Chocolate & Strawberry Xmas Kisses

We were all quite surprised by the depth of this sauce. I put it down to the coconut sugar, which has a natural caramel taste to it.

Plenty of people love the flavour combination of strawberries and chocolate. That is why this platter of strawberries with a beautiful chocolate and caramel sauce will be highlight at your shindig. It’s a simple but elegant dessert, a great note to end your evening on or welcome the New Year with. It’s refined sugar free, so you know, bonus. Full of antioxidants, this glowing recipe doesn’t have empty calories.

Ahmed dipped some strawberries in the sauce and popped them in the freezer to set and yes, chocolate and strawberries are always fun, so if they don’t all disappear, you know what to do with the leftovers, enjoy them with someone special underneath the mistletoe.

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Serves 4-6

½ cup of coconut sugar
½ cup of water
1tbsp coconut oil
½tbsp cacao powder
1 cup of coconut milk
1tsp vanilla essence
¼tsp Himalayan pink salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Strawberries

In a small pan, on a medium heat bring the sugar, water and coconut oil to a rolling boil and immediately dissolved the cacao powder into it.

Add the coconut milk and vanilla and continue simmer. Add pink salt and cinnamon.

Keep simmering the sauce down until it is thick and glossy. It will take about 20-30 minutes.

Poke toothpicks into your strawberries and arrange them on a platter, serve with the sauce once it has cooled.

Santa Claus is coming to town

I love giving presents and am always so excited that I usually end up trying to convince my loved ones to open them earlier than the celebration in question.

During a season that thrives off consumerism, I do try to put gift giving into perspective, no matter how big or small, it is always the thought behind it that matters.

This year my theme for thoughtful gifts is just that, the thought put in by creators of these beautiful gifts will bring your loved ones joy for more than just a day.

Here are my favourite picks, just in time for some weekend Christmas shopping.

For chocolate lovers

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Like most celebrations, Christmas isn’t complete without chocolate. The usual candy bars just don’t cut the mustard during the festive season. Do they ever? When it comes to chocolate, what I crave is a heady intense experience that makes your tastebuds stand up. I suppose that is why I shy away from the usual haunts and lust after Alter Eco’s organic chocolate range. Their ethos is right up my street, sustainable and responsible, they are a FairTrade company that believe in direct relationships with small-scale farmers. Even more amazing, their goods are packed with nourishing antioxidants because they use real ingredients like cacao. Why not put together a stunning chocolate hamper filled with their goodies for the chocolate lover in your life?

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For the ones that want to get healthy in 2015

Will drinking a green juice a day keep the doctor away? Maybe, but here’s the truth, once you get into them, there is little else that will do. The Greenhouse Juice Co. is not your average juice joint. You get a sense of that when you taste their cold-pressed elixirs, a lot goes into each individual juice. Why I love them? Well apart from the delicious liquid menu on offer, they aren’t just the product of hype. Their mantra, that health is all about balance resonates, they really believe in what they are doing and when you drink from one of their recyclable glass bottles you know you’ve got the real thing. They are also offering 10% off all gift cards right now until the 24th of December, for any amount, including cleanses.

For those who love thoughtful classics

Cashmere is definitely one way to make loved ones feel special this time of year. For beautiful pieces that will be treasured for years to come I love Everlane because they keep it real with total cost transparency for the customer. For the last two years, they sat out on Black Friday and shut down their online store out of protest, because they believe it creates “a false sense of value.” They also like to challenge status quo, even if it is their own, so this year they started a tradition called the Black Friday Fund, in which they will donate all profits made that day to improving the lives of workers, by beautifying an Everlane factory each year.

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(Also, if my hubby is reading this, I am hoping a certain slouchy tunic will find it’s way underneath our Christmas tree.)

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For the bathing beauty

I discovered Pure+Fresh after they followed me on Instagram. They are a natural skincare company that believe “the time you spend in the shower and bath should be the most delightful moments in your day and night.” Their bath and beauty products are stunning and would be a welcome edition to anyone’s bathing ritual, especially the bath milks. The two I’ll be treating myself to are the Rose Bath Milk and the Vanilla Bath Milk.

For the awesome health nut

I don’t need to go into much description here, this wicked top is self explanatory. I am pretty sure everyone knows someone who loves kale and if there is anything that says I’m glowing inside out, it’s this this baseball top from SeaSoul and Snow.

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For the girls dreaming of Paris

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This tongue-and-cheek book puts a smile on your face and is something one will go back to again and again. How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are is full of witty tips and thoughtful advice so you can gift your loved ones a little more of that coveted chic which seems to be in the air that locals of Paris breathe.

Cacao Christmas Truffles

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Truffles. Gorgeous rounded finesse, at it’s best, a few mouthfuls of chocolate that melt on the tongue and descend one into the abyss of flavour.

Insert into them your most decadent dreams. Make your taste buds water with salted caramel; heat them gently with chocolate and spices, lace truffles with liquor for a heady experience, invigorate yourself with zest and ingrain them upon your memory with the acquisition of nuts.

Their versatility knows no end, paired with strawberries on a date, champagne at a celebration, after dinner with a conversation that scintillates, and my favourite reason to eat truffles? Just because.

Chocolate requires no health exceptions; the type that isn’t pumped with sugar, but made with the best of the earth has amazing antioxidant properties to nourish you. Chocolate done well is the most fragrant, deep and delicious food experience out there.

You can call me a snob, but I don’t throw myself at any old chocolate bar. Swiss chocolate is one of my favourites but having said that, given that I love to indulge in it at Christmas, it is worth making your own that will make you glow inside out.

These dark coconut chocolate truffles are a far cry from the exquisite artwork that goes into creating those stunning artisan ones but these are so rich and delicious you won’t mind. Remember, like with everything, balance is important and these a sweet treat. They are lovely to serve to guests and can make a great handmade gift.

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Makes about 20

80g of dark chocolate, ideally made with cacao (I used Alter Eco Blackout)
170g of coconut cream
Juice and a little zest of half a Navel orange
1tsp pure vanilla essence
1/2tsp cinnamon (optional)
Cacao to sprinkle with (optional)
Line a large tray with parchment paper.

Melt your chocolate in bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Add your coconut cream a tablespoon at a time and incorporate it into the chocolate. Keep doing this until all your coconut cream is mixed into the chocolate. It will get thicker – don’t worry.

Add the juice, zest and vanilla and mix into the truffles. I added a pinch of cinnamon, but it’s optional.

Place the bowl in the fridge for about half an hour, so the mixture cools so you can mold it easier. Once it’s cool, make relatively round bite-sized spheres with the chocolate mixture and place on the parchment paper. Work quickly. (I like to do this right next with my tray in the fridge and I just form the truffles and throw them in.)

Once all of them are made, leave them in the fridge let for about an hour and sprinkle them with a little cacao once they have set if you wish. I like to store mine in the fridge but leave them out for about fifteen before serving so they get soft and gooey.

Chocolate Sauce

This chocolate sauce is delicious and perfect for pancakes, mixing with steaming hot nut milks for a gorgeous hot chocolate or for glazing brownies. It’s quick and easy to whip up, it’s rich, deep in flavour and one way to enjoy beautiful chocolate without breaking your healthy habits. I love indulging in this sauce on a Saturday morning over my protein pancakes before I go off to ballet or in the afternoon after a busy day in cup of hot chocolate

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Makes one small batch

1/4 cup of warm water
1/4 cup of coconut sugar
1tbsp coconut oil
1tbsp cacao powder

In a small pan, on the lowest heat melt the sugar in the water.

Once the sugar has melted, add the coconut oil, cacao and mix thoroughly.

Raise the heat, bring the mixture to a boil quickly and then lower to the original heat immediately, the sauce will thicken up slightly in the next minute. Once it does, take it off the heat and it is ready to be used.

Top Tip: You can elevate it by adding vanilla, cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt or cayenne pepper.

You Sweet Little Thing

Before pilates, after ballet, while I’m on the go or as a pick me up in the afternoon, it has to be these sweet little things. Soft, chewy melting bites of dates and nuts merged into each other so you don’t know where one stops and the other begins.

I really love the combination of dates and nuts because it is delicious and really good for you. Dates are pretty fabulous, energising, full of fibre, potent vitamins and minerals and nuts with all their good fats and what not! This makes a great nutritional and fulfilling snack no matter what you are up to.

I have already shared one recipe in the same vein, but this is a little different. If you are a gym bunny looking for some super easy yummy workout food, this one is a winner because I have added Vega protein to the mix.

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Raw Cacao Protein Balls

Makes six

6 Medjool dates, pits removed
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 scoop Vega chocolate protein
1/2 tbsp raw cacao (plus a little more for dusting)

Pulse the ingredients together in your blender.

Tip into a mixing bowl and form together into a dough.

Roll out into bite-sized balls and dust with some raw cacao.