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Rumor has it that there’s a holiday coming up where people buy, make or otherwise procure things and then give them to other people. Now that’s a concept! If this is indeed true, then this post could be a timely and handy guide for those who partake in the tradition of this holiday.
Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a few fine products from several vegan-friendly companies and I’m sharing my thoughts here – along with a decadent and delicious recipe – Chocolate Espresso Toasted Oat Crunch Bars that feature cacao wafers and cacao powder by Imlak’esh.
Anyone coming to me with offers of chocolate gets my immediate attention. Throw in some superfoods and commendable business ethics and I’ll sing like a bird. Imlak’esh sent me generous samples of their Cacao Powder, Cacao Wafers, and Canopy Clusters.
I went through the Cacao Powder at record speed – smoothies, oatmeal, cookies, energy balls/bars,etc., etc.. Someone needs to invent a bottomless jar of the stuff. While the superfood-rich Canopy Clusters were not my thing – whenever I took a bite of one I expected it to taste sweet (hint: they are not) – Kel snarfed them right up. You’ll find goji berries, mango, quinoa, Sacha Inchi seeds and spices in them. Like I said, superfood. But, no shocker here, my favorite Imlak’esh product was the Cacao Wafers. Sometimes I’d just stick my nose in the jar and pull in a good, heady whiff. Huffing chocolate. These beauties are 100% cacao and melt like a dream for homemade chocolate bars (try them to make my Puffed Quinoa & Cacao Nib Chocolate Bars instead of the cocoa butter and cocoa powder) or to whisk up rich hot chocolate.
Imlak’esh is more than just high-quality cacao, however, so you may wish to explore their other health-enhancing products. And don’t forget to print out my recipe!
- 3/4 cup Imlak'esh cacao wafers (or use unsweetened dark chocolate pieces)
- 2 Tbsp. puffed quinoa
- 1 tsp. powdered stevia (or your favorite DRY sweetener)
- 12 dates*, chopped and soaked in 1 cup water for about 15 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2-1 tsp. stevia liquid
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats, toasted*
- 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup puffed quinoa
- 1/2 cup cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- 3 Tbsp. Imlak'esh cacao powder or cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp. espresso powder
- Line an 8-inch x 8-inch pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a double boiler, slowly melt the cacao wafers with the powdered stevia. Once melted, stir in the puffed quinoa. While the chocolate is still nice and melty, spread it evenly over the parchment in the prepared pan. Set aside while you prepare the toasted oat layer.
- In the bowl of a food processor, puree the dates with the soaking liquid, vanilla extract and liquid stevia until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Scrape the date mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until everything is moist and thoroughly incorporated.
- Pat mixture on top of the chocolate in the pan, cover tightly and let bars firm up for several hours. Cut into squares. Store bars in an air-tight container.
- *To toast oats, preheat the oven to 375-degrees F. Spread the oats in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 10-15 minutes, checking and stirring frequently so as not to burn. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Sol Natural Foods
Sol Natural Foods sent me the above package of goodies to try (love that they included everything needed for a cuppa – even stevia powder!) earlier this year and it happened to be during a time when I was *trying* to drink less coffee. (I’m not trying anymore.) I went for the Original Mocha Macaccino blend first, followed by a cup of the Black Maca Reserve.
Both are very powerful brews with deep flavors. Not for the faint of heart. But if you are a coffee drinker you’re probably used to strong drinks. You will not be fooled into thinking you are drinking coffee, however. Both of these powders have their own unique taste. But if you are weening yourself off of caffeine or you want to get some more superfoods into your belly, then give these a dry.
Suffice to say I love ellovi’s butters. They’re all delectable, but my current favorite is their Chamomile Blossom with only six ingredients (mango, coconut, shea, clementine, chamomile & corn starch). I use it as my overnight face/lips/neck moisturizer and the light citrus scent sends me off to a peaceful sleep. Key Lime, featured in the photos here, is also delectable. Hell, so is their Mint Chocolate! Check out their companion “flavor” lip butters, too.
You can read my first review of ellovi here.
While protein powders are not high on my list, I recognize that many folks really dig them for their nutritional punch and convenience, so this is for youze guys and gals out there. Sprout Living has a wide selection of protein powders – the Epic powders featured here in Chocolate Maca, Original, Vanilla Lucuma (my favorite), and Green Kingdom – along with sprout (think radishes, broccoli, kale, and red clover) mixes, Sacha Inchi, and also brown rice and pumpkin seed powders. Seems like a protein powder lover’s dream company! Their Sample Kit or Bundle would make great stocking stuffers.
I found these soaps all on my own while strolling through TJ Maxx one afternoon. The scents are what drew me, but it’s what is in them that keep me buying more. Five simple ingredients and a great philosophy: cruelty-free, plant-based, free of parabens, artificial colors and dyes. Kinda puts a whole different perspective on your daily shower, doesn’t it?
No weird residue left behind on your skin, no artificial perfumes. My one minor complaint is that the square size is a bit bulky for my hands, so the bar tends to fly around the shower until it gets whittled down to a more manageable shape.
If you or someone you love is a “soap collector” like I am, these pure and beautifully-scented bars (or are they “squares??”) will be a welcome addition to the bath. Plantlife also offers body washes and lotions, essential oils, scrubs, and other natural body care products.
Organically Clean Home
And finally, something for the do-it-yourselfer, the lover of safe cleaning products, and the essential oil-addicted. This book, The Organically Clean Home, by Becky Rapinchuk, is not new. In fact, I reviewed it two years ago – but I get such use out of it that I had to share it here for those who have not seen or heard of it.
I use the daily shower spray, well, every day post-shower. My bathroom sink gets a lemony declogger every few weeks. After washing Ikey’s towels I sanitize the washing machine – as suggested by Becky – with nothing more than white vinegar and a good long soak in very hot water. My microwave looks and smells a lot less scary after it goes through a lemon-scented steam bath. See how much use I get out of this book? It’s gone and made itself indispensable!
Best of luck with your gift-finding and giving this year. And – an early and heartfelt happy holidays to one and all. May it be a peaceful, tasty, clean, good-smelling family- and friend-filled time.
(This post contains a buttload of Amazon affiliate links. Clicking on them and then making a purchase doesn’t affect the price you pay, but it does throw a few cents my way and that makes blogging just that much more worthwhile. Thank you.)