Pretzel Love

February 14th: the day of pink, red, chocolates, roses and love. Happy valentine’s day!

It’s a chilly February 14th in Canada, lots of snow on the ground and frosty air – it makes a great excuse to cozy up with your loved ones, sip on hot chocolate and eat Glutino Pretzels. Glutino kindly sent me their new pretzel flavours to try and they are definitely a treat. I have a huge sweet tooth, so if I had to choose my favourites out of the bunch, I’d have to pick the Fudge and Salted Caramel (yum!). Although theses pretzels are flavoured, they are very versatile. You don’t just have to snack on them from the bag, you can incorporate them into various recipes.

Try the following pretzel incorporations to jazz up your next snack or meal.

Honey Mustard
Notes: lightly dusted with a sweet honey flavour and a zest of mustard.
Try crunching them up and coating chicken or fish with them before baking.

Fudge
Notes: creamy, milk chocolate goodness surrounding a salty crunchy pretzel – the perfect combination of sweet and salty!
Try chopping them up and topping greek yogurt with berries – a healthy dessert parfait.

Buffalo Style 
Notes: Have you had buffalo wings? You know the flavour I’m talking about then – a little bit of heat with a lot of flavour!
Try dipping them in hummus or guacamole.

Salted Caramel
Notes: crunchy, sweet, caramelized and salty – the best flavour combination you will ever try!
Try pairing these gems with the Fudge variety, it makes for a tasty salted-caramel-chocolate treat. They’re also delicious crumbled on top of apple sauce.

There are so many delicious pretzel variations, but the easiest is by far snacking straight out of the bag! What is your favourite way to eat pretzels?

The Many Pretzels of Glutino (+Giveaway)

There are not many gluten free companies who make GF pretzels, but I don’t think there is really a demand for it. Glutino has it in the bag (literally). They make the best pretzels out there and I really don’t even realize I’m eating something that’s gluten free when I snack on them. What’s even more great about them is that they don’t just have original pretzels, they have Peppermint Yogurt, Fudge, Yogurt (no image above) and their newest, Honey Mustard. 
Honey Mustard: The pretzels are lightly dusted with a honey mustard flavouring. I like how they aren’t overloaded by the flavouring and there is just enough to taste it. If you like honey mustard, you will surely love these. It reminds me of the days when I used to be able to eat fresh pretzels at sports games with mustard on the side to dip. 
Fudge: Mmmm fudge…who doesn’t like fudge? I’d have to say that these are one of my favourite gluten free treats on the market. I love the sweetness of the chocolate and the saltiness underneath. They have the perfect crunch to them too. These are definitely a special treat though, as the cost of them is a bit daunting – at $6.99 (CND) a bag.
Peppermint Yogurt: These are pretty wonderful. The smooth yogurt, chunks of peppermint and salty pretzel underneath create an amazing flavour for the tastebuds. They’re also pink, red and white…perfect for Valentine’s Day. I loved these, although they were very rich in flavour – which was good because I didn’t have the urge to eat the whole bag. 
A Valentine’s Day idea for your gluten-free love: empty a bag of Glutino Fudge Pretzels into a mason jar and tie a pink/red bow around the top. A little bit of DIY + chocolate = a perfect, thoughtful gift. 

Do you have a favourite gluten free pretzel? Please share! 
BONUS! Interested in trying Glutino’s NEW Honey Mustard Pretzels for yourself? I’d love to share some pretzel love with you! One lucky winner will get their own bag from Glutino. Here’s how to enter:
  • Tweet your favourite food duo (ie – honey + mustard, chocolate + salt, etc) to @gutgazette with #GFPretzelLove for your chance to win a bag of your own!
  • For an additional entry, follow @gutgazette and comment below saying you did (if you’re already a follower, simply comment below about your favourite food duo). 
Contest ends Feb. 24 at 11:59 p.m. Best of luck! 

A healthy couch potato

There’s no doubt about it, we all love to snack. A bowl of salty, crunchy chips with some salsa in front of the TV is a great way to be mindless. Too bad potato chips aren’t very healthy though….

Until now! Have you heard of Way Better Snacks? They are sprouted ingredient chips and are a wonderful alternative to plain-Jane potato chips. When ingredients are sprouted (or germinated), the vitamins and minerals become more bio-available to the body. Sprouted ingredients increase the amount of vitamins and minerals, increase digestibility and they increase nutrient absorption. Sounds a little too healthy for a snack food, doesn’t it?

I was very happy to be able to review these healthy chips. Some chip companies claim to be a healthy alternative, but they have no real nutrients to them. Way Better Snacks contain ingredients such as flax, quinoa, radish seeds, black beans, brown rice, broccoli seeds and chia seeds. With all of these healthy seeds, beens and sprouts, you would think they would make a better salad than a chip. Wrong. They are a delicious chip and have the flavour of both corn tortillas and SunChips. Each serving contains 420mg of omega 3 fatty acids, which is almost half of the daily requirements for omega 3s/day, according to the Dieticians of Canada website.

 

 

Flavour profiles:
 
Sweet Chili: I found the Sweet Chili to be more ‘chili’ than ‘sweet’. It had a bit of a kick to it, which added some nice flavour. I found them to be very rich though, which swayed me away from eating half the bag in one sitting!
Unbeatable Blues: These were a simple, blue-corn-based (non GMO) chip that had just a touch of pure sea salt and offered a lovely crunch. I liked these ones and they were great dipped in salsa.
Black Bean: The colour of these chips set me off a bit, they look a bit grey, which is due to the sprouted black beans. You could definitely taste the black beans in these chips as well. I liked them, but they weren’t my favourite out of the bunch.
Multi-Grain: I liked these ones the best. The taste was very reminiscent of SunChips and the variety of grains added a lot of crunch. There was a bit of a nutty flavour to these and they were awesome dipped in hummus.

 

I would highly recommend these chips if you’re in the mood for a snack. Although they are super healthy, they won’t make you feel guilty if you “indulge” a bit. If you are in the mood for a lazy day, grab a bag and be a “healthy” couch potato!

Gluten Free Oatmeal, Toffee, Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think I have a little bit of a toffee obsession. I love the combination of chocolate and butterscotch/toffee, like seen in my Coconut Butterscotch Chocolate Brownies and my Cheesecake Pops. I also love sprinkling or drizzling it on top of thick Greek yogurt to make a yogurt parfait – thanks to Chobani for the inspiration! By the way, how much do you miss not having Chobani in Canada? I hope they come back soon! 

A craving for a warm oatmeal cookie kicked in yesterday afternoon, so I thought I would take it into my own hands and whip up a batch. I had a few toffee bits left from my last recipe and I thought they would make a good addition. And so they did!

The combination of chocolate and toffee in these oat-y, hearty cookies are amazing. It’s a great combination of flavours that really made my tastebuds happy. 

Gluten Free Oatmeal, Toffee, Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg (or egg replacement – 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp white vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten free oats
1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits 

Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix until combined. Add in chocolate chips and toffee bits.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. 

Drop by tablespoon onto pan and flatten with back of spoon. 
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden.

*Warning, these cookies are extremely addictive. It’s not hard to eat more than one…or two…


Glutino Sugar Cookies for Santa

The tastes and smells of Christmas are in full swing at my house. I always seem to fall into the holiday mood once the oven starts roaring and the smell of Christmas cookies circulates the house. Shortbread, sugar cookies and gingerbread are my three favourite Christmas cookies – what are yours?
I’m usually always ahead of the game when it comes to holiday baking, but the past few months have been so busy that my first batch of cookies I made was only yesterday. However, I must admit that the cookies I made were not from scratch. One box of Glutino’s Sugar Cookie mix, a few tablespoons of butter, two eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla was all I needed to whip up the start to my holiday baking. Thank you, Glutino, for helping make my baking a little bit easier. 
After mixing up the ingredients, I popped the dough into the freezer for about 20 minutes to chill it. You can either do this route or keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Make sure you don’t forget about it in the freezer though! Chilling the dough helps with the rolling process if you decide to make cut outs (like I did). Before rolling, ensure that the surface you plan on using is clean and floured, to eliminate the dough from sticking to the counter. 
I was surprised at how big these cookies expanded while they were in the oven. My even-cut-out cookies turned into rounded shapes. They still came out cute though, and tasted delicious. 

Once they cooled, I piped on some icing and sprinkled the tops with sprinkles. 

These cookies taste exactly like the real deal. They are sweet, soft in the middle and crunchy around the edges. They really remind of the sugar cookies I used to eat back when I could eat gluten. I would definitely recommend this mix to anyone who wants to enjoy an old-fashion Christmas cookie…and if you have any leftovers (which I’m sure you won’t), place a few on a plate for Santa…only eight sleeps away! 
Stay tuned for an upcoming Glutino giveaway…you definitely won’t want to miss out.

Back to School Essentials

We are almost into October, the first month back to school is coming to an end. Whether you started a new school year, have children in school, or you work at a school, the first few weeks of a new routine with school are always rewarding.

I have been very busy with my first month at a new school in a post graduate degree studying public relations. It has been an amazing few weeks and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings. I thought I would share my favourite back to school items that have made (and make) my time at school less stressful and more organized. I also have a fun, colourful contest giveaway for you…so read on!

1. Germs Away Mist – Graydon Clinical Luxury by Nature: It’s pretty amazing how many toxic ingredients are in everyday skin care and beauty products, especially chemical-laden hand sanitizer. If something smells so harsh (like hand sanitizer) why should we be rubbing it into our skin? The Mist is a fantastic alternative and great to carry around in your school bag to exterminate any germs. Spray it around your lunch area before eating, spray into your hands, use to freshen up your locker and freshen your knapsack. It’s made with all natural ingredients and essential oils to create a fresh smell. The bonus is that it’s also Canadian!

2. Essie Good to Go – I absolutely love Essie’s Good To Go Top Coat. It is the best top coat I have found hands down. It helps to dry polish quicker than normal and it creates a beautiful fresh, hard shine. It makes my nails look like I visited the salon. It’s about $11.99 and helps to save a bundle on manicure visits.

3. Blu Dot Beverages – No GMO’s, no artificial ingredients, gluten free, 12g of protein, 6g of fibre and low in sugar. How good does that sound? It’s a tea based drink that fills you up. Crazy right!? I love this because it’s an easy alternative to a smoothie or protein powder and it tastes like a delicious tea. It’s the perfect snack or addition to a meal and is the perfect drink to throw in your bag if you are rushed in the morning to make breakfast. The protein in it is derived from New Zealand whey, and trust me, it actually does fill you up.

4. enerjive SKINNY Quinoa Crackers – A chocolate cracker…sounds different right? enerjive SKINNY Quinoa Crackers in FIX Chocolate are my favourite flavour from this amazing gluten free Canadian brand. enerjive comes in 5 flavours and they are “crackers with benefits”. The benefits are that they contain high quality gluten free grains, they are low in the glycemic index, great for metabolism, full of protein and low in calories. They also taste delicious and are another perfect snack to keep you satisfied until lunch or dinner. I keep these in my backpack at all times in case hunger strikes in-between meals.

5. pur gum – I just thought I would throw in this new find of mine. Pur gum is aspartame free and sweetened with xylitol, a natural occurring sugar alcohol that makes a great alternative to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. I just love the fact that this gum is pure – it’s gluten free, vegan, nut free, diabetic friendly and dairy free. I like the spearmint flavour. Mmmmm.

6. Poppin Notebook – I’m a sucker for a fresh new notebook. Clean pages, the smell of fresh paper and a place to make fresh looking notes. I know, pretty nerdy right? I really love this new find. I found Poppin school supplies at Indigo and loved how reasonably priced they were. I’m a huge fan of the Moleskin notebooks, but $20 for a bunch of blank pages bound together is a bit pricey. Poppin notebooks are affordable ($9 for a 5×8 book with 192 pages), come in fun colours and they resemble Moleskins. They also have a nice ribbon bookmark attached to easily find the page you left off. I’ve been using my lime green notebook to keep track of daily to-do lists. I just love making lists.

7. Crystal Light Liquid Drink Mix – A great, quick, zero calorie juice alternative is Crystal Light Liquid Drink Mix. They’re small and compact so you can easily throw one in your backpack or purse. Just add a couple drops to your water bottle and let your water magically transform into a yummy flavoured juice. There are four flavours…’Strawberry Lemonbabe’, ‘Mango Passionate’, ‘Iced Tease Me’ and ‘Blueberry Raz’. My favourites are the ‘Mango Passionate’ and ‘Iced Tease Me’.

8. Poppin Pens – I didn’t just walk out of Indigo with a Poppin notebook, I also bought a 12 pack box of Poppin Signature Pens for $12. I thought my notebook would want a new pen…not that I needed anymore though! I was obviously drawn to the sleek look and colour of these pens, but I also was quite impressed with the flow of the ink. They write very easily. I think they’re my new favourite pen.

….So now for the giveaway. The lovely people from Crystal Light Canada will send one lucky Canadian winner a Crystal Light prize pack. All you have to do is:

1. Comment below mentioning your favourite back to school essential and what Crystal Light flavour you would like to try. AND

2. Follow @gutgazette on Twitter and mention that you entered to win the Crystal Light prize pack. Be sure to include @gutgazette and @CrystalLightCA in your tweet.

*Only open to Canadian residents.

The draw will take place October 7, 2013 at 7pm. Good luck!

Gluten Free Coffee Crisp Bites

Before I became ‘gluten-free’, one of my favourite chocolate bars was Nestle’s Coffee Crisp. I have been craving the taste of that crispy mocha flavour for a while now…until this past weekend. I googled “gluten free coffee crisp” and came across what looked like an easy, delicious recipe on the blog ‘I Heart Wellness’ by Kris Briton. I used her recipe as a base for mine, but created my own variation to her vegan treats. My Coffee Crisp Bites are gluten free (of course), not vegan and they are a bit more creamier. I give all credit to Kris Briton’s idea, she came up with something very reminiscent and nostalgic to my past gluten-filled life!

I made 2 batches of these Bites, 1 dark chocolate and 1 milk chocolate. The milk chocolate variation tastes more like the Nestle Coffee Crisp, but the dark chocolate is a yummy, decadent treat too.

Enjoy my variation of Briton’s Vegan Coffee Crisp Clusters…
1 270g milk (or dark) chocolate chips 
1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp rice flour 
Combine the chocolate chips and oil in a small sauce pan and melt on low heat, stirring continuously until completely melted. Make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn! You can also do this in a double boiler
Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in the Starbucks Mocha Via, rice flour and Perky’s Crunchy Cereal. Stir until combined. 
Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper, and using a spoon, drop the clumpy mixture onto the sheet (about tablespoon sized). 
Stick in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes until cooled. Keep in a sealed container, either in the refrigerator (if you like a cooler treat) or in the pantry if you want a room temperature, easier to bite into treat! 
If you miss the flavour and crunch of a good old Coffee Crisp, you will love these Coffee Crisp Bites. I certainly do! Enjoy! 
A little clumpy looking, but oh so delicious!

Mexican Rice Paper Rolls

This month I was lucky enough to be featured on the Celiac Corner’s website as ‘Featured Blogger of the Month’. I wanted to share a gluten free recipe that was different, flavourful, exotic and fun to make. I decided on Mexican inspired rice paper rolls. You can read my post on CeliacCorner.com

 
I love the versatility of rice paper rolls – you can fill them with whatever sort of ingredients you fancy – avocado, chicken, hummus, tofu, peppers, zucchini, etc. The best part about them is that they are gluten free! Having a new gluten free item to add to your list of ‘safe’ foods always results in a smile…don’t you think? I also really enjoy Mexican food – so I thought, why not create a version of soft tacos using a rice paper roll as the shell! Excitingly enough they turned out delicious and the mild flavour of the rice paper roll really allows the Mexican flavours to shine through. This is the perfect recipe for an appetizer, a summer picnic or even for a meal. I personally love having a few of these rolls as my dinner…yum! These are also great if you have an allergy to corn, as the rolls are simply just made of rice. The recipe may look daunting due to the many steps, but trust me, they are delicious and very simple to make.

What you need: a cutting board, or clean surface; a couple clean dish towels; a large shallow bowl filled with a few inches of cold water; a tray; food processor
Ingredients:
10 large rice paper rolls (usually found in the rice section of grocery stores)
2 chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
5 romaine lettuce leaves finely chopped
2 cups pineapple thinly sliced into strips
1 can black beans
¾ tsp cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ketchup
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp butter
salt
sour cream
salsa
Preheat the oven to 450°F and bake chicken for 25-30 minutes.
While the chicken bakes, slice the pineapple into thin strips, about 2 inches long. Fry the pineapple in 1 tbsp of butter until golden and caramelized. Set aside.
Next, combine the can of black beans, ¼ tsp cumin, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Process until smooth. Set aside in a bowl.
Wash and slice up the peppers and romaine lettuce into thin strips.
For the chicken spice mixture, combine ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp ketchup and 1 tsp olive oil. Take the cooked chicken and place in a medium sized bowl. With 2 forks, start pulling and shredding against the natural grain of the chicken. You want it to look like pulled pork in the end. Once it is all shredded, coat the chicken with the spice mixture. It will only appear lightly coated, as you want to be able to taste the other flavours in the rice paper roll.
After you have all of the ingredients for the filling prepared, create a working space using a cutting board or clean surface to start rolling your rice papers. Fill a large bowl with cold water (the package on the rice paper instructs you to use warm water, but I find that it doesn’t work as well as using cold water). You will need a large enough bowl to be able to soak the rice paper in. Place the rice paper in the water (you can place 2-3 in the bowl at a time, just make sure they are not sticking together prior to placing in the water. Allow the rice paper to soak for a good 30-45 seconds until the rice paper has softened. Once soft, gently remove from water and place on a clean, dry dishtowel – pat dry. Now you can either roll the rice papers on the dishtowel or transfer the rice paper onto a cutting board.
Arrange ingredients around the top edge of the rice paper, leaving enough room at the top to fold over. Fold and roll it like you would a fajita. It’s okay if there are couple rips or tears, as rolling it will help cover them.
Repeat with the remaining rice papers.
Arrange on a tray with a couple bowls of salsa and sour cream for dip. Enjoy!

Wonderful Product Finds

As I have mentioned before, shopping in specialty grocery stores or markets gives me the same thrill that a child gets when they are in a toy store. I could easily spend a couple hours wandering around a new grocery store, or taking my time at each booth at a market. I simply just love food.

My latest new food finds are really fun, delicious, and they all share a common theme: they are all small family/friend run companies. I’m really looking forward to sharing the following with you – I hope by the end of reading this post you will be excited to seek out these fabulous products to try for yourself!
Drip: Maple syrup is one of my favourite food products. It definitely ranks on my top 10 list of favourites. I’m not talking Aunt Jemima table syrup though (although, it is pretty delicious on pancakes), I’m talking about pure, freshly harvested Canadian maple syrup. The taste is so different, and has so many different tasting notes. It’s caramel-y, sweet, oaky, nutty, rich, and of course has the distinct maple flavour. I find that certain syrups take on different tasting notes, almost like a wine does.  Some people like to splurge on balsamic vinegar, wine, or fancy oils – me, I get excited about buying a high quality bottle of maple syrup – I guess that’s just my Canadian coming out, eh?
When I saw Drip set up at a booth at a market recently, I got really excited immediately. First off, I was so impressed with their simple, sophisticated booth. It was lined with a dark table cloth, and then there stood 3 beautiful cut stumps, with each flavour sitting on top of each.
I know you shouldn’t judge something before trying, but I knew just by the look of the table and the sleek bottle that it would be a good find. I got a little shot glass of Amber syrup and sipped it back. Mmmm, I wanted more immediately. It had the most unusual flavours in it, I had never tried a maple syrup so different. Unusually good though, it was a rich, nutty flavour that had hints of burnt caramel, sweet brown sugar and pure vanilla. I then proceeded to sample the Blonde and Copper varieties (the first of the season and the middle of the season). They were just as good, and if I could, I probably would have bought one of each. But, I loved the richness of the Amber and I also love the fact that Amber has the most minerals and antioxidants in it – due to it being left in the tree the longest.

Did you know that maple syrup is rich in the trace mineral manganese? It is an important mineral that helps with antioxidant defences. Zinc is also found in maple syrup, which helps in immune system functions. It is full of great properties, and is actually written up in the website and book The World’s Healthiest Foods.

Drip is run by a very lovely couple, who I had the pleasure of meeting, and by one other man. I was told that the syrup is from a forest up north in Manitoulin Island – just south of Sudbury, Ontario. I also love the fact that this syrup is simply straight from the tree. It is unblended and has no additives or preservatives. It is definitely Mother Nature’s sweetest, most delicious goods.
I always like maple syrup on pancakes and waffles (gf obviously), but I don’t think I will ‘drip’ this maple gold on something so rich. I will definitely use it over my yogurt and granola, on oatmeal, over salmon and drizzled on greek yogurt. I am also looking forward to trying it in a cold tumbler of gin – an idea recommended by the lady who sold it to me. To conclude my long rant on maple syrup, I will end it off by saying that this is exactly what I have been looking for in a maple syrup, and I don’t know if there is anything that can beat this taste. There are a few locations in Toronto that sell it currently – such as the Drake General Store – but you can purchase it online (thank goodness)!
Check out their website and trust me, you will not go wrong with this purchase. You may just become addicted!

Upper Spice: I’m not a huge fan of spicy foods, but I do love spices that add a punch of flavour. I have also recently taken a taste for jerk spices. I love the variety of flavours that fuse together to make such a distinctive taste.

I discovered Upper Spice at a local market, they were sampling their Medium Jamaican Jerk on slow cooked chicken. It was delicious, it had a cinnamon-y spicy flavour and the heat warmed up my whole body. I found the medium to be a bit too hot for me, so I opted for the mild. The great thing about this line of spices is that they are all 100% gluten free and homemade! Upper Spice is owned by a  mother/daughter duo from Burlington, Ontario who created the spice mixture after getting a taste of authentic Jamaican jerk on a trip to Jamaica. This jerk spice is nothing like I have ever tried – so fresh, flavourful and although I have never been to Jamaica, it definitely tastes authentic. I am excited to try it as a rub on ribs, and as a spice for sautéed chicken fajitas.

You can buy Upper Spice online, 3 packs for $15. Or, keep your eyes peeled this summer at local Toronto markets…that’s where I bought mine!

Hawberry Farms: Every year, The University of Guelph has an annual artisanal sale called Fair November. The first year I went, I visited the Hawberry Farms booth, which had an extensive variety of jams, oils, dips and relish. Every product is so unique and unlike anything you would find at a grocery store, such as Apple Pie Jam, Blueberry Rhubarb Jam, Banana Spread and a lot more – including the famous Hawberry Jelly, which is a berry found on Manitoulin Island (the same largest freshwater island in the world that Drip is harvested). I had ended up purchasing the Carrot Cake Jam, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It honestly tastes like carrot cake and it goes well with so many things; such as muffins, slices of a loaf, toast and even mixed into vanilla ice-cream or greek yogurt. Year after year I would attend Fair November and pick up my jar of Carrot Cake Jam. Luckily it would also last me a few months – as it is pretty rich and a small amount goes a long way. It’s been two years now since I’ve had this delicious creation, until last weekend when I picked it up at the Harbourfront Artisanal Market. I was so happy to have found it there. I wasn’t aware that they had a website in which you could order from, I will definitely be doing this from now on when I need my fix of Carrot Cake Jam. Trust me, I don’t think they have one product that isn’t delicious, so take your pick, you won’t be risking anything!

ChocoSol: This chocolate company isn’t just about making delicious chocolate; it seems that they are all about dignity, positive relationships, respect and love. Maybe that’s why I felt so great after sampling a piece of their chocolate the other weekend at a farmer’s market. ChocoSol is a small Toronto based company, run by a few staff and volunteers, who believe that their chocolate is “good for mind, body and soil”. They say on their website that ‘sol’ in Spanish means the sun, which refers to the fact that their first 1000 kilos of cacao were rosted with solar power in Mexico. Sol in french means soil, and in English ‘sol’ sounds like ‘soul’ and reminds them of doing good hearted things in a learning community. After reading and learning about their product, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to not like this chocolate. I should also mention that the chocolate is fair trade, sweetened with agave syrup, and free of gluten (bonus), nuts, dairy, soy and it is vegan. I tried the ‘Choco-Latte’ drinking chocolate at the market and wow was it good. Not a typical chocolate milk though, as it is water based and only sweetened with agave syrup. It was bitter, but it felt like a super healthy cocoa drink – I actually loved it. The Coconut Chocolate was the other product I tried. The sweetness of the coconut sprinkled on top almost helped sweeten the dark, natural, earthy chocolate. What I love about this chocolate is that you do feel like you are having a treat, but you don’t feel high on sugar afterwards, it just feels healthy. All in all, this tasty chocolate company seems to exhibit all things good – good chocolate, good people and good souls. You can look at the locations of where ChocoSol sells on their website. I will definitely be searching this one out again soon.

I love finding new products, especially when they are Canadian, local, and of course gluten free and absolutely delicious! I hope you search these out and enjoy them as much as I do. Let me know what your favourite local products are – I would love to hear and try!

Step-by-Step Gluten Free Cheesecake Pops

A couple months ago I posted a recipe for Gluten Free Cheesecake Pops, however I hadn’t captured the process in photos. This time when I made them, I decided I would document each step with a photo – just to help those who are more visual (like me)! I think these tasted even better than the first batch, have you tried making them yet?

Gluten Free Cheesecake Pops
Makes 14-16 cheesecake balls

Filling:
2 8oz packs of cream cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cups of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coating:
4 cups chocolate melts (milk chocolate or white – I used the chocolate discs that you can purchase at the Bulk Barn – used for chocolate mould lollipops)
Sprinkles/Chocolate chips/Toffee bits (any topping you find fun!)


Extras:
Candy stick inserts (bought at Bulk Barn)
Wax paper
Baking sheet

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F; Cream the 2 8oz packs of cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, eggs and vanilla – mix until combined; Pour the mixture into a 9×11 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow the cheesecake to cool for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, scrape out all of the cheesecake into a bowl and mix it together to combine; Stick the covered bowl with the cheesecake into the freezer until the cheesecake is cold to the touch – you can leave the cheesecake in the freezer overnight.

Step 2: Once the cheesecake has been in the freezer for an hour or so, and is cold to the touch, begin forming the balls. If you kept the cheesecake in the freezer overnight, allow to thaw for half an hour before rolling into balls. You can make your cheesecake balls any size you wish – I made mine into 1.5 inches in diameter.

Step 3: Once all balls are formed, stick back into the freezer while you prepare the chocolate. You don’t want the balls to become too soft, or they end up being too tricky to decorate.

Step 4: Put your toppings into little bowls…they don’t have to be in a bowl, but it helps for quick access when you are working with the warm chocolate that quickly hardens. For this batch I used white chocolate chips, Skor toffee bits, sweetened shredded coconut, and hot pink sprinkles. There are many different toppings you could use, as long as they are small in size, such as: mini M&Ms, sugar sprinkles, confetti sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, metallic decorative balls (aka dragees), a finely chopped chocolate bar, etc. Bulk Barn is a good place to find toppings like these – I got all of my toppings from there.

Step 5: Create a double boiler by using 2 pots – 1 larger one to fit into the smaller one. Place about 3-4 inches of water in the larger pot and heat until boiled. In the smaller pot, fill with about 3 cups of chocolate melts. Place the smaller pot on top of the larger pot and the chocolate will gradually melt without burning. Make sure to not add any water to the chocolate or it will ruin it. Stir the chocolate every so often until the mixture is smooth and creamy looking.

Step 6: Once the chocolate is smooth and there are no lumps, remove from heat. Take the formed cheesecake balls out of the freezer and individually roll the ball in the chocolate using a spoon until fully coated. Before placing the chocolate covered ball down, make sure you have a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Sprinkle a bit of which ever topping you wish to use on the baking sheet where you would like to place the chocolate covered ball – this way there will be some of the topping at the bottom of the ball. Once you have placed the ball on the sheet, sprinkle the toppings around it, making sure there are no bare spots. This step is fast paced, as the chocolate hardens quickly. Once decorated, take the candy stick and dip one end in a bit of chocolate, then insert the chocolate dipped end into the top of the cheesecake. Repeat!

The baking sheet will get messy with all of the toppings.

Once you have decorated all of the balls, you have a beautiful finished product – they almost look to pretty to eat, eh? Trust me though, they are totally worth the first bite…and the second, and the third…

Once they are plated, cover with a bit of plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve them. I guarantee you that they will be a total crowd pleaser!