Every day of the year is opportunity to give from your heart and share love, but sometimes those marker days are an added bonus reminder to turn up the gratitude meter. As we approach Valentine’s Day, which many people enjoy celebrating, you might be thinking of ways to indulge your loved ones, and maybe even yourself, with some of the chocolate love this day has become synonymous with for many. And if you happen to also be vegan, there is no longer any reason you can’t enjoy all the chocolate bliss along with others, while also supporting the environment, animals, and your own health and well-being with pure, organic, cruelty-free ingredients. My friend Celeste has a great vegan blog called “Honk If You’re Vegan” (where she blogs about all things vegan from recipes to reviews, ramblings, health and nutrition) and she shared this “yummy” post on Vegan Chocolate Valentine’s Gifts I hope you’ll enjoy. She provides several great gift options at affordable prices. They all look amazing! Some other options, which also include some raw vegan chocolate, include (but not limited to): Coracao Confections , Sacred Chocolate , Lulu’s Chocolate , or perhaps your own basket mix of scrumptious chocolate bars from Righteously Raw Chocolate , or the amazing Kate Magic’s Raw Living assortment of ethical, high-vibe chocolate (which I just got to sample when she brought me some from the UK). However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or (like me) any day you would like an infusion of decadent pleasure, you can enjoy your chocolates without compromise and with a lot of intentional love. Enjoy!!
My husband and I cheated on our plant-strong diet too much over the holidays, mostly on sugar. We’ve been back on track since New Year’s, however; so I decided to treat my hubby with chocolate for Valentine’s Day. An occasional indulgence (as long as it’s really occasional!) ain’t gonna kill him. Here’s some goodies I’m considering:
1. Vanilla Kissed Strawberry Bark
A hint of vanilla mingles with fruity strawberries and smooth dark chocolate in this romantic, gluten-free bark. This would be a thrifty choice at $15.00 from Allison’s Gourmet.
2. Lagusta’s Luscious Small Assorted Collection
A fabulous selection of 100% fair trade, organic and vegan truffles, bonbons, caramels and toffee. This looks like a great pick, and I love that the company combines a deep commitment to social justice, environmentalism and animal rights with an obsessive commitment to artisan techniques of a chocolatier. $32.00 from Lagusta’s Luscious.
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Many people feel that they will miss out on all of the tastes and comforts that they have enjoyed, if they were to choose a vegan lifestyle. And this is especially so around the holidays when even vegetarians and vegans may put their lifestyle aside, to be able to eat with family and friends.
However, there really isn’t a reason you have to give up what your heart desires, unless that’s a choice you truly want to make. I guess that boils down to what is important to you and only you know what reflects your authenticity.
This post is NOT about discussing ethics, beliefs, or dietary health issues (if you want to read My Vegan Journey and Then Some you’ll learn a bit about how I came to be vegan), but it IS meant to discuss enjoying the life you’ve chosen to live, which includes food – and that is something that YES, vegans do too! AND, something I in particular really enjoy.
If you want to explore the other issues, there’s plenty of info out there and informative books like Meatonomics, The China Study, The Food Revolution, etc. that can help you to make better informed decisions, but whatever you choose, it’s important you learn how to do it in a healthy, more conscious way, as there are many herbivores and omnivores, alike, that have unhealthy eating habits and a lot of that has to do with not educating themselves about food.
Since that post about my own vegan journey and thoughts, my raw and cooked vegan ratios have changed, and will continue to, as I do what is supportive of my body and current energy cycles in my life. But no matter what ratio, as I believe all of that just isn’t important to get stuck on like I see many people doing, I thoroughly enjoy food and have never once felt deprived or like I was sacrificing. If anything, I have felt that there were more options, tastes, and creative possibilities, not to mention richer appreciation for food because your taste buds shift and you suddenly realize the vibrancy that is within each whole food just as it beautifully and naturally is.
In my opinion, eating should not only be conscious (in an all-inclusive way), but fun!
In the last year I have also been doing gluten-free or very low gluten and once again, nope…no deprivation or sacrifice going on in my world.
But not only are there more and more options in stores of vegan foods you can purchase pre-ready to pop in the oven, an array of improved gluten-free mixes, freshly made foods in the “deli” section, not to mention more and more restaurants and food delivery services, personal chefs, etc…but there are also a ton of amazing, easy recipes out there you can find online just by googling, checking out blog sites, or in recipe books you can purchase. It’s really becoming a challenge “not” to be able to have your vegan cake and eat it too.
Plus, if you have a friend or two, or more! you can gather together to create dishes shared among all of you, which is not only easier on the prep time, but a fun way to come together and swap recipe ideas, while sampling new dishes.
We spent our Thanksgiving this year at a vegan restaurant, with a bunch of friends, where they had an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet with the works – and yes, all vegan! This satisfied my lazy, not wanting to cook and clean up desires, but didn’t compromise or leave any sort of deprivation on any level. On the contrary, several people, including Dave, stuffed themselves so much that their stomachs were in bliss overload. I, on the other hand, have learned to not let my eyes dictate my stomach. 😉
I’ve enjoyed my eclectic, non-traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations the most, especially ones with friends. Most memorable have been raw vegan Thanksgiving feasting adventures at Cafe Gratitude with my dear faery, shared-bottomless-stomach (at the time), Laura Bruno. But, I’ve also had great holiday meals with my family where my mom has prepared additional items for my brother and I to enjoy since we had a different lifestyle, and with Dave’s family where we bring our own things to cook or they order and pick up stuff for us.
I find that most people are more than willing to accommodate your needs if they understand what’s important to your heart. It’s not a bad thing to ask for what you need and want. They won’t know it, if you don’t share it. And if they have a problem with it, then that’s for them to reconcile, but you can still make your holiday meal one of compassion and gratitude and simply handle taking care of your own food, if it feels to be too much for them to do, so that you are living by the example of your truth, yet not intruding on their choices.
I find it important to live my life consistently by my beliefs and values, and while I feel that includes being compassionate of other’s unique journeys and ability to choose, it also entails my not compromising what is most important to me. This can all be done with a loving heart and with that, you just may be able to share some of your yummyness with others who will likely be inquisitive to taste-test your scrumptious creations and discover new ways to incorporate other options into their life.
I’m not one that needs to have foods that mimic things I used to eat when I wasn’t vegan, but if that’s what you desire, and I know it helps to make transitions easier, you will find vegan “faux” options to be more than satisfying, and perhaps even gluttonous. And you can find all of these things in organic and non-gmo options, which I also feel is highly important to be conscious of.
I’m someone who likes things simple, so when making things myself I want something with as little ingredients as possible, not much to it, and quick and easy, but not skimping on taste.
And that goes for desserts too. There are a ton of great recipes out there, but if I have to spend tons of time preparing something, I’m over it, unless I’m really feeling inspired and want to set aside the time to do just that.
I do find that my kitchen creativity happens in cycles. Sometimes I want nothing to do with it, so that means easy and fast. And sometimes that outlet is a way to channel my current creative energy needs. In which case, it will be a pure joy and so much fun to be in that process.
I know many of you love your desserts, and I recently had the opportunity to make a bunch of them for others, which was fun to experiment with new recipes I’d never made. Again, I realized how you can bring health, taste, and fun to everyone, without there needing to be any feelings of lack.
Gluten-free items, like baked goods, used to be a bit lacking in the department of taste, but as things progress and people start figuring out the right elements and mix, you can really make some yummy baked goods without knowing the difference. It does take some experimenting when you make something from scratch, which I’ve been learning :), but once you get it, you’ll be amazed at the results. And there are some great, pre-ready, organic base mixes you can purchase at the store too for your gluten-free and vegan baked goods that are amazingly moist and yummy and only take one or two ingredients to add and voila!
Take a look at these photos in the post of holiday dessert fun I was able to create. The array of all vegan and gluten-free tastes included hostess cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes with chocolate mint icing, blueberry crumble cobbler, chocolate coconut haystack bars, raw fudge balls rolled in coconut and goji berries, and pumpkin spice ice cream (not in photo since it was freezing), and a special raw chocolate butterfly.
First time I made most of these. I found most of these recipes, tweaked a few, and some are my own. I thought I’d share two of the favs which are the raw fudge balls and the haystack bars. The raw fudge balls I make a lot, as they are healthy desserts and snacks (good at any time of the day) that satisfy the sweet tooth, but only use the natural sugar of dates. The haystack bars were new, but are now another new fav that definitely give you that chocolate fix if you need it, plus are similar to almond joy, minus the almond 😉 – mmmm….
The other good thing is that one really is enough on either of these, as they are both rich in their own way, but definitely easy to make.
It depends how big you cut your bars, as to how many it will yield. The original recipe for the Tupperware size below said it makes 4 to 6 generous portions, which would make larger pieces and more elongated bars. I doubled the recipe and used a 10 x 5″ Tupperware container and cut smaller portions, which I was able to get 32 smaller square bars from (as seen in the photo). They will look more rustic and rough at the edges than factory made non-vegan ones, but these are much healthier, easy, likely addictive (although quite potent so you really don’t need more than one at a time and will be satisfied with that), and DELICIOUS!
The recipe called for an approximately 5.5 x 4″ Tupperware container, but you can use whatever size you want and adjust the recipe accordingly. Or, use several of the same-sized containers to make a larger batch for parties, or to have dessert snacks on hand, as they keep well in the refrigerator for a few days. You will need to line the base of the containers with grease-proof paper of some sort. I used parchment paper.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE CHOCOLATE (adjust according to size of containers used)
- 7 oz (200 g) good quality, organic vegan chocolate – you can also use vegan chocolate chips (which I did). These two options will be the quickest because you only then have to melt them. But you could also make your own chocolate from cacao powder, coconut oil, agave or vanilla stevia if you prefer, which is super easy too and only takes a couple more minutes.
- a pinch of salt (Himalayan Pink Salt or Sea Salt are good options)
- 1 heaped tsp organic coconut oil
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING
- 1½ cups shredded organic coconut
- 1 Tbsp white vegan sugar (This time I used organic coconut sugar, which isn’t white, but I prefer it over regular sugar. You could also use Stevia or agave)
- 1½ Tbsp organic coconut oil
- 4 Tbsp (60 mL) water
- First you’ll need to melt your chocolate. Some people may do this in a glass bowl in the microwave (likely a minute in there would do) if you don’t mind using one. I prefer not to, so you can use the bain marie method or an improvised version like this photo. For info on this visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bain-marie.
- Then place the coconut oil in a small saucepan, and heat gently until melted. Then add the shredded coconut, sugar and water. Mix for a couple of minutes, then remove and set aside to cool.
- Next, pour a few spoons of the chocolate in the base of the tupperware bowl (therefore sitting on top of the greaseproof paper base). You need to make sure you have a decently thick layer of it, maybe like 1/4″, unless you prefer thinner chocolate layers, and make sure it is evenly layed. Then place in the freezer to solidify – 20 minutes or so should do the trick.
- Remove from freezer, and spoon the coconut filling on top of the chocolate base, and place in the freezer for a further 15 minutes. It will be a nice thick layer and make sure to press it down evenly. You may have about an inch of this layer or 3/4″. It depends how much you made and how you adjusted the recipe.
- Remove from freezer, and pour the remaining chocolate on top of the coconut filling following the same procedure as the first layer and once again, place in the freezer for a further 20 minutes.
- When it is solid, but not frozen, remove from freezer, and turn upside down. Remove the greaseproof paper, and cut into your desired sizes. Keep in an airtight container, and consume within 3 days.
I doubled this recipe so there would be more. It made 35 larger balls. It depends how big you roll your balls, as to how many you will get. But this gives you an idea of what a double recipe yields. You could likely get more out of it if you do them a little smaller than I did and they would still be plenty of a mouth-full! I love using coconut and goji berries all year round, but it is especially festive around Christmas to have little white and red snow balls.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BALLS
2 cups of organic almonds (if you can find raw ones online you can make this a raw dessert) – (you can also use walnuts, hazelnuts, or any mixture of these) I prefer almonds and did also enjoy once doing this with an almond/hazelnut mixture. I like to soak them just a little, as it adds some moisture making the consistency better, but you could also just use them dry and add a little water when blending, which is what I did this last time around to save a little time and it came out just as amazing.
20 – 25 pitted medjool dates
2/3 cup raw organic cacao
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
INGREDIENTS FOR THE COATING
1 small 8 oz bag of organic goji berries
about 1/2 cup of shredded organic coconut (you can either get larger coconut shreds and blend them with your goji berries until smaller, or just purchase the already extra fine cut coconut and just add them to you goji blend, mixed well)
Put your nut choice and dates in a food processor first until blended to a nice consistency. Don’t over-do, but a little smaller than a pebble, larger than grain of salt is a good gauge. Then add the rest and blend until you have fudgy clumps. Check the consistency to make sure it is moist/sticky. Then remove your fudginess from the processor onto a plate and set aside. In the meantime, clean out your processor’s holder and add in your coconut and goji berries or just goji berries, if you purchased the extra fine coconut. Then blend these until it’s a nice size to roll your balls in, pour into a smaller bowl and put aside. Then get ready for some fudge fun by pinching out small portions from your large clump and rolling them between your palms to make little balls. You can make these as small or large as you desire. You should have a sticky consistency that will easily absorb the goji and coconut layer when you roll your balls in the bowl with that mixture. If by some chance it doesn’t stick, you can spray them with a water bottle to moisten and then roll. You can also sprinkle your balls with cinnamon if you prefer or any variation of topping that suits your taste buds. It’s actually a fun and super easy recipe to get your hands into for the child within or to share in making with your own children. It can also be formed into a cake if you want and layered with fruit or topped with whatever you desire, including home-made chocolate icing or your own favorite vegan ice cream.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and enjoyable Holiday season. I hope that however you choose to enjoy your meals, that you make it fun and that it mirrors your heart.