Recipe using a Lindt Excellence Sea Salt chocolate bar:
1. Break up three (3) Lindt Excellence Sea Salt dark chocolate bars into 1-inch pieces.  Place in a bowl. 
2. Heat 3/4 cup cream on stove until it reaches boiling point.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until smooth (if it does not melt fully, microwave for 5 second intervals if it is in a microwave-safe bowl).
4. Let set on counter overnight or for 8 hours.  Refrigerate for 1 hour in order to make it stiff enough to roll into balls.
5. Follow remaining steps listed above.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Rare Find: Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans

These days, chocolate-covered food products can be seen at every market, grocery store, pharmacy or health food store. And it seems that nearly everything can be covered in chocolate: almonds and other nuts are the most common, along with raisins and espresso beans, apricots, pretzels and all sort of other fruit and crunchy snacks.  I have even eaten chocolate-covered kale. But chocolate-covered cacao beans?  That is just plain rare. 

However Camino, a Canadian brand of organic and Fair Trade chocolate products, has just launched a small line of 'treats', which includes Dark Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans. Since I have only ever tried chocolate-covered cacao nibs, but never the whole bean covered in chocolate, I immediately ordered some.

Although these are called 'treats', it does not mean you should go crazy and give them as gifts to every chocoholic in your life.  First know that your friends and family can handle the extra bitterness of this snack.  The cacao beans are covered in a 70% dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder, so they are very bitter. But they have a nice crunch to them, so it is like eating a savoury, crunchy treat, like chips, rather than eating a sweet treat, like a Mars bar. So if your chocoholic friend is often seen eating a Hershey's milk chocolate bar, they probably will not like this snack.  But if they are always buying 70% or higher dark chocolate, or are trying to reduce their sugar intake, they may be the perfect candidate.

What I like about these 'treats' compared to similar ones, is that cacao beans have minimal caffeine content compared to chocolate-covered coffee beans.  And although coffee beans have no fat, the fat in cocoa beans is not unhealthy. Also, with so little sugar in this product and a huge boost of antioxidants, I do not feel guilt about tucking in for a chocolaty snack.

Camino brand can be found in health food stores and grocery stores across Canada.  But you can also buy these online.

Looking for other chocolate covered cacao bean products? Through Google, I found an American brand, Kakawa Cocoa Beans, who make cacao beans that are covered in milk, white and dark chocolate (that's right, all three on one bean!).  These look pretty tasty and probably a little sweeter than Camino's.  Check them out at:

Also, CRIO BRÜ sells chocolate covered Criollo cacao beans. And from what I can tell, they are not rolled in cocoa powder, which will create a slightly less bitter flavour experience.  Check these out at:
I have a feeling that we will see more chocolate covered cacao bean products pop up at our local food retailers in the near future.  It is a product that just makes sense to me. It is healthier than eating fully processed chocolate, it has less sugar content and provides both antioxidants and a boost of energy without over-caffeinating us.

As always, here are the full package details of the chocolate product that I tasted this week:

Camino Fair Trade/Organic Dark Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans, 70% cacao, 100g
La-Siembra Co-Opertive (Ottawa, ON, Canada)
Organic Ingredients: whole cacao beans*, dark chocolate* (cacao mass*, cane sugar*, cacao butter*, cacao powder*).
*Fair Trade Certified.
Contains 100% Fair trade Certified ingredients by dry weight (

What is not on the package: The cacao beans and dark chocolate are single-origin sourced from Peru. The sugar in the chocolate comes from Paraguay.