Last minute DIY Christmas gifts

 

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Work. Work. Work. This has been my mantra for the last month. Somehow all the things managed to collide at the same time. I realized it’s almost Christmas and that I’m still missing half of the christmas gifts for my friends, because the only time I was serious about getting them, there were so many people on the way to the mall, that I just made a turn and didn’t even see the shops.

Giving and receiving. The more you give, the more you will receive, they say. It’s true. It doesn’t have to be much. It’s more about the story and it’s more about making them on your own. Little things made with love.

…and in the end… practical gifts are pretty cool.
(Except pajamas. 10 years in a row. But who can blame them grannies…)

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So here are some pretty nice, pretty good and pretty healthy DIY Christmas gifts.
Or maybe just treats for the Christmas morning…

 

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Celebrating with a chocolate coconut pie

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This week the christmas lights went on in Ljubljana. Well, I wasn’t there, but this didn’t stop me from celebrating. I’ve realized it’s been actually eight months since I started writing my blog. I have no idea when did the time go by. I remember planting tomatoes on my balcony in april. And I still haven’t eaten the last one. I remember the rainy summer we had this year. But I loved it. Every time I looked trough the window I saw that freshly washed green under the dark grey sky. I remember a morning when the road was covered in gold. Fallen leaves and the smell of winter. They say time passes by quickly when you’re enjoying your life. I must have had an amazing year. It’s december now.

I am here. I am now. And I celebrate every moment of my life. I live! And I am grateful for being given that second chance. Diabetes has completely changed my life. In the end, for the better. And I sure wouldn’t be writing this today if it hadn’t happened.

A reason more to celebrate is my first post in Slovene! After eight months I finally have the courage to write and read after myself in my mother tongue. Words are a powerful tool. They make us dream and create stories. And I will continue to create mine.

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It’s also the beginning of a holiday season. One of my favorites in this part of the year is the 6th of december, Saint Nicholas day. I have good memories of  it. Because it’s simple. And all I got for presents was always warm and from the heart. Oranges, dried figs and chocolates. That’s what my grandparents gave me.

I am celebrating all this with a rich chocolate coconut pie. It has a crunchy spiced almond cookies crust that gives it a hint of Christmas scent and velvety chocolate cream. And thanks to coconut it has a sort of caramelly taste.

And the best for the end: it is vegan and gluten free (just use your favorite cookies, mine were Balance Almond cookies that are sugar free), it is lactose free and I actually didn’t add any sugar (I used Blance chocolate sweetened with stevia and that was it).

It’s rich, dense and smooth. Share it with your friends!

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Ingredients*:

  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 140 g almond cookies (I used Balance by Klingele since it has no added sugar)
  • 30 g virgin coconut oil
  • 200 ml coconut milk (homogenized, I used Vegalife)
  • 25 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 200 g chocolate (I used Balance milk chocolate sweetened with Stevia)
  • 40 g virgin coconut oil
  • unsweetened cocoa for dusting

*I’ve been using a cake ring measuring aprox. 20 cm. You will get 8 pieces with that. But the cake is really rich, so that size is more than enough. Also, if you prefer thinner layer of cream, use 1/4 less ingredients for the cream.

Preparation:

  1. Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumbs consistency. Melt 30g of coconut oil and pour over. Mix well and press to the bottom of a cake pan (with removable bottom) or even better, a cake ring. Let cool in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  2. Preheat oven at 180°c and roast the hazelnuts until golden brown. Shake the pan two or three times to get them evenly roasted. To remove the skins, put the hazelnuts between two kitchen towels and roll over with your hands. The skins will go off by itself. Chop bigger pieces.
  3. Melt chocolate using a double boiler. Chocolate should always be melted at low heat, up to 32°c so it doesn’t get grainy and lumpy. Add cocoa and 40g of coconut oil.
  4. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk just to have approx. the same temperature as chocolate. Add chocolate mixture. Do not over mix.
  5. Take the cake ring with the crust from the fridge and pour four or five tablespoons of coconut mixture over, just so that the hazelnuts will stick to the crust. Add 2/3 of chopped hazelnuts and carefully pour over the rest of the coconut chocolate mixture.
  6. Let sit in the fridge at least 12h.
  7. 10 mins prior to serving take the cake out of the fridge, dust with unsweetened cocoa and garnish with the rest of the roasted hazelnuts. Raspberry or two won’t do harm either.

The smell of chocolate bread on a sunday morning…

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It’s been two years since I first laid my foot in Canada. At that time I was staying in the northern part of Quebec, in Val d’Or, to be more precise. Don’t ask me how I got there… Anyway, I stayed there for three months and was lucky enough to escape before the real winter began.

In the 1920s, gold was discovered in Val d’Or and today it still remains a mining city. For someone like me, who grew up in a country where Alps are 30 mins from the capital and the sea some 150 km southern, Val d’Or seemed like in the middle of nowhere. When I arrived all I could see were the lakes and the forest. And the Transcanadian.

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There was a farmers market with great products, but I only discovered it by the end of my stay. And there were some really nice restaurants and cafes in the city. However, there was no bakery. And honestly, after eating toast for a week, I had enough of it. I wanted to eat real bread. I went to the bookstore, bought my self the prettiest book about bread making and started baking my own bread.

I actually never made a sourdough bread before. I only used yeast so far. I really wanted to make it, but has always been a complete failure. I somehow didn’t get it right from my book. So, last week I went to the first food bloggers convention in Ljubljana, called Njam Zgodbe and met Nataša, the author of Zapečenega kruha se največ poje, an amazing blog about bread making. She explained me how she does it and I decided to give it a try once more. This time it definitely was a success. The starter worked and the bread rose.

This sunday I was woken up to the smell of freshly baked chocolate bread. And there is nothing better to put on than some home made beurre sallé.

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Bread is something that takes time to get it right. For me this try was a huge success because I did make my own starter. And the bread was crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. But there’s no shortcut. Just practice and patience…

Sourdough starter:

adapted and taken after Zapečenega kruha se največ poje

Day 1: In a glass jar mix 40 g flour and 40 g water. Let ferment 24 h at room temperature. Use wholegrain or rye flour. Do let air get in.

Day 2: After 22 h it should increase in volume. There should be small bubbles appearing. If not, put it in the warm oven (up to 25°c) for two hours. Then add 20 g flour and 20 g water.

Day 3: After 24 h add 15 g flour and 15 g water. Let it rise (it should double in volume) and use it immediately for baking or put it in the fridge if you intend to use it later.

Now this is your starter. Your base. You can have it as long as you want, but you have to feed it regularly by adding 15 -20 g of flour and water every couple of days, leaving it in the fridge. Before you intend to bake, always add flour and water and let it rise. And don’t forget to put some starter aside for future baking.

The making: So you have your starter done. Now mix 45 g starter with 65 g flour and 65 g water and let it rise. This is what you will use in the bread

Chocolate bread ingredients: 

adapted and taken from Pains & Viennoiseries maison 

  • 70 g raisins
  • 70 g dried cranberries
  • 50 g chocolate
  • 330 g spelt flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 40 g cocoa
  • 170 g sourdough starter
  • 250 ml water

Preparation:

  1. Chop the chocolate and mix with raisins. Set aside.
  2. Mix dry ingredients: flour, salt and cocoa.
  3. Mix wet ingredients: sourdough starter and water.
  4. Put dry ingredients and chocolate raisin mixture into wet ingredients. Mix, cover and let sit 10 mins.
  5. Flour you work surface and knead the dough. Let aside 10 mins and repeat.
  6. Sprinkle a kitchen cloth with some flour and put the dough to rise for 3 – 6 h or until it doubles in volume.
  7. Preheat the oven at 240°c and place in a bowl to create steam.
  8. Cut couple of lines on the bread, lower the temperature to 220°c and bake for some 30 mins. The bread should sound void if you tap it on the bottom side.
  9. Don’t hold yourself back: freshly baked bread with salted butter is the best!

 

 

chocolate golden berries

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This time I’m not giving you the precise instructions how to make it. It’s pure gold. It’s physalis. It’s fleur de sel. It’s chocolate. Free your imagination. Be passionate and you will find the balance that works the best for you. It’s gotta pop up in your mouth when you eat it!

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Fleur de sel or salt flower is esteemed for its color, traditional production and of course flavor. Not even one is the same as the shape of crystals is largely dependent on the specific weather conditions. I’ve got mine from France, Ile de Ré to be precise. Fleur de sel works really well with sweets, like caramel, and it enhances the flavor of chocolate. And yes, there is a huge difference in flavor in comparison to ordinary industrial salt. When using it in chocolate, even if it look nice if sprinkled on top, I find the flavor better if mixed in the chocolate. It’s more smooth and the flavor itself develops gradually.

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Cacao butter. Really healthy stuff. If it does good to your skin, imagine what it does to your body from the inside than! You can make your own, raw chocolate by combining it with raw unsweetened cacao and some sort of sweetener. Since I’m a diabetic, I like to cut my carbs intake, so I use stevia extract or sucralose, which is derived from corn. But agave syrup, coconut sugar or honey can be more healthy alternative. If you’re running short on time, high quality dark chocolate will do either.

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And physalis berries, golden berries, with its slightly sour note balance so well the sweet and salty…

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Phisalis barries with dark chocolate and fleur de sel

  • phisalis berries
  • fleur de sel
  • any sort of sweetener if needed (don’t exaggerate!)
  • dark chocolate (min 80% cocoa) or DIY: cocoa butter, 100% cacao, sweetener