Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super dark chocolate blocks: Reviewing 85% to 100% cocoa options

It's no secret that I love chocolate and my In My Kitchen posts often feature my lastest chocolate discoveries. However, it has been many months since I've done a proper chocolate review. Today's post aims to make up for lost time with reviews of four dark chocolate options. And by dark I really do mean dark - these blocks range from 85% to 100% cocoa.

Starting with the 85% choices, one of my Christmas presents was the M&S 85% cocoa 'Intense Dark Chocolate' block. I featured it in my January In My Kitchen post but didn't elaborate on flavours then.

For a long time I avoided 85% cocoa blocks because I don't like the Lindt 85% cocoa option, and it put me off other chocolates of the same cocoa level. Happily, I am now a convert and know that the Lindt flavours don't generalise to other brands. This M&S 85% cocoa block is delicious. The packaging describes the flavours as bringing "aromas of ripe fruit and a flavour of mixed berries, with the slight acidity balanced by overnotes of honey". I wouldn't have come up with this exact description but agree that the tartness of the berry-cocoa tones is offset by a more mellow sweetness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cocoa and paprika split peas

In the spirit of reducing food packaging and preparing ingredients in advance, I cooked up a batch of yellow split peas on the weekend. Some have been eaten plain or simply, but this cocoa and paprika mix gives a more adventurous variation. Borrowing from the concept of a mole sauce, the split peas are flavoured with cocoa powder, paprika, cinnamon and tahini. If you are in the mood for something spicy (oddly for me, I wasn't) then a dash of chilli powder would be a great addition too.

I enjoyed this with a new bread discovery - Polish sunflower seed sourdough bread - but the mix could also top rice or quinoa, fill a wrap, or balance out some sweet potato fries. Indeed, it is tasty enough to be eaten plain if you so desire.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cinnamon vanilla latte

As the pictures in my last post showed, we have had cold weather here lately. Two days of snow were followed by nearly a week of below freezing temperatures and very frosty mornings. It is weather for hot drinks and I have been drinking a lot of hot drinks.

Spiced ginger latte

With this liquid consumption comes drinks that extend beyond my usual tea and coffee choices. I've been enjoying repeat cups of my spiced ginger latte as well as easy hot chocolates. Today's cinnamon vanilla latte will now be added to my rotation. It is easy, delicious and fit to rival flavoured coffee shop lattes - for a fraction of the cost and with less sugar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reflections on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017

I have tended to post reflections and aspirations around this time of year, as one 12-month cycle draws to a close and another stretches out ahead. Last year I did not set goals or aspirations because I was in the early stages of pregnancy, and figured that (and the associated arrival of Mini Bite in August) would be challenge enough for 2016. Indeed it was. The ongoing adjustment to parenting may well provide sufficient challenge for 2017 too, but I am keen to look beyond motherhood and consider other things that I would like the year to hold.

Recent snowy scenes

First, though, 2016. Mini Bite's arrival was a momentous occasion and I have already posted some of my reflections on that adjustment. However, the year also involved other events and milestones. I acted up into a higher level at work (and then thanked my workplace for the privilege by going on maternity leave...); we had family visit who we hadn't seen since leaving Australia in 2014 (my mother-in-law in April; my brother-in-law and his partner in August; my brother in October), as well as a return visit from my parents; we had a week in the Forest of Dean; and we explored more of the countryside around our new (now new-ish) home in Kent.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lentil and apricot tagine

I may be taking liberties with the term 'tagine' here, as I do not have a tagine dish and this is not a traditional North African recipe. Tagine-stew is probably a more accurate term. Whatever you call it, the dish is enjoyable and combines vegetables, lentils and dried apricots to pleasing effect.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chocolate and tahini baked oat bars

When I shared some favourite porridge / oat combinations last year, it was my chocolate tahini porridge that got the most enthusiasm. With good reason, too, as it makes for a wonderful way to start the day.

Whilst I always enjoy traditional porridge (oatmeal to Americans), I also enjoy oats in other formats. English flapjack is one example. These chocolate and tahini bars are another. Inspired by my chocolate tahini porridge, they are semi-sweet, gorgeously chocolatey, studded with tahini tones, and utterly delicious. They would provide a perfect make ahead breakfast or an easy snack on the go. I've been enjoying them at pretty much any time of day.

If you have tried baked oat dishes then you will be familiar with the texture of these. They are chewy rather than firm, with a soft but dense texture that holds together well without being crispy. You could easily use a nut butter instead of tahini but I recommend tahini if you have it, because the flavour pairs so well with the other ingredients and really contributes to the overall finished product.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In my kitchen - January 2017

Lizzy of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things is taking a break from hosting In My Kitchen this month but the central round up will be back in February.

2017. In many ways, to my surprise, it feels less odd to write that than I might have expected. 2016 was such a full year (featuring the significant milestones of pregnancy, birth and maternity leave) that it seems appropriate to be into a new year now.

Dairy free Marks & Spencer truffles; Caramel Choices truffles; Mini Moo flavoured chocolate bars

With the new year, there are some exciting products in my kitchen. I was extremely fortunate with Christmas chocolates, as featured both above and below. These complement birthday chocolates from earlier in December, meaning I am doing well in the chocolate stakes at present!

Marks & Spencer 85% cocoa chocolate; Montezuma orange and geranium dark chocolate

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year period. We have just returned from a week in Keswick, in the UK's Lake District, where we spent Christmas and had our first holiday with Mini Bite. I look forward to catching up on blog posts in time, and sharing recipes again soon, but for now - here are some pictures from our time away.

Keswick town

Keswick town hall