Fitness, Food, Wine & Travel

Posts tagged “chocolate

Product Feature: barkTHINS Snacking Chocolate


Quite often, food products are sent to me at headquarters to get my opinion on them and to share them with you here if I like them. The latest product I tried and happened to LOVE is barkTHINS snacking chocolate.

barkTHINS are made with Fair Trade and non–GMO certified ingredients and are a delectable treat that fit into a healthy/active lifestyle.

The team at barkTHINS sent me four varieties of their snacking chocolate including: Blueberry with Quinoa Crunch, Almond with Sea Salt, Pumpkin with Sea Salt and Coconut with Almonds. All four of these flavors are gluten-friendly (not made in a gluten free facility, but do not have gluten as an ingredient. My fingers are crossed that they will develop a gluten friendly pretzel/dark chocolate barkTHINS.

My favorite barkTHINS is the Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt! I really enjoy pumpkin seeds and they have a high nutritional value. My favorite dessert (not every night, but a few times a week if we have a lighter dinner) is a few barkTHINS, some nuts or seeds, a few pieces of dried fruit (like pears or figs), and a small piece of hard cheese.

Andy also tried some of the flavors and noted that his favorite thing about the chocolate was that it really was like bark, each piece was a different shape and size. The only bad thing about barkTHINS is that they are so GOOD that you might accidentally eat the entire bag. 😉

You can find barkTHINS on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Join the community of #barkFANS to share the joy of snacking chocolate with others.

Ready to try the chocolatey goodness that is barkTHINS? You can order online here.

12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: DIY Chocolate and Pistachio Fudge

It’s Day Nine of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover, and today’s idea comes from my love of chocolate and pistachios. It’s my recipe for Chocolate and Pistachio Fudge!

It’s a pretty easy recipe to make, and once you’re done you can pick out a nice cookie tin and present it to your recipient (but instruct them against shaking it). Remember to tell your candy lover to store the fudge in the refrigerator (when they are not too busy eating it) 😉

For the Pistachio Layer:
2 cups roasted pistachios
1-2 Tbs coconut oil, softened
1½ Tablespoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tsp sea salt

For the Chocolate Layers:
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate (whatever your favorite brand happens to be)
1/4 coconut oil, softened

Line a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Begin with roasted pistachios (either roast them in the oven or buy them pre-roasted, but try to get them unsalted, as this will add an unnecessary amount of sodium to the recipe). Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until the nuts begin to stick to the sides (you’ll end up making a pistachio butter by the time you are done blending). Add the coconut oil to help the pistachios turn into a butter. When the mixture is completely smooth, add your sweetener of choice, the vanilla and the salt. Set this mixture aside.

Melt your chocolate with the coconut oil (either in the microwave in 10-15 second bursts and stirs) or over a double boiler on the stovetop. When the chocolate is completely melted, spread half of it onto the parchment lined baking pan. You’ll want the layer to be a little less than 1/4″ thick on the bottom. Let the chocolate harden before you move onto the next step. You can speed things up by placing your pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.

When the chocolate has completely solidified, spread the pistachio mixture over it 1/4″ from the edge of the chocolate. Spread the mixture evenly. Then top the pistachio layer with the remaining melted chocolate and also spread evenly. The idea is to get all layers pretty even so that when you cut it, the pieces of fudge will look elegant and uniform. 🙂 Return the pan to the refrigerator/freezer and allow to harden completely.

The next step is to cut the pieces of fudge in little diamonds. You can do this by making diagonal slices all the way across from left top to right bottom, and then diagonal slices from the top right to the bottom left. You can place the slices directly into your parchment-lined cookie tin with a spatula.

Now you’re all set to give a delicious, addictive homemade gift. You might not want to give it away once you try it. 😉

Join me tomorrow for another 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover (DAY 10!!) Getting sooo close to Christmas now! Cheers! 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: jcoco Chocolate Bars Gift Set

It’s day two of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover and my second Christmas selection is this gift set of chocolate bars from jcoco chocolate.

jcoco chocolate is a remarkable new line of American couture chocolate. Like fashion’s haute couture, jcoco draws inspiration from cultures across the globe to create a fresh, contemporary style.

Their line of flavors include: On Dasher! On Ginger!, Peanut Strawberry Baobab (like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich dipped in chocolate), Black Fig Pistachio, Vanuatu Coconut Pecan, Edamame Sea Salt, Agave Quinoa Sesame, Cayenne Veracruz Orange and Noble Dark.

jcoco sent me the three bars you see above to sample and though my favorite of the three was the Noble Dark (72% couverture chocolate with Casa Luker cocoa nibs from Colombia), the most Christmassy flavor was On Dasher! On Ginger, a bar with pieces of candied ginger and a hint of allspice (below).

ginger bar
What I really liked about the packaging of the bars is that each package has three individually wrapped 1 oz bars. This makes it perfect to open a package, take one bar out for yourself, and share the other two in the package with your besties. 🙂 I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day three of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

You can order jcoco directly from their website here. You can follow jcoco on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter here.

Trick or Treat? Treat!! Four-Ingredient Hazelnut Butter Cups (sponsored by Nugget Markets)

Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. You’re the one who bought the institution-sized bag of Halloween candy “for the neighborhood kids”… Like, back sometime near Labor Day. Yes, and I know you put it away in the pantry for safe keeping. Hmmm, but somehow it seems to have all disappeared.

I’m not going to judge you. I like treats myself. The only difference is that I would never buy name brand candy. When I reward myself with a treat, I prefer to know what’s actually in it, and I prefer it to be non-poisonous. I used to really dig Reese ‘s Peanut Butter Cups until I found out how much sugar and other crap are in them…and that they are GMO–Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, PGPR) peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ. Thus, making them COMPLETELY un-Paleo friendly.

So now I compromise with hazelnut butter cups. You’ve heard of Nutella, right? Well this is about the same thing with way less sugar and all the flavor.

Thanks to Nugget Market for supplying the ingredients.

Hazelnut Butter:
2 cups toasted organic hazelnuts (skins removed)
2 Tbs raw honey
2 Tbs organic coconut oil

    Place all ingredients in a food processor and grind until the mixture becomes a paste. Set aside.

    16 oz box E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate 72% Cacao Disc Wafers (Melted)

    You’ll also need mini cupcake liners, a mini cupcake pan, and some non-stick cooking spray. 

    1. Place the liners in the pan and spray them with some non-stick cooking spray.
    2. Then pour the melted chocolate in the liners until filled 1/3 full.
    3. Take a small spoonful of the hazelnut butter mixture and form in into a small ball.
    4. Drop it into the 1/3 full liner of chocolate. Repeat for each candy.
    5. Set the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to set the chocolate and filling.
    6. When filling is set, cover the rest of each candy with more melted chocolate. Repeat for each candy.
    7. Return the pan to the freezer to set all the hazelnut butter cups.

    Here’s what they look like when you cut them open! 🙂 Happy Halloween, friends!! 🙂
    You can find all the ingredients in this recipe at Nugget Market.
    You can find Nugget Market on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here!


    Black Tie Bacon Wrapped Dates and California State Fair Cooking Demo Date Announcement!

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Happy Wednesday! I thought I would quickly share with you a few desserts I brought with me to a party last night. I know, the whole chocolate covered bacon is passé, but I’ve been putting bacon where it doesn’t belong (tee hee) SINCE JUNE 2009… 😉 Anyway, here’s what I’ve got:

    “Suit and Ties” (Black Tie Bacon Wrapped Dates with Pistachio and Chocolate Chip Filling):
    Pit some Mehjool dates (one per person you would like to serve), stuff with pistachio butter (1 cup ground pistachios with 1 Tbs coconut oil) and mini chocolate chips. Roll in bacon. Bake at 350°F until bacon is brown and crispy. Dip in white and dark melted chocolate or simply drizzle with melted chocolate. Voilà!

    Cookie Dough Bites:
    Make the recipe for Gluten Free Cookie Dough. You can substitute mini-chocolate chips for added cute factor. Roll the dough into bite sized pieces, dip in melted chocolate.

    I’ll be doing a live cooking demo with Andy at the California State Fair this year: Saturday, July 27th at 7pm!! Any requests? What would you like to see Paleo-ized?

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

    I have a problem. It’s this recipe I invented for cookie dough. It’s addictive and I have had it, ahem… for breakfast the past two three days. But only a little bit at a time, with fruit. I swear. Can’t. Stop. Eating it.

    You don’t bake it. You just eat it. You know, like you would straight out of the tube an institutional-sized tub. Sigh. Yes, because it’s way easier to stick your face in a vat of dough than it is to actually have to measure ingredients and use any muscle at all to stir it around in a bowl. I know you are stronger than me and none of you have ever purchased this product or eaten it only by candlelight the light from the fridge on your face at midnight. 😉

    Anyway, to avoid the sugar, wheat and all the unnatural ingredients that cookie dough normally contains, I came up with this recipe over the weekend (as I was making a recipe from OMG it’s Paleo? called 5 Ingredient Avocado Pudding.) I made the pudding with the idea that Andy and I would use it as a dip for bananas and apples. The recipe called for chocolate chips, and it made me think of chocolate chip cookie dough and a possible recipe for that… we could dip the fruit in that, too! Oh joy!

    The secret in the cookie dough is Mehjool dates. They’re probably one of my biggest indulgences (60 calories apiece!). Not only do they give the dough sweetness, they also provide a molasses/caramel flavor. And, for diehard Paleos, I have made it two ways. Some people don’t believe in using butter at all, some people don’t eat any legumes at all. I myself, enjoy organic garbanzo beans once in a while. So, review the recipes below and tailor them to your own needs. 🙂 Each one serves 2-4 people. Enjoy.

    PS: You’ll need a food processor for this one. Puréeing dates is tough on the forearms. 😉

    Recipe One: Paleo Version
    5-6 pitted dates (chopped)
    3/4 cup toasted almonds
    1 Tbs coconut oil
    2 tsp vanilla
    3 Tbs honey
    1/3 cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk
    1/3 cup coconut flour
    pinch salt
    1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (this brand is great!)

    Pulse the almonds in the food processor until they are a fine meal consistency, then add the coconut oil. Process until the mixture turns into almond butter, then add the chopped dates, honey, the vanilla and the salt. Then remove the mixture and transfer into a small bowl. Add the coconut flour and some coconut milk until the dough is the consistency you like. Then stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate until you are ready to eat. OK, I’m ready. What about you? 🙂

    Recipe Two: Primal Version
    5-6 pitted dates (chopped)
    1/2 cup toasted almonds
    1/2 cup organic garbanzo beans
    2 Tbs greek yogurt (I use 0% fat)
    2 packets stevia
    1 Tbs grass fed butter
    2 tsp vanilla
    1/3 cup coconut flour
    pinch salt
    1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

    Pulse the almonds in the food processor until they are a fine meal consistency, then add the butter. Process until the mixture turns into almond butter, then add the garbanzo beans, the greek yogurt, the stevia, the vanilla and the salt. Then remove the mixture and transfer into a small bowl. Add the coconut flour and some coconut milk until the dough is the consistency you like. Then stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate until you are ready to eat! As I stated earlier, I love to use the dough as a dip for apples, but you can form into little pieces and use as a topping for Greek yogurt or as a treat on ice cream. There are also plenty of recipes out there in the paleosphere for “paleo” ice cream using coconut milk. Here’s one from PaleoOMG 🙂

    OMG That’s Paleo? Cookbook Preview & Recipe: 5 Ingredient Avocado Pudding


    Today’s recipe for 5 Ingredient Avocado Pudding is brought to you by PaleOMG’s Juli Bauer and her new cookbook, OMG That’s Paleo?

    It was actually Andy who found Juli’s site PaleOMG and brought it to my attention when he saw her recipe for Chocolate Waffles, sent me the link and said, “Let’s make THESE!”
    I started following Juli and really liked her down-to-earth personality and writing style. (Which actually encourages me to write more like myself and not so formally.) I especially loved her cooking videos. It takes a lot of courage to be on camera like that! 🙂

    Some of her instructions on the website make me snicker (because I sometimes feel like writing them in my own recipes), such as this line in a recipe for Easy Chicken Dinner in 1…2…3:
    “Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Not sure if it’s totally cooked through? Cut it open and look. Duh.” 😛

    A year later, and Juli has an entire cookbook! I have flipped though it and am looking forward to making her version of the popular Canadian dish poutine, as well as Bacon Chicken Alfredo. I especially appreciate the book’s 5 Ingredient Meals section (in which today’s recipe is included).

    There is even space below each recipe to make notes if you change something in her recipes to suit your own tastes. The recipe for the Avocado Pudding is below, though since I was making it for dessert for both Andy and myself, I doubled the recipe. Also, it can be made vegan by sweetening the avocado with maple syrup or stevia drops (to taste) instead of honey.

    Thanks to Juli for sending me a copy of OMG That’s Paleo? for review. You can buy it on Amazon here.

    5-Ingredient Avocado Pudding
    Prep time:  3 mins
    Total time:  3 mins
    Serves: 1
    1 avocado, mashed
    3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 Tbs + 1 tsp raw honey
    2 teaspoons sunbutter (or other nut butter)*
    pinch of salt
    dark chocolate chips (optional, but rather necessary in my case) 😉Procedure:
    Mash up the avocado.
    Add in powder, raw honey (or syrup), sunbutter, pinch of salt and mix thoroughly.
    Top with dark chocolate chips. Yes, please.

    *TIPS: I used a pistachio nut butter in the recipe. Trust me on this. It’s gooood. Also, for best results, use a food processor to purée the avocado and remaining ingredients. Refrigerate before serving. Top with chocolate chips just before serving.

    You can follow Juli on twitter here and like PaleOMG on Facebook here.

    If you’d like to see Juli herself prepare the above recipe, her video tutorial is below:

    Holiday Goodies and Gift Ideas

    Here’s a little roundup of gift ideas for your favorite food or beverage enthusiast!

    First up, I’d like to mention Bela Sardines.


    • Bela Sardines are high in protein, very low in fat with little or no carbs!
    • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids (helps reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease), extremely low in contaminants such as mercury.
    • A good source of vitamin D, calcium, B12, Co Q10, and protein. Enjoy this wholefood vs. a vitamin.
    • BELA Sardines do NOT contain any GMOs
    • Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free and Kosher, and are extremely low in contaminants such as mercury.
    • Bela sardines are not heavily processed or engineered like other on-the-go nutrition options, such as nutrition bars or supplements, and are rather a naturally nutritious wholefood for any health conscious individual.
    • The Paleo dieters dream meal.

    Sustainable: BELA Sardines, the classic Mediterranean sardine (Walbaum Species Sardina Pilchard) are wild caught by local Portuguese fishers from the Atlantic Ocean, hand packed in traditional European manner and canned at the port within 8-hours of the catch; each effort ensures our sustainability is unsurpassed. The aluminum tin is also highly packable and recycle-able.

    Affordable: A tin typically rings in under $3 at Whole Foods Market and online at They are also available across these regions in: Harris Teeter (South East), The Fresh Market (Mid-Atlantic/Southeast), Sunflower Markets(Southwest), Mollie Stones (Bay Area), Fairway (NYC), New Seasons (Pacific NW), as well as Vitamin Cottage (Rocky Mountains)

    A fish symbolizes good luck, fertility and creativity – include a sardine dish on your party menu!

    Bela sardines come in 4 different flavors:

    Lemon Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    As you would eat them in London, our famous lightly smoked sardines and the finest Portuguese extra virgin olive oil infused with lemon.

    Lightly Smoked in Olive Oil
    Simple. Delicious. Lightly smoked sardines packed in the finest Portuguese olive oil.

    Lightly Smoked in Tomato Sauce
    Mediterranean style, these sardines are lightly smoked and packed in a light tomato puree with a splash of the finest Portuguese extra virgin olive oil.

    Cayenne Pepper Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    This is a true Portuguese favorite, lightly smoked sardines in the finest extra virgin olive oil infused with Cayenne pepper.

    You can find Bela Sardines on Facebook here & on twitter here.


    Next up, Balls of Steel!



    Balls of Steel are two stainless steel coolers which chill whiskey or spirits faster than ice. BOS will keep spirits at the optimal temperature level without hindering the spirits taste so that one can enjoy the full flavors of their beverage and hold onto those low notes which any spirit veteran strives to protect.

    Most importantly BOS supports a cause that is positively changing lives of those not only suffering from testicular cancer, but as well as their family and friends. Creating a support network for those struggling and supporting the research for a cure.

    Other items for purchase on the a Balls of Steel website are BOS bracelets, BOS T-shirts, and BOS tongs to remove the coolers from your favorite beverage.

    To order some Balls of Steel of your very own, you can go here. You can find Balls of Steel on Facebook here or on twitter here. Deck the balls!


    For the wine lovers, I’d like to present Ritual Pinot Noir:

    Ritual_alta  Pinot Noir

    Ritual Pinot Noir is an artisinal wine bringing legendary Chilean Vintner Agustin Huneeus together with consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs to produce a small bottling of a Pinot Noir from the renowned Casablanca Valley. Comparable to Sonoma wines, this is priced below most California wines and offers very high quality- hand picked, double hand sorted and fermented with wild yeast. It retails for $19.99.
    Here are the tasting notes: An elegant wine with density and richness.  Vibrant flavors of cherry and raspberry, soft tannins, fresh acidity and a lingering finish. To learn more about the wine you can go here. You can find the wine and the Veramonte wine group on Facebook here.
    And lastly, I would like to tell you all about a little treat that hails from my hometown. Her name is Esther Price. Usually I don’t encourage the consumption of sugar, but as Def Leppard says Pour Some Sugar on Me!! 😛
    Esther Price Candies started when a woman (named Esther!) learned to make fudge in her home economics class. With her new knowledge, she came home that day and asked her mother if she could make more. Later on, Esther would take chocolates to her co-workers at a department store in downtown Dayton, Ohio. Even after starting her family in 1926, these same co-workers encouraged her to continue making candy for them to buy.
    So now I am encouraging you to try a little bit of Esther’s candy. 😉 Go for the gusto and order their Light and Dark Chocolate 2-Lb. assortment. I’d say they’re most known around town for making chocolate covered cherries, so that’s a great pick, too. To take a peek at the inventory you can check out their handy dandy candy key!! Pics of everything EPC makes!
    You can find Esther Price Candies on Facebook here.
    Happy Holidays! 🙂

    Treat Yo Self: Chocolate Covered Gingersnap Truffles

    What do you do when you made a little too much gingersnap dough from the gingersnap crusted ham recipe?

    Well in this case, I used it to make chocolate covered gingersnap truffles! Let me reiterate that if you are using Paleo to lose weight, you might not want to make these just yet. But, if you are at an ideal weight, need to gain weight, or you are celebrating a special occasion, these are a great dessert! 🙂

    Paleo Gingersnaps
    1.5 cups Blanched Almond Flour
    1 tablespoons ground ginger
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp clove
    1/2 tsp Baking Soda
    1/2 tsp Salt
    1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
    1 tablespoon lemon zest
    1 Tbs fresh ginger or ginger paste

    1 omega 3 Egg
    1/4 cup honey
    1 tsp Vanilla Extract
    1/8 cup molasses

    1/4 cup Coconut Oil (Tropical Traditions for best results!!)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including lemon zest).
    In a small mixing bowl beat eggs, honey, molasses, and vanilla extract with a hand mixer.
    Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat with hand mixer until combined.
    Add coconut oil into batter, and continue to blend until combined.
    Press the dough out flat on a parchment lined baking sheet, about a tablespoon in size. Bake cookies for 15 minutes at 375.

    Let cool completely then break the cookie into crumbs and set aside.

    Chocolate Coating:
    TCHO chocolate discs
    Coconut Milk
    Vanilla, or your favorite liqueur

    To melt the discs, I heated some coconut milk in a bowl in the microwave (not boiling, but hot enough to melt the chocolate. Place some of the chocolate discs in another bowl and add the heated milk (about 1/4 cup per 6-8ozs of chocolate). Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and add 1/2 to 1 tsp of your favorite liqueur.

    Then pour some of the melted chocolate into the cookie crumbs, just enough to make them stick together (reserve the leftover chocolate for dipping). Then form them into balls (ping pong ball sized) until you run out of crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet (lined with parchment or wax paper), and place into the freezer to set. This will also aid your next and final step in preparation. Chill for about a half an hour. If you’re like me, maybe you will use this time to run a 5K and shower up after. 😉

    After 30 minutes is up, take the gingersnap balls out of the freezer, and microwave some of the leftover chocolate in 5 second pulses to re-melt it. Dip each ball into the chocolate and set back on the cookie sheet. After you have dipped them all, you can place the cookie sheet back in the freezer to firm them up, or if you have more time, you can place in the refrigerator.

    Now, treat yo self, but try not to eat them all in one sitting. 😉