Saturday, 23 April 2016

Qualifirst Review: Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Nibs, Dried Cherries, HazlenutPaste

I'm really excited to be doing a review for the Canadian gourmet food company, Qualifirst! They provide ingredients to many professional chefs and carry a great selection of gourmet ingredients from around the world. Check out the Qualifirst website for more info.


I recieved sun-dried cherries, sun-dried blueberries, sun-dried cranberries, hazlenut paste, organic cocoa nibs, crystallized maple syrup, extra bold amber cocoa powder, chestnut purée and lavender blossom honey. Sounds amazing right? But way too much to handle in one post, so I will split it up into a few different posts. Many of these ingredients are new to my kitchen so it has been a bit of a learning opportunity for me too! I'm really excited to taste the lavender honey and maybe try my hand at a chestnut pavlova cake! 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cocoa Powder and Hazlenut Paste

I started by testing out the cocoa powder and hazlenut paste. I decided to use them both in my GF banana chocolate chip muffins. I added 3 Tbsp cocoa powder and 2 1/2 Tbsp hazlenut paste, hoping to create a kind of Nutella flavour. It turned out amazing! I've been having one with warm milk for a bedtime snack every night since I made them :D


I have never had the opportunity to use this Italian ingredient, and after doing a quick taste test, I considered eating the jar by the spoonful. It tastes just like the inside of those hedgehog chocolates, except not really sweet. Really, really good. I knew it would pair great with a chocolate flavour... and would probably be delicious spread over some GF toast. I think it would also make an amazing in a GF chocolate hazlenut biscotti. That is definitely on my to do list now. It's very rich and smooth, so a little goes a long way. I would love to get my hands on more of this stuff! 


As the name implies, it is a very rich, flavourful cocoa powder. The colour is a deep reddish-brown and the flavour is smooth, dark and bitter. A little went a long way in my banana chocolate chip muffins, and the dark colour and taste was amazing in Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites. Definitely a high quality cocoa powder. 


I created a new recipe to incorporate the cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and sun-dried cherries. I've made energy bites before, but for some reason these Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites were disappearing in a fraction of the time. I used mini chocolate chips along with the cocoa nibs to balance out some of the bitterness. I have enough leftover ingredients to make this recipe again, and I will! 

Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites

I've had dried cherries in the past, but to my knowledge, never sun-dried cherries. They are so much better! I was expecting them to be sour and firm, but they were flavourful, soft and sweet. Another ingredient that I could eat as is. They would be great in trail mix, granola, or baked into scones or muffins. I used them in my Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites


Again, I've never worked with this ingredient in baking. I've tasted cocoa nibs in store bought products, but never purchased them on their own. I usually see them in granola bars or chocolate, so I tried to use them in a similar way (in the Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites). I only used a tablespoon because the flavour is intense and they are very crunchy. A little goes a long way, a truth I am repeatedly discovering in all of the gourmet Qualifirst ingredients. 
Cocoa nibs are made from cocoa beans that have been dried and roasted. They contain magnesium, fibre, iron and antioxidants - basically all the health benefits that are attributed to dark chocolate, and more. And as an added bonus, these ones are also organic!

I'm loving everything I've tried so far! My Qualifirst review will continue in another post :)

Disclaimer: The products were sent to me free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites


I've recently discovered the joys of energy bites. I love these little things because they're super quick to make, and easy to eat! You can add in all different kinds of flavours. Use almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter, replace chocolate chips with white chocolate, add in shredded coconut, different flavour extracts, etc.


This version highlights some of the gourmet ingredients I recieved from Qualifirst to review: cocoa nibs, dried cherries and cocoa powder (see my Qualifirst review). I used a combination of cocoa nibs and mini chocolate chips because I wanted some of the sweetness from the chocolate to balance out the rich, yet bitter, unsweetened cocoa nibs. If you don't have cocoa nibs you can use extra chocolate chips or omit them all together. 


My husband and son ate most of these before I could so I will have to make another batch soon! Maybe in a new flavour...

Makes 12 bites

Ingredients

1 cup Pitted Dates
1/4 cup Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 
1 Tbsp Cocoa Nibs
1 Tbsp Mini Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup GF Quick Oats
2 Tbsp Dried Cherries 

Directions

If your dates are hard and dried out, you may need to soak them in water for 15 mins to soften them up.
Blend dates in a food processor until they form a dough like ball  (I use my mini kitchen aid processor)
Add peanut butter and vanilla and blend until well combined.
Add cocoa powder and water and blend until you have a dough like mixture. Add more water by the 1/2 tsp if you need more moisture.
Dump your mixture into a bowl with cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, cherries and oats. 
Stir until well combined.
Form the balls.
Store in fridge or freezer.

Date paste, peanut butter and vanilla

Add cocoa powder and water

Finished "dough"

Mix with oats and add ins

Mix

Form into balls and refrigerate or freeze

As my 2 year old says: "mmm dee-wish-iss!"