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Valenza Chocolatier

If you follow me on instagram, you might have seen this delightful collage of chocolate from Valenza Chocolatier I posted last week from their Valentine’s Day pop up event at the Hood Kitchen.

valenza chocolatierValenza Chocolatier creates gourmet chocolate confections inspired by the Italian Chocolate culture.  Master Chocolatier Amy Jo earned her  Ecole Chocolat Master Chocolatier Certification in Vancouver, and went on to study at the  ICAM Choco Scuola in Italy.  Her rich knowledge of chocolate has translated into Valenza Chocolatier, and as a result, she creates chocolate confections made with the finest local and imported Italian ingredients.

valenza chocolatier bars As someone who has a deep respect for chocolate and an even deeper respect for chocolate made with fair trade ingredients + no preservatives (you won’t find me eating Hersheys bars), I was quite excited to try some of Valenza Chocolatier’s treats for Valentine’s Day.

The Englishman and I are hazelnut fiends. and when Amy Jo told me about Nocciole Bar made with hazelnuts from Piedmont, I was sold.  This bar had a delightful balance of sweetness from the creamy milk chocolate with a touch of saltiness from the hazelnuts.  I LOVED this bar and can’t wait to get my hands on more.

valenza chocolatier flavorsThe other bar the Englishman and I tried was the decadent PB + C bar.  I think peanut butter and chocolate are one of the best combos out there and this bar did not disappoint.  Rich milk chocolate, creamy ganache…what’s not to love?

I haven’t had a chance to try the Nib Bar yet, but as a cacao lover, I feel this one would be right up my alley.  Dark chocolate + cacao nibs sounds like my idea of chocolate perfection.

valenza chocolate bars variety

In addition to bars, Amy Jo also makes bonbons (get the limoncello!), confections such as caramellos and offers chocolate workshops where you get to taste different bars and learn how to engage your senses.  I’m anxiously awaiting her next workshop so I can sign up.

If you are a chocolate lover like me or just looking for really good, high quality chocolate, you must check out Valenza Chocolatier.  You can order your chocolate through Amy Jo’s website, or purchase it at a select number of OC retailers.

Thanks Amy Jo and The Hood Kitchen for hosting the Valentine’s Day pop up and introducing me to Valenza Chocolatier!  I think I’ve found my new favorite chocolate shop.

Valentine Goji Berry Bark

Can you believe we are already to Valentine’s Day?  Weren’t we just counting down the end of 2014 and toasting 2015?  For this week’s cookbook challenge, I decided to go with something of the chocolate variety in honor of the day of love.  Enter Valentine Goji Berry Bark.

valentine goji berry bark pinTruth be told, I’m not the biggest Valentine’s Day fan.  The Englishman and I usually make dinner at home and open one of our nice bottles of wine.  We aren’t into all the fanfare and overpriced menus at restaurants.  And whether or not Valentine’s Day is your thing, you’ll definitely want to get in on this Valentine Goji Berry Bark.

This recipe comes from Practical Paleo and is one I’ve had my eye on for quite some time.  Usually when I make chocolate bark I default to my peppermint bark or my salted almond bark, but this time I decided to step outside of the box and throw in some goji berries.

valentine goji berry bark

The original recipe called for pepitas (which I didn’t have) and walnuts (which I can’t eat) so I swapped in coconut and almonds instead.  Otherwise I followed it exactly.  The goji berries give it a nice Valentine’s Day feel don’t you think?

Valentine Goji Berry Bark (from Practical Paleo)

Ingredients:

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp coconut oil or bacon fat

1/4 cup goji berries, chopped

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

In a small bowl over low heat or in the microwave, melt your chocolate and coconut oil.  Once your mixture is melted, fold in your goji berries, almonds, coconut and sea salt.

Spread mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge or freezer to cool.  Once the bark has set, chop up into small pieces or hearts if you so choose.

Who else is indifferent about Valentine’s Day?  Doing anything special?

Orangetheory Fitness

Whenever I’m offered an opportunity to try a new fitness class, my first reaction is “sign me up!”  As someone who is a lover of all things fitness, I like stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something different which is exactly what I did when I tried Orangetheory Fitness.

orange-theory-fitness-7Orangetheory Fitness has been in Orange County for a couple of years now, but I only recently discovered it thanks to the founder and chief fitlosopher of fitlosophy, Angela Mader (full discloure: Angela and I work together on fitlosophy projects).  Angela had nothing but rave reviews to say about the class, and since she loves high intensity workouts as much as I do, I knew Orangetheory Fitness was going to be great.

orangetheory fitnessThe concept behind Orangetheory Fitness is simple: group interval training broken up into treadmill work, indoor rowing and strength exercises all while wearing a heart rate monitor.

From their website: “The physiological theory behind the Orangetheory workout is known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC. By providing you with a heart-rate monitor and POD, we can monitor your 5-zone interval training sessions that we call the Orange 60. During the 60-minute workout, you will perform multiple intervals designed to produce 12 to 20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to Zones 4/5. This program design produces workout “afterburn” effect, which is an increased metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after the workout.”

I haven’t done a lot of training while wearing a heart rate monitor and love that Orangetheory offers this.  Your heart rate is tracked on a giant screen during class so you can constantly see what “zone” you are in while you are working out, with the idea of starting out at your “base” pace and them moving into the “push” aka orange/red zone.

So let’s talk about the workout.   The class is broken up into groups with some people starting on the treadmill and some on the floor/indoor rower.  Then throughout the class you switch stations so you’re constantly on the move.

OTF indoorI’ll admit I thought at first the treadmill would be a piece of cake since I have run a few half marathons and do interval training on a regular basis but I was wrong.  Our first set of treadmill sprints was rolling hills at our “push” pace which included a 4%, 6% and 8% incline on and then back down again.  By the time we reached 8% I was a sweaty mess and cursing under my breath.  Treadmill inclines + sprinting is no joke!

Strength training on the floor was next and it included dumbbell squats, tricep extensions and presses.  Oh and more work on the indoor rower before we returned to the treadmill for our next round of treadmill work.  By the end of the workout I was a sweaty mess as evidenced below.

orangetheoryfitness afterOne of my favorite things about Orangetheory Fitness is that no two classes are the same.  I’ve been to a class where we do 25 min of work on the treadmill before switching to strength and I’ve been to a class where the treadmill sprints were fast and furious with strength exercises interspersed in between.  The constant variation of the workouts is one of the reasons why I love Orangetheory so much.

If you are looking to change-up your routine or to just have a great workout, then I highly recommend Orangetheory Fitness.  It’s fun, fast, and will definitely whip you into shape.  As a runner, I can see how this workout would be hugely beneficial if you are looking to get faster – it’s the perfect way to get some extra speedwork in.

Big thanks to Angela for introducing me to Orangetheory Fitness and to the OTF Newport Beach team for offering me some free classes.  I’ll definitely be back to get into the orange (and red!) zone.

2015 cookbook challenge

Happy New Year!  Did anyone do anything exciting to ring in 2015?  Per usual, the Englishman and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with In-N-Out Burger, Champagne and movies.  I prefer to set goals at the beginning of each year rather than “resolutions” and one of my goals this year is to cook more new recipes, so I’ve decided to do a 2015 cookbook challenge.

Every year for Christmas and my birthday  I’m fortunate enough to be gifted with lovely cookbooks.  I’ll spend a couple of days pouring through them and writing down the recipes I want to make, and then alas, I’ll only make one or two from them and go back to old standbys.  And since I have accumulated quite the collection of cookbooks, it was time to do something about it.

cookbook lineupMy goal for the year is to create one new recipe from one of my cookbooks each week.  It can be as simple as a drink recipe, or a baked treat or even an entrée,  but it has to be something new.  Hopefully this will inspire me to get more creative in the kitchen!

The inaugural recipe of the 2015 cookbook challenge is Braised Winter Cabbage and Potatoes from Thug Kitchen.

braised cabbage and potatoesI chose this recipe for a couple of reasons:

1. It was the perfect New Year’s Day food since cabbage is supposed to bring good luck for the year.

2. I’ve been wanting to try braising cabbage for a while now and haven’t done it yet.

Thug Kitchen is a vegan cookbook, but I’m a pretty big carnivore, so I made it with beef stock instead of veggie stock and added ground pork meatballs on the side.

braised cabbage meatballsThis recipe is super easy to throw together and is full of good things like cabbage, carrots, potatoes and celery.  It was the perfect winter meal.

So if you are vegan/vegetarian/want to add more vegetables to your diet, then you should definitely grab the Thug Kitchen cookbook because who doesn’t want to eat like they give a f*ck?

1 recipe down, 51 to go!  What are your food goals for 2015?