Healdsburg Shed

On Saturday we went to Healdsburg Shed.  It's been open about 10 weeks and we had only just heard about it - so thought we'd give it a go for our Saturday lunch.  We try, as often as possible, to go somewhere different to have Saturday lunch together.

Healdsburg Shed is "a food community that sustains people, our environment, and our local economy.  Our inspiration comes from the words of Wendell Berry."

An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

We both really enjoyed it.  It's a wonderful open and light space.  You can shop, drink and eat there.  The cook shop had a few unusual items, but we found more interesting stuff in the food area.  We bought

  • chocolate that was made from the beans of a single farm in Madagascar 
  • 24 blackbirds chocolate - which I thought was a lovely name : >
  • celery bitters - not sure what I'm going to do with those yet, but I'll let you know
  • some Godello wine from Spain - as we grow Godello and our release is this August
  • small batch tonic - as in gin and tonic - made with quinine, lemongrass and orange peel. You add sparkling water or soda to make it into tonic water! Can't wait to try it.
They also sell shrubs - which are fruit vinegars that you drink. Lots of things to try which is always fun.

We had a great lunch. I had a bean and pea salad and roasted padron peppers with figs.  It was all very yummy and in a great atmosphere.

They hold classes there too and rent out for the space for events. 

If you live nearby, give it a try. We'll be going back, so maybe we'll see you there.

Hot chocolate chai

I made some more tea-free chai this week and have been enjoying it with warm homemade cashew milk, but today I wanted a little change. And so I made hot chocolate chai.

Basically, raw cacao powder plus the infused chai spices. No sweetener, no milk neither dairy nor non-dairy.  I'm drinking it as I type and its like music, with such a harmony of spices.

I've never been one for hot chocolate drinks - mainly because I don't like hot milky, creamy things - so this suits me fine.  You could always add some non-dairy milk to this however to suit your taste.

But the spices come together so nicely.  There isn't any that is trying to push its way to the front. It really is perfect harmony.

It's not that cloying sweet chocolatey taste either.  I'm finding it very satisfying!

Chai spices infusing
Here is the chai recipe from a previous blog post.  I added 1 tablespoon of cacao powder to 8 ounces of chai spice mix.

Have you tried chocolate chai before?  I remember my first ever experience of chai was a chai chocolate fudge I made!  It's taken me all this time to get back to combining chocolate with chai!.

Goldenberry Raw Chocolate

My friend came over yesterday to make some raw chocolate. She decided on goldenberries with pink peppercorns. There was a nice tartness to the berries with the piquancy of the pink peppercorns.

She also chose a pretty white flower to decorate one side of the chocolate. It is made from a sheet of cacao butter in the design of the flower.  When you spread the melted chocolate to the sheet it melts into the cacao butter design and as it hardens, the design stays on the chocolate.

Doesn't it look pretty.  Perfect for spring.

I made some more lemon chocolate for this weekend - with birds as a transfer. More of that later.  And if you look carefully at the bottom corner of this photo below, you will see a trial corner of an unusual flavor I want to include in my spice class next week, for food as medicine.  It's the little black dots....Any guesses what it is?  It goes well with chocolate, surprisingly!


Happy Valentine's Day

I made some raw sugar free and dairy free chocolates for my sweetheart today.  I hadn't made dairy free white chocolate before...in fact, I've never made any white chocolate before!

Here they are:

Strawberry and White chocolate just poured in the molds

Above shows his box of goodies including the strawberry hearts, strawberry and coconut white chocolate bark, and then the following dark chocolate barks: pomegranate and pink peppercorn; goldenberry; and heart sprinkles.

We are off to see the movie "Amour" for Valentine's day.  Heard such good reviews about it and thought it apropos to see it on Valentine's day.

Hope you have a lovely day ie a day filled with with love.xxx

Bookclub Xmas luncheon

It was our book club Xmas luncheon today.

Always a lovely day :-D

We choose our books for next year and what month we want to host, we have a Yankee swap where we each give a book, and then we have a yummy potluck lunch together with champagne and wine.

I took dessert and made a sugar free, dairy free and gluten free lemon cheesecake.  I was wondering this morning how to decorate it, so I decided on making some raw sugar free chocolate to go on top.  I had a lovely Christmas tree and reindeer chocolate transfer sheet so I put half of the raw chocolate on the sheet, then broke it into large piece and placed on the cheesecake.

This time I used "sweet freedom" as the sweetener for the chocolate.  It is a brand I bought in England. It is a natural sweetener made from apples and grapes. It worked wonderfully with the chocolate and was much easier to combine than the sticky coconut nectar. I'll be using it again!  If you live in England - give it a try.  It's great.

The rest of the chocolate I made my favorite strawberry and pink peppercorn flavor in little triangles.

It was a lovely day and I'm looking forward to all our book choices for next year.

Do you have any books you plan on reading next year?

Hazlenut truffles

I've been making truffles, as I mentioned in my triple bean truffle post.   By the way, the answer to what three beans were used in the triple bean truffle is coffee bean, cocao bean and black beans!......(but I don't tell anyone about the black beans as it puts them off)!  This time, I was thinking about Ferrero Rocher chocolates and decided to make a hazelnut truffle without dairy, refined sugar or gluten/wheat.

The truffles were (yes, they are no longer!) basically a whole hazelnut surrounded by a creamy delight (ground hazelnuts, coconut milk, raw cocao powder) and the rolled in more ground hazelnuts.

I found them to be very satisfying  - which is why they weren't around for long. I omitted the crispy crunchy outer layer that a Ferrero Rocher has but otherwise, they were pretty similar.

A good occasional treat that hit the spot!

Health benefits of chocolate

I'm always happy to read research that points out the health benefits of chocolate.  If you enjoy chocolate, you may enjoy reading this :=D

Photo by Chocolate Reviews
A 15 day study performed on hypertensive human volunteers evaluated the effects of eating dark chocolate or white chocolate on various circulatory measurements.  The patients who ate the dark chocolate showed an 11-point (mmHg) reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 6.2-point (mmHg) decrease in diastolic blood pressure.  The participants who ate white chocolate showed no change in blood pressure.

These researchers also looked at measurements of insulin sensitivity and found that after consuming dark chocolate for 15 days, the fasting insulin levels declined by 29% along with a 6% reduction in fasting glucose. Again, no improvements were seen in the white chocolate group.

Endothelial function was also measured and the dark chocolate group also saw an improvement to almost normal levels, while no improvements with white chocolate.

Photo by Peluna
Further longer term studies, including a meta-analysis of 15 studies ranging from 2 - 18 weeks long, have corroborated these results, with the conclusion that dark chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity.

A concern regarding chocolate intake has been whether these health benefits would be offset by increased weight gain, or serum lipids but these parameters remained unchanged.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this research comes from one of the German scientists who points out that small amounts of dark chocolate convey a similar BP lowering potential to  major dietary modification techniques. Long-term adherence to complex major dietary modification is often low, however "adoption of consuming small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and therefore may be a promising behavior approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure."

I'll be blogging about additional health benefits of chocolate again soon, but in the meantime, if you fancy some chocolate, chose a bar of dark chocolate with more than 65% cocoa, and find one that has less than 10g sugar per serving. And then a typical serving size should be about 20g - one or two squares. Or else add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to baking or smoothies or....

The photo above is some chocolates I made this week for some friends coming round on Saturday.  It's 70% cocoa and on top are freeze dried raspberries on the left hand side and a little secret on the right hand side ones. I can't tell you about that until after my friends have had them!