Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Tip for Chocolate-Lovers to Help Prevent that Holiday Weight Gain!

Seeing Chocolate this Holiday Season Make You Want to Eat it?  Research shows that over-indulgence is attributable to certain types of advertising - or simply too much advertising!
A few days ago I read an article that highlighted the results of a study on thin models in chocolate advertisements.  The research showed that even the most restrained consumers (i.e. those on diets) over-indulge when they see thin models advertising chocolate.
This got me to thinking about chocolate and how easy it is to over-indulge during the lead-up to celebratory times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine's Day. I am usually at the point where I have trouble pulling my pants over my thighs before I realize that I have been over-indulging. I often wonder why that sweet-tooth has crept up on me again, then realize that it is because I am absolutely surrounded in sweets. Well, I am a chocolatier, cake decorator and baker, so I am usually surrounded in sweets, but not to the level that the holidays can bring on. 
In the lead-up to Christmas, every step through the grocery store, pharmacy or mall presents a new sweet temptation that is not normally there during the rest of the year. This year alone, I have seen a release of new dessert products like never before, such as the President's Choice Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops or PC's mini cupcake chocolates. Who can resist throwing such goodies into the cart with the rest of the weekly grocery order?
We are also surrounded in sweets through television and print media. Morning news programs, daytime talk shows and national magazines use this time of year to display images of delicious products or recipes that can make a holiday dinner extra-special. Even if one does not read the recipes, it is impossible to get away from the images. 
Interestingly, the same article also pointed out what I have known for years: Women instantly want to eat chocolate when they see a picture of it or simply hear it mentioned in conversation. The article said that the researchers "...also found the women had a strong impulse to consume chocolate when presented with negative messaging - including warnings that chocolate could lead to obesity." (Ref) So even when being told we might get fat from eating chocolate, all we hear is the word "chocolate" and our mouths begin to salivate.
So for a chocolate lover, what is the solution?  Well, here is one major tip to help stop the annual weight gain this holiday season, while still enjoying your favourite chocolate:
Eat only what you truly enjoy and
do not consume unwanted calories. 
So what does that mean exactly?  Well, here are my five 'tips within the tip':
1. Do not eat what you do not like. If you are a chocolate lover and only like chocolate desserts, do not add that slice of apple pie to your dessert plate. And if you are out enjoying dinner and that sweet vanilla cake arrives at your table, pass it along to some who might like it better and think about that special dark chocolate truffle or chocolate bar that you might have in the cupboard for a special occasion.  Then, just wait the evening out and treat yourself at home.  Because what will happen if you eat the vanilla cake that you do not really want?  You'll still eat chocolate when you get home because you were craving it in the first place! So instead of consuming twice the calories, wait it out and you will be proud of yourself for your self-control.
2. Pack a small piece of your favourite chocolate in your purse or coat pocket for every event - even the company Christmas party.  Again, if you are a chocolate lover, you cannot count on the served dessert being chocolaty. This will save you from consuming those unwanted calories.
3. Ignore your friends' and family's criticism.  If you opt out of the stuffing or ham or mashed potatoes because you never really liked it anyway, just so you could eat a bigger piece of chocolate cheesecake later, who cares what other people think?  They will eventually come to accept your eating habits, so just ignore their comments on the missing ham until they accept it as your normal behaviour.
I am one of those people who lives in fear of lumpy mashed potatoes because of one childhood experience that I will never forget, so I just don't eat them anymore. And I recall a lot of the comments that people have made to me over the years when my plate has looked sparse because mashed potatoes were missing from it.  Some people said things like: "Oh what, are you on the Atkins diet now?" and "Are we not eating carbs anymore?" or my favourite, "Watch out, you might become an anorexic" Funny, they were always quiet when they saw me eat a man-sized piece of chocolate cheesecake after dinner. Unless to comment on the unfairness of my great metabolism that I can eat dessert and get away with it.  Um, it is not metabolism, it is because I skipped the mashed potatoes!
Now all that said, the same goes the other way: if you are a fan of mashed potatoes and prefer them to chocolate, then eat the potatoes and ignore the chocolate! And then ignore your friends' comments later when you choose not to eat dessert.
4. Wait for the good stuff.  Hold off each day as long as possible until you get something that you really want to eat. If your husband is eating a cinnamon roll for breakfast, do not give in and have one yourself because it smells good (unless your true love is cinnamon rolls!).  Wait until your lunch break when you can visit your favourite cafe and pick up that dark chocolate bar that you always enjoy.  Or even try to wait until evening time to have that slice of rich, chocolate dessert. If you give in to your sweet tooth first thing in the morning, you will be giving in all day and consuming more sugar and more calories.
5. Forget the homemade Christmas cookies. Those things are never chocolaty enough anyway!  If you are a chocolate-lover like me, you will never be satisfied with the homemade shortbread's with jelly in the middle or the sugar cookies.  Just choose the one that is most chocolaty (to make your host or grandmother happy) and wait until you can get your hands on something more chocolaty at home.
6. If you have to, make a list of your absolute favourite desserts and chocolates this Christmas season.  So that next time, you will think before you eat those unwanted calories. If you love gourmet chocolate truffles made with real cream, just ignore that Pot of Gold box that is sitting on the buffet table. You know you are just going to end up grossed out because you accidentally took the sweet, orange chocolate cream with the white icing centre. Wait it out, and eat from your special truffle stash at home.  And if you do not have a special chocolate stash, stay up a little later and make up a batch of cream truffles (and try not to eat the entire batch before it sets or while you are rolling them into balls!).  Trust me, you will be proud of yourself for waiting. And you can freeze the extras so that you do have a special stash the next time.
So when you start craving chocolate simply because you heard the word 'chocolate', do not worry about over-indulging.  Just make sure that you are choosing the chocolate that you really want to eat, and not eating your not-so-favourite dessert simply because it is there.
Now, if I can just follow my own tips, this will be a not-so-sweet sweet Christmas season!
Full reference for the article mentioned above:  
Chocolate adverts portraying ‘ideal’ thin models may tempt even the most restrained of consumers to overindulge, suggest researchers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Ultimate Canadian Chocolate Lover's Gift-Giving Guide

Need a gift for a Canadian chocolate lover? Or are you putting together a Canadian care-package? You have come to the right place! I have developed the Ultimate List of Canadian Chocolate Makers.

Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers and truffle, praline and ganache artisans have popped up all over the place in recent years. The following list is not complete, so if you know any that should be added, please add a Comment below or send me an e-mail at

Also, see the list of specialty craft chocolate retailers for where you can buy 'bean to bar' chocolate, and monthly subscription services in Canada.

For a full and regularly updated list of Canadian craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers, click here.

  • Soma Chocolatemaker (Toronto, Ontario) - for the real chocolate connoisseur, Soma is the best small-batch artisan bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Canada.  They use high-grade beans and mostly Criollo and Trinitario beans but occasionally choose very high quality Forastero beans to make flavourful fine chocolate with a smooth and luxurious texture.  Soma also makes beautiful gourmet truffles and filled chocolates as well as divine drinking chocolates.  You can visit their two locations in Toronto or order via e-mail.  Check their website for more information:

  • Hummingbird Chocolate Maker (Ottawa, Ontario) - makes chocolate in small batches using single origin beans.  They make an amazing Hispaniola Dominican Repubic Bar that brings out powerful cacao bean flavours. Their chocolate is smooth and buying their full range of chocolate bars would offer a flavour experience perfect for a chocolate tasting party or as a gift for any connoisseur. Available in Ottawa Farmers Markets or on Website:
  • Beanpod (Fernie, B.C.) - an excellent choice for milk chocolate lovers is the Fernie BEAR Bar made with milk chocolate and Honeycomb - so sweet and tasty!
  • Olivia Chocolat (Cantley, QC) Making raw chocolate with maple sugar and a range of dark chocolate bars. Available online or in stores. Check their website for more information:

  • ChocoSol Traders (Toronto, ON) - pedal-powered and stone ground chocolate that is good for the soul and the environment.  Try their drinking chocolate or ChocoSol's Hemp Gold bar.  You will see hemp and chocolate in a whole new light!

  • Living Libations (Haliburton, ON) - This chocolate is definitely for that chocolate-lover who also cares about their health. The chocolate is made from raw (unroasted) beans to maintain its nutrients and antioxidants and several superfoods are added to assist with our health. Also, there is no dairy, soy, nuts, refined butter or sugar. Buy online on their website at:

  • Giddy Yoyo (Orangeville, Ontario) - makes Wild Ecuadorian Chocolate that is raw (unroasted beans) and organic.  A range of flavours from fun to healthy (incl. spirulina, a superfood that is not often found in chocolate). Available in several stores across Canada and in one store in California
  • Barry Callebaut Canada Inc. (St. Hyacinthe, QC) - this is a little larger than the others on the list!  Barry Callebaut makes chocolate and cocoa products in its large manufacturing facility near Montreal for both the food industry and artisan chocolatiers and chefs.  I love their couverture products for enrobing chocolate, available at a series of wholesalers and online stores across Canada, like Signature Find Foods in Toronto. If you are a consumer wanting to improve your home baking, you can make a purchase Vanilla Food Company. I love Callebaut White Chocolate Callets - these taste and look way better than any white chocolate that you will get at the grocery store!  
  • Choklat (Calgary, AB) makes single origin & single estate chocolate from bean-to-bar, controlling the entire process from start to finish. Now with three locations in Calgary, Choklat’s popularity is growing.  They sell in cash only, and no online shipped sales are accepted (you can order online for in-store pick-up only). They use high quality and rare beans, for instance, they make a Porcelana 70% bar.
  • Habitual Chocolate Roasters (London, ON) Local to London, this bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker makes a range of origin chocolate, including some high-percentage milk chocolate bars. Check out their line-up here. They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers and Artisans Market located in the historic Confederation Building in London, ON. Beans from various exotic locations are roasted, ground and moulded on site.

Filled Chocolates & Truffles:
  • The Chocolate TOFFLE by Ultimately Chocolate (Manitoulin Island, Ontario) - a decadent dark chocolate toffee wrapped around a milk chocolate truffle in three different flavours: Peanut Butter, Peppermint, and Hazelnut.  Artisan and hand-made with organic and fair trade chocolate.  Available on or on FoodiePages, or in Loco Beanz coffee houses on Manitoulin Island, and at other local retailers. Ultimately Chocolate also makes salted dark chocolate toffees, milk chocolate toffees and giant Peanut Butter Truffles.
  • Koko Chocolates (Ottawa, Ontario) - available on
  • Manitoulin Chocolate Works (Kagawong, Ontario) - try their Mint Meltaway filled chocolate along with a range of other flavours.  Available in store only.
  • Soma Chocolatemaker - Try their balsamic filled chocolate and their Poprocks.  Amazing flavours and amazing taste!
  • Christophe Morel - a range of gourmet gift boxes are available on the website.
  • Purdy's Chocolates - "Canadian Chocolatier since 1907. Creating hand-crafted premium chocolates from our Chocolate Kitchen in Vancouver, British Columbia." (ref: @PurdysChocolate)
  • Roger's Chocolate (Victoria, B.C.) - They've make Advent calendars and a large range of Christmas selections: Ice Wine Truffles or the Ice Wine Truffle Dark Chocolate Bar (which I tasted and liked!) would make an excellent Canadian-style gift.
  • Cococo Chocolatiers Inc. (formerly Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut) (Calgary, AB) -
  • René Rey (North Vancouver, B.C.) - Try their Organic Hedgehogs and HempHogs (truffle-filled chocolates in the shape of a hedgehog). René Rey makes everything right from the cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and nibs stage and make their own Hemp Paste, Almond paste and Hazelnut paste from their own recipes.
  • Truffle Treasures (Ottawa, ON) - with two locations in Ottawa, Truffle Treasures offers a variety of hand-made truffles, chocolate and hot chocolate.
  • Saxon Chocolates (Toronto, Ontario) - I love their new 64% dark 100 calorie chocolate bar. For filled chocolates, they have Hazelnut Truffle Firecracker gift packages as well as tins of the same truffles. They make an abundance of chocolate Christmas treats available at many retailers across Canada.  Check their website for more information.
  • President's Choice - has a huge selection of packaged products - most chocolate is made in France or Europe but the company is Canadian.
  • Laura Secord - a range of filled chocolate boxes for every chocolate appetite.  Check it out at: In its history, it was Canadian-owned, then it wasn't, and now it is Canadian-owned again!
  • Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal) - It has been three years since I was there, but I remember this chocolate shop being beautiful and styled like a jewelry store and their products looked slick, stylish and delicious. Check it out:
  • Laurent Pagés Pattiserie/Chocolaterie (Blainville, Quebec) - I have never been to his shop, but have been taught by him in Montreal and have seen his excellent work making beautiful filled chocolates:!/page_services
  • Truffle Pigs by Hagensborg (Burnaby, B.C.) - I've tried these many times and I love them.  Check out my review here. These are available in their Burnaby store or in several stores across Canada, or you can buy online:
  • Barkleys (Richmond, B.C.) - Check out these all-natural Canadian-made truffle bars.
  • rochef Chocolatier (Gatineau, QC) - a selection of pralines and truffles, as well as bars and hot chocolate.  The list of stores is here, but you can also buy any of these products online.
  • Anne of Green Gables Chocolates (Cavendish & Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island) - Enjoy P.E.I. Oysters (chocolate, pecans & toffee), chocolate caramels, truffles or assorted creams in Anne's famous playground and one of Canada's most beautiful places to visit. Or buy online at:
  • Brokmann's Truffini (Delta, B.C.) - these truffle bars and bonbons are filled with natural ingredients and very tasty. Read my recent article about their Double Dark truffle bar here.
  • Theobroma Fine Chocolates (Barrie, ON) - Decadent chocolate truffles for special events and weddings. Also available at select retailers.

These are just some of the ones that I have tried or heard about. There are so many chocolatiers that I cannot possibly list them all here - find your local artisan chocolate maker and you will find wonderful filled chocolates in your city!
 For more chocolate-makers in Canada, check the recently launched chocolates and candies category for great chocolate gift ideas from Canadian artisans from all across Canada:  

Organic & Fair Trade Chocolate by Canadian Companies:
  • Camino brand by La Siembra Co-Operative (Ottawa, ON) - chocolate bars, snacks and instant, organic and all-natural hot chocolate pouches make for great stocking stuffers - buy in stores across Canada or buy online:

  • Just Us! (Halifax, NS) Similar to Camino, Just Us! is the East Coast Fair Trade and organic coffee and chocolate marketer. You can buy their chocolate bars, bark and hot chocolate products in their cafes or, if you live elsewhere in the country, you can buy online at:

  • Theobroma Chocolat (Quebec) - an excellent range of perfectly-portioned chocolate bars made with organic chocolate and organic ingredients.  Try their banana or raspberry dark chocolate bars - so tasty and great stocking stuffers! A list of Canadian retailers who carry their products can be found here.

  • President's Choice Organics brand. The list is available here.

  • Organic Fair Inc. (Cobble Hill, B.C.) This maple and sun dried apple chocolate bar is certain to make any Canadian chocolate-lover happy. 

  • Denman Island Chocolate (British Columbia, Canada) - Located in British Columbia's Gulf Islands, Denman Island Chocolate makes 10 flavours of perfectly portioned chocolate bars that are soy, peanut and gluten-free. The chocolatiers use fresh local and imported ingredients to create just the right favour balance with the organic and Fair Trade certified chocolate that is made for them in Europe. Denman Island Chocolate bars are sold at retail outlets across Canada and the U.S.