Natural Mango Scented Chocolates (raw and vegan)

Raw, Vegan, Sugar Free and Gluten Free

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 Last week of the uni semester is always so rough. This week I wrote two terrible essays for my final assignments, and waded through three hundred (literally three hundred I’m not even exaggerating) pages of notes trying to summarise for my exam next week. How did I manage to write so many pages of class notes? I don’t really know. Did I write down anything important? No. I can’t even understand myself from two weeks ago. In my mind when I take notes I always think “I’ll just abbreviate these words a bit to save time – future Lil will remember what I’m talking about”…

Future Lil never has any clue what I meant. In one of my law subjects this is one of the notes I wrote in class – “mention the dead baby case but the mum was mean so it didn’t work”. What. On. Earth. Was. I. On. About. “Sigh”. 

So instead of studying today I took a break to make chocolate. Because chocolate makes everything better! Especially when it is super good for you too and you don’t have to battle with assignments AND post-chocolate gorging regrets. 

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 My Step Dad very kindly bought my a huge block of cocoa butter a few weeks ago after he heard me raving about coconut butter (bless). I admit for the first couple days I just stared at it having no clue what to use it for. And then I realised there probably wasn’t a better possible way than just making real chocolate! 

So I got researching and it’s actually super easy to make at home. Raw cocoa butter and cocoa powder (usually called cacao) is actually really good for you. It is packed with antioxidants and has been heralded for its benefits to the skin and heart. When you heat it unfortunately you lose lots of those benefits, but you get a big difference in flavour as the chocolate essence transforms from quite a fruity, almost bitter flavour to a more nutty, dark, rich, smooth and complex flavour. (Never too many adjectives). 

I personally like the flavour of raw cacao so I used that exclusively here. If you get a good quality brand the chocolate flavour is still very sweet and strong. If you want the real dark chocolate experience, swap half the cocoa powder with Dutch-processed, or all of it if you prefer. 

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For the liquid sweetener, you can go with a few different alternatives. If you want to use real sugar, use icing sugar so that the texture isn’t grainy. For liquid sweeteners, you can use a scented honey like I have, or for a perfectly suitable vegan substitute you can use agave nectar (the light kind). I have heard of people using maple syrup, brown rice syrup and other fruit syrups as well all with great success. I kind of guessed the quantities from the back of a few chocolate bars and by reading some other recipes, and I think the equal parts method is quite standard. For darker chocolate feel free to increase the cocoa!

We had a jar of mango scented honey in the cupboard that I had been waiting to try out, so that’s what I used here. You can also stir through chopped nuts, dried fruit, coconut flakes or anything you wanted really before the chocolate sets. It sets completely hard like real chocolate but keep it in a relatively cool place to avoid it melting. And you can use it in place of recipes that call for melted chocolate for a sugar-free vegan alternative! Win Win 🙂 

One Year Ago: Carrot Muffins with Bush Honey Icing

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Natural Raw Chocolate: 

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cacao powder, well sifted

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cocoa butter, roughly chopped

100ml (3.5 fluid ounces) raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar

 Place a pot with a few inches of water over your lowest heat with a bowl placed on top. Heat the water until boiling, then turn off the heat. Put the cocoa butter in the bowl and allow to melt completely at a low temperature, to avoid killing the nutrients. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa, sweetener of choice and cocoa butter well. Whilst still warm and runny, pour your chocolate into little cupcake moulds or chocolate moulds. Silicone will be easiest to remove later! Allow to cool completely in the fridge and then keep at room temperature. The chocolate lasts well for ages and makes great presents. This amount made 30 tiny cupcake moulds of chocolate, and you can easily increase or decrease to suit. Enjoy!

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Orange and Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles

Raw, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

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There’s something about chocolates in the shape of a ball that is seriously addictive. It’s like eating grapes. Who ever saw a bunch of grapes and thought, oh…I’ll just have one. I’ll just have one grape please. Who does that? No one. It’s obligatory that you have at least five. I feel the same way about chocolate balls. Maltesers, M&Ms, Smarties, Jaffa Balls, all the balls. It’s impossible to show any kind of self control and just have a single malteser! Plus, people would think you were weird. Who only eats one ball! Ok,  time to move on from the subject of balls… these chocolate orange truffles are pretty much where it’s at with addictive chocolate. 

I go all kinds of crazy in Christmas season (who doesn’t, please.) and bake/ice/eat at a velocity of 1000x more intense then the rest of the year. Last year I made three kinds of ice cream, a Christmas fruit cake, gingerbread men, custard and sugar cookies all for Christmas Day. And I was not assigned to dessert. Christmas lunch at my family’s house is always an intense eating marathon that we all look forward to for the entire lead-up. 

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Lunch is always AMAZING! Heaps of seafood and ham and prawn cocktails. But I never fill up on these trivial things. I just sip my water and eat my tasty salad patiently, waiting for the big guns. Dessert. Oh my gosh. I dream about it. My grandma always makes a multi-layered trifle covered in cream and passionfruit that makes me weep with joy. We always have a prune pudding (do not judge! It is the food of the Gods!) and ice cream and fruit skewers and more cream and custard and wow. It’s really a beautiful moment. 

And at the end of the day there’s always a box of chocolates on the table, usually one of the many Christmas gifts received over the previous weeks. These chocolate truffles are for that moment. They’re the perfect Christmas gift because they’re full of Christmassy flavours like cinnamon and orange, and they look nice and ‘rustic’ and homemade. You can feel the love right? 

ImageChristmas is a little bit sad this year because I’m not with my family to celebrate. I’m going to miss seeing all my beautiful cousins and aunts and uncles! And my hilarious grandpa wearing his cute little Christmas paper crown. But then again, hopefully by that point in my travels, I’ll be celebrating Christmas with my boyfriend in an apartment in Paris! So I doubt I’ll be that sad.

These chocolate truffles are super healthy and easy to make for all your family and friends this year. They’re similar to the chocolate coconut balls I made, but with a seasonal twist. Made out of dried organic apricots and walnuts, they are packed with protein and potassium and vitamin C from the orange juice! Way healthier than the usual standard truffle, keep these in the fridge or freezer for a yummy snack or wrap them up in cellophane and send around the Christmas cheer 🙂 IMG_7634

Orange and Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dried organic apricots
juice of 2 oranges
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
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Soak the apricots for half an hour in the orange juice. Drain them, reserving some juice, and cut into strips. Pound up the walnuts and throw in the blender with the cinnamon, cocoa powder, and apricots. Blend until smooth, adding a teaspoon or two of orange juice as you go if the paste is too thick. Scoop into a bowl and use two teaspoons to roll out even balls. Pour a little cocoa powder in a small bowl and drop the balls in the bowl. Use your fingertips to roll the balls around until evenly coated. Once dusted, place in a container and keep in the fridge until they firm up. Happy holidays!
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Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge

Gluten Free

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I have a really sad story to tell you. It’s about dumplings. 

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 Last night I went to meet my boyfriend in the city for dinner. I was super excited because we were going to get dumplings, and even though I probably eat them at least twice a week I still feel daily withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t eaten them. 

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 So in I went on the tram, in the rain. We ordered our dumplings, and then waited for a while. His came pretty quickly, but I didn’t mind because I was prepared to wait it out. After 45 minutes however I was thinking heeelloo! I’m pretty hungry! And then FINALLY they sent out the dumpling baskets, and I could see the steam rising off them and I had my vinegar and chilli ready, and they were the wrong ones! I knew straight away because they were lamb and carrot. Being a vegetarian I can pretty easily distinguish between greens and egg and lamb and carrot. 

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But you know what? Mistakes are mistakes. They happen to all of us. So I graciously sent them back and requested my vegetable  dumplings. Another very long wait later, I re-ordered the dumplings. And then do you know what happened? When they finally arrived? I bit into one, expecting a crescendo of deliciousness, and it was solid frozen in the middle. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. 

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To console myself I made chocolate fudge. This is a really simple and basic fudge recipe. It uses condensed milk so there isn’t any need for a sugar thermometer, and there’s no added sugar which takes care of that tear-inducing sweetness that fudge can sometimes have. It’s still incredibly rich! Use 70% dark chocolate if you can find it, milk would just be sweet out of this world. 

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Dark Chocolate Fudge: Adapted from a recipe card from the chocolate box

1 x 395 gram (14 ounces) can of sweetened condensed milk

50 grams (1/2 stick) salted butter in cubes, plus extra for greasing 

400 grams (1 pound, 14 ounces) of dark chocolate, broken in to pieces

Butter and line an 18cm (8 inch) square cake tin with baking paper, leaving it hanging over the edges. Over a pot of simmering water, put your chopped chocolate in a bowl and leave to melt. In another pot, stir your butter and condensed milk together over a low heat until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium and stir continually until the mixture reaches a simmer. Take off the heat for a moment. As soon as the butter and milk are done, take the bowl of chocolate (it doesn’t need to be completely melted) off the heat and place it on a board. Pour over the butter and milk and leave to sit for a minute, before stirring gently to melt the chocolate. Pour into your pan and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. To cut, run a sharp blade under very hot water. Carefully remove the fudge from its container and place on a board. Run the knife at even intervals, running under hot water in between slices. Refrigerate once cut. Makes about 20-30 pieces. IMG_4424