Tag Archives: baking

Recipe: Homemade Chocolate Bark

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This recipe is super simple but creates elegant-looking pieces of chocolate bark that you can serve at a party, give as a gift or use to satisfy a chocolate craving.

It’s also highly versatile so feel free to play around with different mix-ins. If you’re a fan of the popular Peppermint Pretzel barkTHINS for example, you could use chopped pretzels, candy cane pieces and a pinch of sea salt. If you like the pecan-caramel combination, try chopped dates and pecans and a handful of toffee pieces. If you prefer fruit and nut chocolate bars, try adding chopped almonds, peanuts and cashews and raisins.

Enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Bark
Vegan | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free option

Makes one large baking sheet of bark

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams good quality dairy-free dark chocolate
    (baking chocolate, molding chocolate and chocolate chips/bars should all work well)
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
    (Costco sometimes carries Sunblest brand, which I love because it doesn’t have sulphites)
  • 1/2 cup seeds and/or nuts
    (I wanted a nut-free version so I used sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds)
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit
    (I used unsweetened cranberries and wild blueberries)

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, checking it often and stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn. While the chocolate is melting, prepare 1 large (or 2 medium-small baking sheets) with a layer of wax paper or a silicone baking mat.
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    Start heating the chocolate slowly…

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    … until it’s fully melted.
  2. Once the chocolate is fully melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in your mix-ins. Stir gently until they’re well incorporated.
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    Add all of your mix-ins into the saucepan.

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    Stir gently to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture out onto the wax paper or baking mat, ideally in the shape of a rectangle, so that it’s about half a centimetre thick. Place your baking sheet in the fridge and let the chocolate cool until its hardened (about 30 minutes).
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    Spread the mixture out evenly into a rectangular shape.

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    Chill for about 30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. When the chocolate is fully cooled, gently peel it off the mat/wax paper and break it into medium-large chunks. Try to work quickly so that the chocolate doesn’t melt – it needs to stay cool to ‘snap’ nicely into pieces of bark.

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    Break into various-sized pieces to create your ‘bark’.
  5. Store the chocolate in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy. If you’re going to give it as a gift, just package it in some cellophane or a glass jar, add a ribbon and you’re good to go!

12 Gift-Giving Ideas You Can Feel Good About

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With the winter holidays fast approaching, you’ve probably already started thinking about potential gift options for the special people in your life. For most of us, it feels great to be able to give someone you care about a present that you know they’ll love. But it feels even better when you can feel good about where that gift came from.

Thankfully, as more and more people become conscious of where they shop and what they shop for, we’ve seen the advent of countless new companies and products that use sustainable practices. So whether you’re a vegan and/or a hardcore environmentalist, or you’re just trying to be a little bit more ethical in your shopping habits, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find gifts that align with your values.

The following is a list of great cruelty-free gift ideas, many of which are local, that you can feel good about purchasing.

1. Bath and body products: If you want something that’s made here in Ottawa, Sud With Me has a range of natural, vegan personal care products (and all of the profits go to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, so it’s a win-win!). Purple Urchin is another independent, Ottawa-based company that sells natural soap and skincare products. There’s also Druide, which is based in Quebec, and Lush of course. If you’re feeling creative you can even try your hand at DIY homemade bath and body products – there are endless ‘recipes’ available online on sites like Pinterest.

2. Books: There are so many fantastic books out there that can educate people about how to live more ethically and healthily. A few examples include the Ecoholic books by Adria Vasil; The Simply Raw Living Foods Detox Manual by Natasha Kyssa, owner of Ottawa’s Simply Raw Express; Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina; or Vache à lait: Dix mythes de l’industrie laitière by Élise Desaulniers.

3. Cookbooks: If you need a gift for someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, some of the most popular plant-based cookbooks on shelves at the moment are Angela Liddon’s The Oh She Glows Cookbook, Robin Robertson’s Vegan Without Borders: Easy Everyday Meals from Around the World, Nava Atlas’ Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes, Mayim Bialik’s Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours and Emily von Euw’s Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes.

4. Homemade treats: Who doesn’t love a batch of something homemade? You could make vegan peppermint bark, gingerbread cookies, Turtle oatmeal cookies, magical coconut bars, peanut butter fudge or snickerdoodle cookies. Put your goodies into a nice tin, jar or gift box, add a bit of ribbon and a bow and voilà – you have an inexpensive and one-of-a-kind gift that’s perfect for the sweet-lover on your list.

5. Experiential gifts: Want to avoid giving someone a “thing”? Plan an outing to the theatre (try the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa Little Theatre or The Gladstone, La Nouvelle Scène) or a museum or gallery. Or, organize a short trip to a nearby city or a wellness retreat, such as Sugar Ridge in Wyebridge, ON or Shanti on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, ON.

6. Eco-friendly items for the home: Help your family members and friends be kind to the planet by giving them something useful and sustainable, such as a set of mesh produce shopping bags, a reusable silicone baking mat, stainless steel or cast iron cookware, biodegradable dishes and utensils or napkins, placemats and sheets made from hemp, linen or organic cotton. If you need more inspiration, Terra20 has a holiday flyer with tons of other great ideas.

7. Tea and coffee: There’s nothing like a steaming cup of your favourite brew to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, so why not put together a selection of sustainably-sourced teas and coffees? Stash has a line of organic, fair-trade teas and Angela Liddon, who’s based in Toronto, has just opened the Oh She Glows Tea Shoppe, featuring a range of delicious-sounding organic, loose leaf tea blends. Bridgehead sells organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffees and organic, fair-trade teas. Adria Vasil (known for her Ecoholic book series and website) recommends the Jane Goodall Institute Blend coffee, which is organic, fair trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified. In Gatineau, the Cha Yi Tea House offers a vast selection of organic and natural teas and herbal teas. Daniel, its owner, travels each year to Asia where he  buys high quality teas directly from small tea farmers.

8. Ready-made meals: If someone on your list is perpetually short on time, they may appreciate receiving food that’s already prepared. Erika LeBlanc has a 100% vegan catering company, appropriately named Erika’s Vegan Catering, which offers salads, entrees and desserts that feed 6 or 12 people. You could also have a restaurant or take-out place deliver food to a friend’s house regularly for a while to save them the trouble of having to cook every night.

9. Themed gift baskets: Assembling your own baskets can be a lot of fun because you can create unique gifts tailored to the people on your list. If you have a friend who’s obsessed with all things chocolate for example, pick out an assortment of nice, cruelty-free chocolate bars, hot chocolate mixes and chocolate-covered snacks like pretzels and raisins and put them into a decorative basket. Add some tissue paper and a little ribbon and you’ve got a fancy, thoughtful gift that your friend will love (and the basket and tissue paper can be reused).

10. An evening out, on you: If you need a gift for someone who already has everything, you might want to pick up a gift certificate for a veg or veg-friendly restaurant. The Table, Café My House, Simply Raw Express and The Green Door are great all-veg establishments. Popular places with good vegetarian/vegan options include A Thing for Chocolate, The Manx Pub, The Daily Grind and Oz Kafe.

11. A donation to a good cause: No matter what your loved ones are passionate about, chances are there’s an organization dedicated to it. If you’ve got any animal lovers on your list, consider making a donation in their names to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, Hungry and Homeless Cat Rescue or Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary (all local) or the Humane Society International or Mercy for Animals Canada.

12. An NCVA membership: Belonging to the NCVA will not only bring your gift recipient into a supportive community of people who follow a plant-based diet, but it will also give them access to great discounts on a wide range of veg-friendly foods, products and services.

If you’ve got other ideas for ethical gifts, please share them in the comments below!

Recipe: Easy Blueberry Lemon Scones

Français

Blueberry & Lemon SconesThese scones are fluffy and fragrant, slightly sweet with fresh bursts of blueberry and a hint of lemon. With the help of Bisquick, this recipe comes together in a snap.

Easy Blueberry Lemon Scones
Vegan

Makes 6-8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Bisquick mix
  • 2 tbsp sugar (organic cane sugar, sucanat, coconut sugar, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan margarine (chilled/not melted)
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk of choice (almond, soy, rice, hemp or oat)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix Bisquick, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the Earth Balance or margarine until the mixture is crumbly. There should be no large pieces of Earth Balance left.
  4. Next, add the non-dairy milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest, stirring to combine. Add the blueberries and stir gently.
  5. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the scones are a light golden brown.
  6. For extra sweetness, create a glaze by mixing 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp water and 1/4 cup vegan icing sugar together in a small bowl. Brush the scones with the glaze immediately after removing them from the oven.
  7. Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm.

Meet NCVA Cupcake Challenge judge, Ron Eade

For Part 3 of our 5 part Meet the Judges series we get to know the Ottawa Citizen’s own Ron Eade.

Ron Eade has been the food editor at the Ottawa Citizen, the capital region’s largest newspaper, since 1998. He is also the authour of Omnivore’s Ottawa, a blog encompassing all things food in the Ottawa region.

While Ron is far from vegetarian, he does have an appreciation for good food in whatever form, and has attended Veg Fest as a patron in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011 he joins the NCVA as a guest judge for the NCVA Cupcake Challenge.

At home he regularly experiments in the kitchen and tests new dishes on his wife, Nancy, and young son, Graeme. Most of those dishes are not vegetarian.

On May 1, Ron will be found eating far too many cupcakes for one person, along with the other NCVA Cupcake Challenge judges. Already announced: CBC’s Stu Mills, and the incomparable Auntie Loo. More to come!

Meet NCVA Cupcake Challenge judge, Stu Mills of CBC Radio

In part 2 of our Meet Our Judges series we introduce CBC Radio’s own Stu Mills.

Stu Mills grew up in Haliburton Ontario.  At Simon Fraser University  he studied Communication and Philosophy.

He continued with his studies in those areas at Queen’s University. During this time he fell in love with radio’s ability to focus the mind on spoken ideas while working at CFRC 101.9 FM, the Queen’s University radio station.

He’s been reading the news at CBC Ottawa since 2005, was the Friday host for Ottawa Morning for much of last year, regularly fills in for Rita Celli on Ontario Today, and for Alan Neal on All in a Day  on CBC Radio One (91.5 FM).

Stu has a passion for the outdoors, especially mountain biking, and in all mechanical things.  He lives in Wakefield, Quebec.

NCVA Cupcake Challenge – Meet Our Judges – Part 1 – Auntie Loo

Hey everyone,

We’ve had such an AMAZING response to the Cupcake Challenge and we’re really looking forward to seeing and of course TASTING all your creations!

For those of you that haven’t signed up for a chance to have your cupcake named Ottawa’s best vegan cupcake, please click here

We kick off the Meet Our Judges series with none other than Ottawa’s own queen of vegan cupcakes….Auntie Loo!

Auntie Loo’s is a small vegan bakery here in Ottawa. Ms. Loo learned to cook at the knees of her family members, and the majority of what she produces are these very recipes- veganized! Auntie Loo firmly believes that if you want a dessert, it had better taste like one. Auntie Loo’s uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.

Most people want to know the story, so here it is: Put up to having a vegan treat table at the 2004 Ladyfest Ottawa Craft Sale by her sweet-toothed roommates, Ms. Loo had never even considered baking as a career. Overwhelmed by the response, Auntie Loo’s was born.

Nowadays, Auntie Loo’s Treats can be found in several locations around Ottawa, including her storefront at 507 Bronson Avenue.