Raw Chocolate

Elements For Life - Hot Chocolate

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Are we all still desperately trying to cling to our New Year’s resolutions to go dry/ give up meat/ drag out the spandex and work each of our muscle groups, and supposedly therefore be a better person? Well, here at The Amazing Blog we may be able to offer you a glimmer of indulgence to ease up some of those more draconian ways to detox, all in the form of a chocolate … We know, chocolate is the root of many a slip up in the new regime schedule. However, there is a tin of gloriously burnished powder which should have a polished halo perched above its silver lid to signify its credentials. We are talking about one of our #amazingfinds Elements For Life – see our recent posts on their other products here.

Yes, we may be talking hot chocolate, but Elements For Life have created one is richly smooth, and sweet. This hot chocolate doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners, GMOs or soya, the sweetness is derived from the sugar from coconut blossom, the evaporated nectar of the coconut tree, adding sustainability and diabetically friendly to the worthiness (because of its very low average glycemic index) As if that wasn’t enough, the Elements For Life team have made it suitable for those who may be lactose intolerant, and vegan by keeping this wonder-drink completely dairy-free and containing no milk solids.

We tried the Original and Spiced versions. The Spiced is warmed up by the addition of the winter spices cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. All we need now is the toasty log cabin with open fire and we have nirvana. However, we aren’t tied to the usual hot chocolate with this blend, as there is also the option of adding some ice and blitzing away to produce a very refreshing tipple. The benefits of raw chocolate, in both health and taste have been known for a while - it stands to reason that a natural product which hasn’t been put through the usual manufacturing processes will inevitably retain more of it’s core nutrients, and therefore with many of us now having to take a serious look at the minutiae of what we eat, a raw chocolate such as this makes clear sense.

And to keep that halo gleaming brightly, the whole team behind the Raw Hot Chocolate brand are keen to show they believe the sustainability of a product in this day and age has to address the issues beyond the contents of our mug. All ingredients used in their range are sourced for their high ecological standards and are agro-chemical/pesticide free from small-scale growers and farming co-operatives to ensure fair trading. The packaging is also made from recycled material or re-used from other sources, including their boxes and printed material. Small wonder then that with such highly prized credentials, Elements For Life have walked away with award upon award for what they offer us in this market place - and most specifically these two tins of delicious warmth! Priced at £6.99 for 175g all available from their online shop here they also offer refills priced at £4.99. And now, back to that log cabin and open fire to keep warm!

Christmas Food

We love the festive period at The Amazing Blog - the time for twinkling lights, mulled wine and time spent with loved ones. As if that’s not enough, Christmas is also the time for gourmet food choices, from the classic roast, to the after dinner cheese board. Tis’ the season for overindulging and treating ourselves, and with the New Year diet looming, it seems only right to make the most of the festive treats on offer. There are also few things we love more than to receive a selection of foodie treats on Christmas morning, so we thought, why not compile some of our favourites, so you too can give the gift of food!

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Firstly, we came across Cottage Delight, a brand based in the Staffordshire moorlands, bringing hand-crafted and innovative flavours to the condiments market. Established in 1974, the vast amount of experience helps the brand to lead the way in providing delicious additions to our meal (which more often that not, are even more delicious than the foods they are paired with). We were therefore excited to try their Gin & Fizz Set, compromising of two jams, a curd and marmalade - perfect to spice up any scone, crumpet or piece of toast.

Firstly, we tried the Raspberry & Prosecco Jam - a delectable treat to jazz up any morning. Made with 43g of fruit per 100g, this jam is characteristically tangy, but with a depth of flavour thanks to the addition of prosecco. Similarly the Lemon Curd with Gin has a zesty kick, yet an almost buttery texture that is not only indulgent, but also delicious. The addition of gin cuts through the tartness - ideal for any gin lovers in your life. For those who gear towards orange, the Marmalade with Gin has a fruity and juicy flavour - we love it spread across freshly made bread. Finally, for those who like a traditional strawberry jam, the Strawberry Jam with Marc de Champagne is a great option. Made with whole strawberries, this reminded us of our Grandma’s homemade jam. The champagne adds a luxurious aftertaste, solidifying this set as the ideal Christmas present. If that’s not enough, then the box itself is ready made for present giving, so there’s less hassle with wrapping, and more time to indulge in a glass of mulled wine (or two). Purchase a Gin & Fizz Gift Set here for £9.95.

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Secondly, for any chocolate lovers, we recommend Elements for Life. We tried their Yummy Scrummy Brownies not so long ago (see here), and more recently, their Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kit. Founded by Dan and Paula Knowlson, experts in raw chocolate, this brand continues to ensure products are suitable for vegans, diabetics and coeliacs, as well as those with lactose intolerances. This is something particularly difficult to find at Christmas, so we’re sure this set would be popular with anyone who suffers from a dietary requirement. That said, we all equally enjoyed this set, whether intolerant to common allergens or not.

The Raw Chocolate Starter Kit contains 100g raw cacao powder, 100g raw cacao butter, 100ml Sweet Freedom syrup and a reusable silicone chocolate mould. You can also choose your mould design, picking from the spiral swirls (which we went for), or the Valentine’s hearts. Using Peruvian Criollo raw cacao powder and butter, the ingredients are the best of the best, providing a rich and smooth chocolate that has a low GI. This makes it suitable for diabetics, furthermore displaying the inclusive nature of this brand. In terms of making the chocolate itself, we found the process incredibly easily. Simply melt the cacao butter, add the cacao powder and Sweet Freedom syrup and you’re done - pour into the moulds, pop them in the fridge and return to professional looking chocolates. To purchase a Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kit for £17.99, click here.

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Although we’re big sweet lovers at The Amazing Blog, we’re equally enticed by flavoursome and spicy dishes. For the spice lovers in your life, we present SteenbergsMediterranean Mini 8 Spice Box, a set packed with numerous spice blends, heavily influenced by the Arabic side of the Mediterranean. Having tried their Botanicals for Cocktails in October (see here), we were keen to try this set for ourselves - and can confirm that it will indeed be well received by any foodies in your family.

Founded by Axel and Sophie Steenberg in 2003, Steenbergs is passionate about providing top quality and organic spices, with over fifteen years of experience to draw from. You can therefore be safe in the knowledge that by gifting their Mediterranean spices set, you’ll be helping your foodie recipient to create delicious meals, with ingredients they can trust. This set compromises of organic tagine, ras al hanut, za’atar, organic harissa with rose, organic Italian herbs, organic Lebanese 7 spice blend, organic paella spice blend and organic chermoula spice blend - a vast array of flavours to create a multitude of dishes. Our personal favourites are the organic paella spice blend, which helps us to create an authentic taste of Spain, and the chermoula spice blend, which we were admittedly less familiar with - but now cannot be without. To purchase your own Mediterranean Mini 8 Spice Box for £15.99, click here.

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Finally, for something a little more luxury, we came across Haupt Lakrits, a Swedish liquorice brand aiming to bring gourmet products to the market. Having tried a variety of their products, we can confirm that these are far from the packet of slightly squashed liquorice wheels in your cupboard, but instead, provide a new take on a traditional classic. Even those less enthusiastic about liquorice were found sneaking these on our lunchbreak - testament to their scrumptious flavours.

Firstly, for those of us with a penchant for liquorice, SÖT (€9.00) proved to be popular. Thanks to being cooked for 8 hours and stored for 10 weeks, this liquorice is soft and sweet, and has a pleasantly chewy texture. Secondly we tried the Hallon (€9.00) flavour, liquorice dipped in 60% Belgian milk and dark chocolate and coated with raspberry and vanilla. These proved very popular amongst those will less of a liking for traditional liquorice, and we found they work well with rose wine. Thirdly, we tried the limited edition God Juhl: Merry Christmas (€11.00) jar. Coated in Belgian white chocolate and flavoured with a Swedish Christmas spice mix, this liquorice is undoubtedly festive, even covered in a glittery outer layer. Finally, we tried the slightly lighter God Helg: Happy Holidays (€11.00) liquorice. Dipped in Belgian white chocolate, the additions of lingonberry and saffron add sweetness, yet the fruity nature helps to cut the sickliness often associated with white chocolate. Like God Juhl, this Christmas edition liquorice is best paired with a glass of mulled wine. Visit the Haupt Lakrits website here to purchase your own liquorice delights - some flavours are also available as gift sets, smaller jars and refill packs.

So there we have it - four foodie treats guaranteed to put a smile on your receiver’s face. And if you’re thinking ‘I’ve already finished my Christmas shopping’, then why not treat yourself instead? After all, we think the festive period is the perfect excuse to indulge!

Friday Favourites: Healthier Sweet Snacks

Snacking, often the cause of many a failed healthy eating attempt, is something we can't live without at The Amazing Blog. Fortunately, the expansion of the health food market has unearthed a vast selection of new and healthier alternatives, so we can snack healthily, without cutting out our favourite snacking foods. Below are a few of our latest discoveries, which have encouraged us to snack more mindfully in recent months!

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Firstly, we came across The Nu Company, a German brand, with the vision of providing cutting-edge health products, that don't cut out flavour. As a company, they aim to change our perceptions, not only about healthier foods but also about the way in which we consume. This includes the desire to enable large-scale reforestation, planting a tree for every product sold. While eating their raw cacao bars, we have already helped to plant eight trees - what better way to help the environment?

Made only from "ingredients you are able to pronounce", these raw cacao bars come in a variety of different flavours that do not contain artificial additives. Instead, each bar contains raw cacao, hemp seeds, coconut blossom nectar, almonds, lucuma and acerola - flavoured with natural flavourings for a delicious pop of Espresso, Barberry, Hazlenut and Coconut. This combination of natural and organic ingredients provides a vast array of health benefits, from adding plant-based protein, to providing a new method of incorporating your daily vitamins and minerals. They also contain omega-3-fatty-acids, and we can confirm that the Espresso bar proved popular on a Monday morning! The Nu Company endeavour to push environmental awareness further - their bars are wrapped in home-compostable foil and are encased in recyclable cardboard boxes, ensuring their packaging is plastic free. What more could you ask from a chocolatey snack? To try a Nu+cao bar for yourself, purchase from a wholesaler (The Health Store, Tree of Life or CLF) or click here to order a 40g bar for £2.79.

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For a non-chocolate based sweet treat, we came across Abakus, founded by Helen Wang, who wanted to introduce the lesser know Jujube Fruit into the UK market. If you're unsure of what Jujube is, then you're not alone - perhaps it is fair to insinuate it as the forgotten member of the date family! That said, we didn't know what we were missing, and the naturally sweet and caramel like flavour has encouraged us to become more adventurous with our snacking.

Jujube has a host of health benefits, it is packed with nutrients and essential amino acids, and is a known adaptogen (proven to help the body adapt to stress). We tried three different variations of Jujube fruit, the first being the original Red Dates. Pitted and dried, they work well as a snack on their own, but we also found them equally delicious when added to our favourite brownie recipes - not so healthy but they say it’s all about balance! They have a chewy texture, and like all of the products in the Abakus range, are gluten and dairy free, and count as one of your five a day. Secondly, we tried the Crunchy Crisps, which, as the name suggests, are sliced into smaller pieces, giving them a crunchy yet chewy texture. These proved delicious when sprinkled over porridge, adding a bit of texture to our regular oats.

Finally, we also tried the Red Dates Stuffed with Almonds, perfect for a post-workout snack thanks to the additional energy and healthy fats of almonds. As with the other variations, these Jujube pieces are vegan, paleo, sugar and sulphate free, making them an excellent snack for anyone with a sweet tooth. To try Jujube Fruit for yourself, visit the Abakus website (here), where you can purchase a range of different multipacks from £13.00.

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Thirdly we came across Elements for Life, a brand founded by husband and wife, Dan and Paula Knowlson. After embarking on a health, nutrition and diet journey, through which they discovered raw chocolate, Paula suggested making their own, and the rest is history! What has emerged is a company that is committed to creating products suitable for a wide range of people, with products suitable for vegans, diabetics and coeliacs, as well as those with lactose intolerances. This popularity is proven through the recent celebration of their 8th birthday, and so we couldn’t wait to try their offerings.

We tried their Yummy Scrummy Raw Chocolate Brownie, a delectable and rich product made with Criollo raw cacao, dates, walnuts, raisins, goji berries, brazil nuts and fruit extracts. These ingredients not only taste scrumptious, but they are free from refined sugar, dairy, gluten and soya, meaning we can indulge in a chocolately afternoon treat without feeling too guilty. We found that the use of goji berries provides a welcome pop of flavour to lift the rich nature of cacao, and it’s safe to say that these brownies didn’t last long in the office. To try a Yummy Scrummy Raw Chocolate Brownie for £2.79 per bar, click here

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If you’re more of a pudding lover, then Pudology may well be the brand for you. Founder Lucy Wager took to the kitchen after realising there were few puddings suitable for her dairy and egg intolerance. This emerged a brand that is vegan, suitable for coeliacs and free from gluten and wheat. The real winner here is the creamy and decedant consistency of the puddings, often expected to be lacking in vegan desserts.

Pudology offer a range of seven puddings, we tried their Bannoffee Puds previously, and were excited to try the newly launched ‘Skinny’ versions: Skinny Chocolate and Raspberry Puds and Skinny Lemon and Yuzu Puds, which contain under 60 calories. The Skinny Chocolate and Raspberry Puds contain coconut cream, dark chocolate and raspberry compote, which together give a hit of intense chocolate while remaining light with the zing of fruit - a classic flavour combination that is most certainly a winner here. What’s better, is that despite the creamy texture, the calorific content is much lower than other chocolate puddings. The Lemon and Yuzu Puds were lighter and fruitier, ideal for people with less of a love for chocolate. That said, they proved equally popular with the biggest chocolate fiends at The Amazing Blog. We loved the use of yuzu, which adds a grapefruit like zing without an overly tangy aftertaste, and again were pleased to discover the low calorie content. To purchase two Chocolate Orange Puds for £2.25, click here, or for the Lemon and Yuzu Puds for £2.25 click here.

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Last, but not least, we were fortunate to try Nibble Protein Bites once again. Founder Erin Moroney formulated a range of high protein snacks after discovering a distinct lack of low sugar snacks on the market. We tried Nibble Protein’s offerings last year (see here), and as avid runners at The Amazing Blog, we were keen to find more protein snacks that do not contain counterproductive added sugars. All ingredients in Nibble Protein Bites are dairy, gluten and soy free, instead favouring pea protein and dried plum purée for natural fibre and antioxidants.

Firstly we tried the classic flavour combo of Choc Orange Brownie, made with dark chocolate chips and packed with natural orange flavouring. These scrumptious nibbles contain coconut nectar and gluten-free oats, providing a low GI and fibre simultaneously. They were certainly a welcome treat to power us through our to-do lists. Equally delicious, the Choc Walnut Brownie was a hit with the nut lovers of the office. We particularly enjoyed the pop of vanilla and found this flavour a perfect mid-morning snack to accompany a coffee (or two!) Finally, we tried the Mint Choc Brownie flavour which was subsequently our favourite. Made with cacao nibs and enriched with peppermint oil, we found it hard to believe that these decadant packets could be regarded as ‘healthy’.

To add some scrumptious protein into your diet, visit the Nibble Protein Bites website where you can purchase a 12 pack of your favourite flavour for £16.00

As you can see, swapping to healthier snacks doesn’t always call for bland and boring choices. We hope to have opened your eyes to a new way of adding sweetness to your diet, we are certainly loving it!