It’s DIY season. Everywhere I look, I see advertisements for Spring projects - and not only Spring Cleaning. The TV is full of ads for Home Depot, telling us that we need to get our yards back in order, so we can enjoy the great outdoors now that the weather has warmed-up. As I ran through Target this week to get a few essentials, I noticed the aisles full of items to make home projects simpler. What is it about Springtime that makes us all want to do DIY?
When it comes to DIY, I’m enthusiastic. Especially when it comes to DIY in the kitchen. Years ago, before my daughter was born and I had lots of time on my hands, I went through a phase where I (attempted) to make everything from scratch. Pasta, tomato sauce, bread, condiments - you name it, I made it. This time in my life occurred while living in NYC, where I had access 24/7 to the best artisan food products! Once I became a mom, I had to streamline my kitchen efforts for awhile, but I never lost the spirit or desire to make foods from scratch. If you were to take a peek into my grocery cart, you would see ingredients rather than prepared products. Some exceptions to this statement are Asian sauces (I prefer to buy a high-quality bottle than make from scratch) and non-dairy yogurts (I’m currently addicted to Kite Hill Unsweetened Greek Yogurt).
This week, I decided to play in the kitchen with chocolate. After baking a few recipes last weekend, I stayed in the sweet realm and wanted to have some fun with one of my favorite foods. Kitchen projects are a fun type of DIY project, almost similar to an arts & crafts project. They allow for personalization of the end product, which lets me share my unique taste preferences with those who eat are lucky enough to eat whatever I make!
Homemade chocolates are an easy project, nearly foolproof, I promise. I make a chocolate mixture using coconut oil, maple syrup and raw cacao powder, all melted together in a double-boiler. A little sea salt and vanilla extract helps to enhance the flavor of the cacao. The fun part is then to put my favorite combinations of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits together, to be enrobed in the melted chocolate. This week, I made two different chocolates: salted pistachio with dates and pecans with raisins. The possible combinations are endless, I’ve made toasted walnut with fig - absolutely delicious! If you’re looking for a nut-free option, pepitas, sunflower seeds, and even sesame seeds all are wonderful when mixed with some dried fruit and covered in chocolate.
The only caveat to these chocolates is that they melt rather easily. I strongly recommend keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer until just before serving. They don’t travel well, sorry Mom & Dad - I’m not bringing any of these chocolates along to your house next week!
My advice: continue your Spring DIY projects, but make sure that you add these Homemade Chocolates to your to-do list this weekend. You’ll enjoy having a treat after pulling weeds in the garden or cleaning-out your closet, I promise! Let me know if you make this recipe and which nuts/seeds/fruits you add to your own batch - I can’t wait to hear what you put together, I’m sure it will be great!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
DIY: Homemade Chocolates
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1/2 C coconut oil (solid)
1/2 C maple syrup
1/2 C raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 C chopped nuts, seeds, and/or dried fruits (optional - toast the nuts or seeds)
Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. Alternatively, place 12 mini muffin papers on a baking sheet and set aside.
Place a pan, half-full with water, on the stove and bring to a simmer. Put a large heat-proof bowl on top of the pan, creating a double-boiler. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and cacao powder to the bowl and whisk together until smooth. Once the oil has melted, add the sea salt and extracts. Whisk to incorporate all of the ingredients, then carefully remove from the heat.
Add the chopped nuts, seeds, and/or dried fruit to a medium sized heat-proof mixing bowl. Pour 2/3 of the chocolate in the bowl and toss to coat. Divide the chocolate-covered mixture into the 12 muffin papers.
Pour the remaining chocolate over the tops of the filled muffin papers to create a smooth top.
Place muffin tin (or baking sheet) in the freezer for an hour to solidify and chill.
Serve chocolates at room temperature.
recipe yields 12 pieces
double ingredients for additional servings
store the chocolates in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 weeks