Cuckoo for Koko Chocolate

I’ve had this post in my ‘drafts’ folder for some time, and now that most of us have given up on our ‘healthy eating’ resolutions, it wont seems so sinful to post about chocolate.

I came across Koko Chocolates one dull day on twitter, the bio sounded good, “Ottawa’s finest, artisan chocolate. Made fresh with premium Belgian chocolate – the way it should be!” so I redirected to the company’s web page.  I judge a lot about a company and its product by the state of their website and this one made a great impression straight away. Very easy to navigate, just the right amount of information, and lots of pictures -pictures of truffles that can only be described as eye candy! How can you not crave something called “Italian Lover” that’s flavoured with Amaretto and Cognac and has elegant chocolate drizzles draped artfully over it? Or a chocolate “Margarita” infused with lime and tequila and adorable little salt crystals neatly garnishing one corner?  Short story: you can’t.

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The truffles are said to have ganache centers surrounded by premium Belgian chocolate -fine, I can get that anywhere. They are made fresh and contain no preservatives – okay that’s a nice big plus. Koko Chocolates is also owned and operated by two Ottawa women, Lori Sword and Jen Winter, who both sound like fantastic people – and you gotta love a small local business. When I saw that Koko Chocolates was within walking distance of my office -I was sold. It was fate! I knew I had to try  theses delicious looking truffles, the question now became how many?

Click on the Ordering tab (subtitle: mmm yummy) and you get a list of the 9 standard truffle flavours and one seasonal flavour that has already changed since I ordered in November. Scroll to the bottom and you can see the quantity options.

  • There is a sleeve of 3 truffles: far to little, that would just be a tease.
  • A small box of 8: not bad, but which two would I leave behind? No, I have to try them all.
  • A medium box of 18: better, I’d get to try them all and share some with a friend.
  • A large box of 32: great, more than enough to go around!

I oscillated between getting the medium and large box for a while, finding it a bit hard to spend $40 on a box of chocolates. But when I did the math it turned out that no matter what box I went with, the truffles where about $1.35 each; a very fair price for gourmet artisan chocolate! I was having family over that night so I splurged and got the big juicy box.

They were a hit! My only regret was that I didn’t save them for a more discerning crowd. My parents probably thought “yes, they are better than Pot of Gold” but it stopped there. Had I been with some of my chocolate snob amigas, they would have gone bananas (mmm, banana flavoured truffle?) for the two most unique flavours “Thai Chili” and the above mentioned “Margarita”.  All the truffles were chocolaty perfection; smooth, rich, and with well proportioned sweetness that brought out the flavours. But the fun creativity of the unique varieties was what was really exciting.

The 32 truffles I ordered were presented in a lovely green box with and shiny brown bow, the whole kit foreshadowing the elegant little chocolates to come. These chocolates in any amount and combination would make a lovely gift, and hey, isn’t Valentines day only 12 days away? Isn’t it kind of convention to give chocolates on that day? Humm, hint, hint …. who am I kidding? he’ll never read this.

Anyway! Also on the Ordering tab are Tortoises (kinda like Turtles), “A layer of pecans and gooey caramel between two layers of dark chocolate” and Koko Bark, “Dark Belgian chocolate bark with roasted almonds” which both look and sound delicious but I have not yet had the pleasure of sampling them. Koko also seems to offer special event services for weddings, showers, and corporate gifts, something I will keep in mind should I ever require to-die-for bonbonnières. For now though, I am content with indulging in the guilty pleasure of buying myself chocolate, and I can’t wait to try the new seasonal flavor; “Cinnamon Love”. Doesn’t it look scrumptious?

Great News! Lacey update.

UPDATE 02/23/2011 – Lacey got adopted! Once she was all better it didn’t take long for this little cutie to find her forever home!

Thanks to the amazing staff at the Ottawa Humans Society, Lacey pulled through. One of the OHS staff took Lacey into her home and tended to her special needs the moment our little foster kitten was off fluids. Now she is back with us, a little skinny, on antibiotics, and with a cold, but we look forward to being a part of her full recovery. Once she is all better, she will be put up for adoption and finally settle down int her forever home.

Lacey back with us and Chilin' with Dexter.

3 Surprising Reasons I Love Yoga

Five thousand years ago, yoga developed as a spiritual practice to achieve true happiness, liberation and enlightenment that comes from union with the divine consciousness -the transcendent Self. Few people today practice yoga quite so spiritually, and many focus more on its psycho-physiological benefits that allow you to tune in, chill out, and shape up all at the same time. I am defiantly part of the later class of yoga lovers, and appreciate taking time for my self, the calories I burn, and how the pranayama breathing exercises help me manage my asthma.

While in savasana yesterday, a relaxing posture where you are supposed to clear you mind and refuse to hold onto thoughts, I kept thinking of why I loved coming to class. The reasons above occurred to me first and, as instructed, I acknowledged them and then let them float away. Then these popped into my head and wouldn’t budge, proving just how bad I am at pose that requires you to lie on your back like a corpse and do nothing.

FYI, I practise Moksha yoga, a form of hot yoga. 

1. The clothes                                                                                                                                  

I am not a lululemon snob … I can’t afford to be. I do have two pieces that I rotate into my workout wardrobe, and I have to admit they are my favourites. But all yoga clothes are wonderful; garments that hug your body but are not constrictive, that allow you to breath and move. After work, it is a fantastic feeling to strip off the pantyhose, pencil skirt, and underwire bra and slip into soft comfy yoga attire. A lot of active wear is also colourful, which is a nice change from the monotonous monochromatic black that is that staple of the Ottawa worker.

Times Square New York Yoga
2. The smell 
            
Not the smell after 40+ people did yoga in a 37ºC+ room; that would be sweat. But the smell that hits me when I walk into the building. Moksha yoga operates based on a deep sense of responsibility for the effect of our actions on the natural environment. The studios are built with sustainable and non-toxic supplies, lights and heating systems are low consumption and all studios are cleaned with environmentally friendly cleaning products. This cleaning product is what generates the smell I look forward to so much. It includes tea tree oil which has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, as well as heavy spicy woodsy scent. I use other non-toxic cleaning materials at home, and I suppose I could add tea tree oil since I love the smell so much. But I like having that scent reserved for my yoga practice. It triggers me to be silent and focused, to be calm and relaxed, and to begin looking inward.
 

3. No shoes                                                                                                                                               

As someone who has tried her fair share of fitness regimes, I can say that the best are the ones that do not require shoes; swimming, kickboxing, and yoga. Shoes are a pain in the arse. They are heavy and bulky, they take up way too much room in a gym bag, shoes are expensive, and they inevitably become irreversibly stinky. For yoga my shorts, top, sports bra, headband, and micro fleece towel can fold up to fit inside a manila envelope (thanks to Apple, this now seems to be the standard for ‘small’). My yoga mat rolls up to fit neatly into its yoga bag, which also houses the clothes and water bottle I would carry with me every day anyway. All this slings unobtrusively on my back and weighs next to nothing. No god-awful shoes tied to the bag by the laces, no socks to stuff inside them, and when I get to the studio I take off my shoes and leave them off. In the midst of a Canadian winter, where even at home socks and slippers are a necessity, being barefoot is a luxury only afforded in the hot room.  

Lacey Update

A week ago I posted about our foster kittens we had taken care of while they had colds. When they were better, we brought them back to the animal shelter for their routine spay and neuter surgeries and the little boy, Davis, got adopted right away. The little girl, Lacey,  isn’t doing very well. She got sick after her sugary and isn’t eating.

The people at the OHS do all they can for the animals in their care, but the cramped conditions in the tiny 43-year-old building creates a stressful environment for the animals and many fall sick before they are adopted. Right now she is even too ill for us to re-foster her.  I can’t stop thinking of this poor, beautiful little kitten who spent a month with us happy and healthy. The Ottawa Humane Society is now building a new shelter, a state of the art facility that will bring about lasting, positive outcomes in every department and allow them to save, treat, house and place more animals. Lacey is just one case out of thousands that showcase just how badly this new shelter is needed. Liam and I have already pledged to donate $2500 towards the new building and only wish it could be more.I urge every animal lover in the Ottawa area to check out the Breaking Ground campaign and see how you could help.

And any positive thoughts for Lacey will also be deeply felt and appreciated.

Lacey, Chillin' on our bed

“Garbage” “Stew”

Last night in Ottawa it was -20ºC with the wind-chill. There had been a lot of snow the night before and my bus ride home took almost twice as long as usual. I was happy to be in my warm apartment safe and sound, and wanted something delicious and hardy for dinner. This was a problem. I had hardly anything in the fridge and am a newbie vegetarian -only 5 moths in- so I don’t yet have a large repertoire of veggie recipes. In my past carnivorous days, when the snow fell and my socks were wet, I would have made my grandmothers mouth-watering beef stew. Soft chunks of potato, peas, carrots, and above all, succulent tender shreds of beef; my vovó* Eva was an amazing cook. She never struggled with what to prepare for dinner and could whip up miracles with ease and zero planning. I remembered her making what she called ‘garbage soup’, where she would take whatever odds and ends were left in the fridge and make a soup that was never the same and always delicious. True to her poor Portuguese upbringing, vovó could never bear to throw out the left over chicken that my grandfather didn’t get around to snacking on, the ¼ bell pepper that wasn’t needed, or the soft potatoes under the sink that had sprouted but not rotted. Today, hers would have been a model for the modern  eco-kitchen.

Fortified by her memory (and hoping I had inherited some sort of cooking gene) I set out to forage in my kitchen for garbage that could be transformed into a meal. First the fridge; the Brita water-pitcher seemed to laugh at me while I took out the margarine –great start. The door held an army of unhelpful salad dressings and a small cube of mozzarella cheese, which I placed next to the margarine. There were a few carrots in the crisper and I considered them a great find. Once I added an onion and some garlic cloves from under my sink I felt like I was doing pretty well. Moving on to the pantry, which I was happy to see was somewhat well stocked, I added canned kidney beans, caned peas, canned tomatoes, and a box of instant mashed potatoes to my rubbish heap.

I was excited now, the creative juices were flowing, and I was certain my dish would turnout to be a culinary masterpiece and family staple my granddaughters would be blogging about one day. I drizzled oil into a pot, diced the garlic and got it sizzling. I cut the onions into semi-circles and let them go opaque while chopping the carrots. I like to let the onions ‘open’ so I added about an inch of water to the pot and let it heat up. Then I started throwing in everything else; carrots, beans, peas and tomatoes. I didn’t add more water –garbage soup was my grandmothers’ thing– but  the resultant mixture was fluid enough to boil and cook the carrots. I covered the pot simmering and started on the mash. Once I was confident the carrots were close to being soft enough, I mixed the two pots together creating a reddish-brown slop that somehow still looked appetizing. I placed the mess in a CorningWare dish, grated the cheese over it, and stuck it in the oven at 350º for about 20 minuets.


I really don’t know what to call my dinner last night, it wasn’t quite shepherds’ pie, it wasn’t quite stew. My best description would be stew-like hearty vegetable mashed potato melt, but I’m just going to lovingly name it garbage stew. Although not the culinary masterpiece I was going for, the dish more than satisfied my need for something warm, flavourful, and vegetarian on a cold winter’s night. It was substantial and my boyfriend enjoyed it, and I used the carrots and cheese that would have otherwise gone bad. I will never make this dish again, because that is not the nature of garbage stew. Next time it will be different, but that’s what is exciting about cooking isn’t it?

Vovó would think so.

*the Portuguese word for grandmother is avó, but neither myself, my brother, or any of our cousins grew out of our baby-speak version; vovó.