Chocolate and YogaPosted: June 15, 2012
Stress is a funny thing. It can be blatantly obvious at times and completely hidden at others. We might feel rushed, overwhelmed, and exhausted by whatever’s going on, or we might suffer mystery symptoms, completely clueless that stress is the culprit. If high blood pressure runs in your family (as it does in mine), then this is definitely something worth paying attention to. How we deal with difficult times in our lives could ultimately dictate our risk of heart disease. This is why it’s so important to have several de-stressing methods you can turn to when times get tough.
With only 3 weeks to go until we move across the Atlantic to Boston, I’m certainly in the midst of a stressful time. Phil and I are juggling normal daily routines with all of the varied tasks that come with moving: packing up treasures, selling things we don’t need, finding a place to live, cancelling contracts, etc.
But with all of this, I still feel as though I can handle it. I can get it done, and we will be fine. And here’s why:
YOGA and CHOCOLATE
Those are two of my go-to stress relievers. There are many many others, because we all react differently to different stressful situations, so I find it helpful to have options. But these two are my top choices right now.
I wouldn’t say I’m an advanced yoga student. I’m not a complete beginner either. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, constantly working on my practice.
While we still live in London, I’m going to a weekly Iyengar yoga class just a few minutes walk from our flat. This wasn’t my first choice – especially as I had no clue what Iyengar was about – but I’ve fallen in love with it, and will be hoping to find a good Iyengar class in Boston.
I also practice on my own at home, with a mat laid out in my living room. This is not the same – it doesn’t relax me and ground me in the way a class does. The reason for this is distraction. I’m easily distracted by the other things on my to-do list when I’m in my home environment. It’s hard to switch off anywhere, but especially at home.
In a class, I like the feeling of being on neutral ground, of having a group of people there with you in the same boat, working on their own practice but sharing a giggle or two to keep that sense of community. That’s something you can’t get from a Youtube clip. Although, they are nice to turn to when there aren’t enough hours in a day.
By this, I don’t mean a bar of Hershey’s or even organic Green & Black’s. I mean turning my kitchen into my own delicious chocolate-making factory. Raw chocolate, without dairy, without processing, without refined sugar. I love making chocolate. It takes all of 5 minutes and always tastes 1000x better than something I could buy at the store.
Chocolate has been shown to improve our mood through its ability to stimulate dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and relaxed. Combine that with the satisfaction of having made something delicious yourself and we’re talking a gold-star stress reliever!
If you’re curious about getting started, there are three main ingredients you need: cacao powder, cacao butter, and a natural sweetener. The cacao butter can be replaced or combined with coconut oil, but the texture will be slightly different and the chocolate will melt faster. You can also add some carob powder to the cacao for extra sweetness and more depth of flavor (as I have done below), but it isn’t essential.
Navitas Naturals in the US make some great quality cacao products. In the UK, I really highly recommend Sweet Sensations for amazing products sourced carefully. For the natural sweetener, I’d pick a liquid variety of your choice. At the moment, I’m partial to good quality raw honey, as the floral flavors taste amazing in the chocolate. You could also use brown rice syrup, date syrup, coconut syrup, or maple syrup.
And then there’s the question of what to do with your chocolate once it’s all melted and ready to be molded. I do have a few chocolate molds and ice cube trays in fun shapes that I bought on Amazon, but sometimes it’s nice just to have a bar that you can break into misshapen pieces and share with your friends. For this, use any ordinary tupperware container or baking dish you have in your kitchen. For the recipe below, I used a silicone loaf cake pan for easy removal of the chocolate.
The rest is completely up to you – you can add whatever ingredients you like to the chocolate base. Peppermint oil, orange oil, chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, shredded coconut, ground spices, etc etc etc. The following recipe is based on a mix between Ferrero Rocher and the green triangle chocolates you find in Quality Street (a British chocolate box brand), very hazelnutty with just a few currants thrown in for fun. Enjoy and happy de-stressing!
Raw Chocolate Noisettes
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Keywords: melt dessert gluten-free soy-free sugar-free vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (30 chunks of chocolate)
- 6 tbsp raw cacao butter, melted
- 4 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 2 tbsp carob powder
- 2-3 tbsp raw honey (or other natural liquid sweetener)
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, ground into rough powder
- optional: 1/4 cup currants
Melt the cacao butter in a bain-marie or double boiler over a low heat.
Once completely melted, whisk in the powders, vanilla, and sweetener. Stir through the nuts and currants (if using).
Pour into the mold or dish of your choice and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Pop the chocolate out of the mold (chop into bite-size pieces if you made a solid bar), then place back into an airtight container and keep in the fridge or freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Must be kept refrigerated!