Monday, March 11, 2013

2 years of blogging, raw sushi, and raw chilli-cinnamon-sea salt chocolates

Today marks two years since Bite-Sized Thoughts started. I have taken it as an opportunity for reflection and for edible celebration.

Raw vegetable sushi and raw chilli-cinnamon-sea salt chocolates.

On the reflection side of things, I continue to get a lot of pleasure from blogging and the blogging community. I am more creative in the kitchen than I was two years ago. I know a lot more about vegan and vegetarian cooking and eating, and have seen my eating preferences and patterns change and evolve. I have met (in a virtual sense) people with whom I feel a huge amount of connection, especially when considering that our interactions are limited to online comments and discussions.

From a blog perspective, the last year saw me switch from my blogspot address to, create a (very basic) favicon for the blog, and start participating in link-up events like Ricki's Wellness Weekends, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Cityhippyfarmgirl's 'loving this week' posts, and Celia's In My Kitchen series. More recently, I changed my header again and learned how to do drop-down menus.

Bite-sized thoughts version 1 (2011-2012)

According to Google Analytics, the most frequently viewed posts in the last year were:
  1. Body image and eating disorders awareness week (posted September 2011)
  2. Les Mills Body Attack (posted July 2011)
  3. Making non-dairy yoghurt (November 2011)
  4. Sweet potato chickpea and hemp seed veggie burgers (posted August 2012)
  5. Vegemite, Marmite and Promite (November 2011)
  6. Raw vegan cheesecake, three ways (my one year anniversary post, March 2012)
  7. Thai fish cakes, vegetarian style (March 2012)
  8. Treehouses (May 2012)
  9. Raspberry and white chocolate muffins, for my parents (October 2011)
  10. Vegan lemon slice for a modern afternoon tea (June 2012)

I think we all have a list of amusing search terms that somehow led someone to our blog. In the last year, some of the more amusing phrases to lead here include...

  • "Yılbaşı yemekleri."  Apparently, this is Turkish for New Year's Eve dinners. How and why multiple people have used it to search for this site is beyond me.
  • "New york times white bean pasta."  I'm pretty sure no New York Times recipes are on my blog. And hardly any pasta ones.
  • "Are fish cakes vegetarian?"  Um, no. 
  • "Good thoughts in english with images."  What?
  • "Bicep hurts shooting basketball."  This one I understand. I feel your pain.
  •  "Bite hair."  I don't really want to know what this is about.
  • "Green and black's dark chocolate tastes like liquorice?"  No, it doesn't, but now I wish it did.
  • "How do I know if I broke my toe."  Frankly, I don't think I'm the person you should be asking...

Bite-sized thoughts version 2 (2012-2013)

Moving to the edible part of today's post, I realised that I set the bar a bit high last year by making three types of raw vegan cheesecake for my one year blog anniversary. Such foolish enthusiasm! I don't have three varieties of raw vegan dessert for you today, but I decided to stick with the raw theme for the simple reason that I find it fun. My diet is not predominantly or even mostly raw, but I find that making raw vegan dishes is even more rewarding than making vegan ones. It is like kitchen alchemy.

Raw sushi must be one of the easiest raw dishes to make, although I got into a muddle about whether mirin and rice wine vinegar are technically raw or not. (Usually I wouldn't worry, but if I was calling this raw, I wanted to make sure it actually was.) My version uses tahini for flavour and carrot, capsicum and watercress as vegetable fillings. If you like avocado, that would be a great option to include too.

My sushi is always messy and this raw version is no exception. For images of neater raw sushi, I recommend the pictures in Hannah's recent post on Wayfaring Chocolate!

Raw vegetable sushi
Makes 2 large handrolls, or 10 large slices.
Raw and vegan.
Food processor required.

1/4 head cauliflower
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp agave nectar (to taste)
Pinch salt
2 tbsp unhulled tahini
2 sheets nori (dried, not roasted)
1 medium carrot, cut into thin slices
1 small capsicum, cut into thin slices
A thick handful of watercress

Process the cauliflower in a food processor until fine and rice-like in texture. Mix through the apple cider vinegar, agave and salt and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Take one sheet of nori and lay flat on a chopping board, or sushi mat if you have one (I don't). Spread approximately half of the cauliflower mix over half of the nori sheet, leaving an inch at the bottom edge and several inches at the top edge. 

Spread 1 tablespoon of the tahini over the cauliflower, and then place your vegetable fillings in a row towards the bottom of the sheet. Roll up and seal nori edges with water as required.

Repeat for the second nori sheet. 

Slice and serve.

This is, obviously, different in texture and flavour to rice-filled sushi. If you don't expect a like-for-like substitution, I think most people would enjoy it. It is certainly an easy way to boost your intake of vegetables, and I think the mix of cauliflower rice with fruit fillings would be an enjoyable combination too. I'd also like to experiment further with including dried herbs and seasonings in the cauliflower mix.

Raw sushi is all well and good, but I will confess to being more excited about the second dish I made. These individual raw chocolates are made with cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, chilli flakes, cinnamon and sea salt. I loved them.

Before looking into raw chocolate making, I didn't really have any idea how it was done. It turns out that it's surprisingly simple. You need to invest in cacao butter, and may also want to purchase cacao nibs, but you're likely to have most of the other necessary components in your kitchen. What is more, while I spent $30 on the cacao butter, nibs and raw cacao powder, those purchases should allow me to make another 3 or 4 batches similar to the one below. This places the cost per 100g of chocolate in the region of $4 - $5, including the cost of other ingredients, whereas commercial raw chocolate costs at least $10 per 100g (around me anyway).

Raw cacao butter and raw cacao nibs.

Cost aside, there are other advantages to making chocolate this way yourself: it is really fun, and you design your flavour. The following recipe takes you through what I did, but you can modify the cocoa percentage and the flavour add-ins to taste.

Raw chilli-cinnamon-sea salt dark chocolate
Makes about 240g, or 24 small chocolates.
Raw and vegan.
71% cocoa content.
Inspiration drawn from Choc Chic's simple raw chocolate recipe
Indigo Herbs post on how to make raw chocolate
and the chocolate making process outlined on Pana Chocolate.

60g (~1/2 cup) raw cacao butter
80g (~3/4 cup) raw cacao powder (or regular / roasted cacao powder, if preferred)
30g (~1/4 cup) raw cacao nibs (or more cacao powder)
65-70g (~1/4 cup) agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)

Lay out individual silicon moulds for setting the chocolate in, or use cupcake liners if you don't have moulds available.

Create a double-boiler system by placing a glass dish on top of a large saucepan half-filled with water. Heat the water over low heat.

If you want to ensure the chocolate is raw, use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the glass dish and ensure it stays below 42'C / 108'F. If you aren't worried about the raw aspect, keeping the water in the saucepan below simmering point should approximate a temperature below 42'C anyway.

Add the cacao butter to the glass dish and stir regularly until it has fully melted. This step may take up to 5 minutes.

When the cacao butter has melted, add the cacao nibs and cacao powder. Stir until dissolved (the nibs will still be identifiable).

Add the agave and stir until incorporated, and then add the vanilla, sea salt, cinnamon and chilli flakes (or other flavourings to taste).

Transfer into your moulds / cupcake liners and set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Left to right: Cacao butter in unmelted form; melted cacao butter; liquid raw chocolate.

I can only describe this chocolate as wonderful. I am sure I am a little biased, and I'd love it if you tried a version out yourself and let me know how you got on. For now, though, let me say that if I bought this in a shop I would definitely buy it again.

The chilli gives a subtle kick without being overpowering, the sea salt comes through in waves, and the cinnamon is only just detectable but works to brings the different flavours together. The nibs provide a subtle texture contrast and the chocolate is dark and deep and slightly sweet. I think the texture of the cacao nibs also helps to avoid (or, perhaps, to distract from) the grittiness that sometimes accompanies raw chocolate.

I can not wait to make more, and to try different flavours.

Happy two years from bite-sized thoughts!

Thank you to each and every one of you who stops by, leaves a comment, or lets me know that you've tried out a recipe - you all contribute to the pleasure I get from blogging and blog reading.


  1. Wow two years! Congratulations, such a fantastic achievement.

  2. Happy blog-i-versary to you!!!! :D
    Sushi with cauli-rice looks good! Never tried it but always wanted to!

    1. I highly recommend it Sandy, and it's actually even easier than regular sushi on account of not having to cook the rice!

  3. Wow, how awesome, congratulations! And you certainly know how to celebrate - chocolates!!!

    1. Is there any other way? ;) Thanks Adrian.

  4. Yay for 2 years! I am so happy to have found your blog, Kari - you come across as such a genuinely sweet person :) Yum, I am definitely digging your blog-birthday menu too - raw sushi AND chocolate? Perfecto. I love making raw chocolate - it's SO worth the investment I agree (cheaper in the long run, and more chocolate for all!) Plus SO good for you. Wins all around. I am eating cacao nibs as I read this, so very appropriate.

    1. Thank you so much Lou - your comment is really kind. I love the thought of you eating cacao nibs as you type too :-) They have to be one of the best snacks out there! I'm glad to hear you're a fellow raw chocolate maker too, it is a really fun way to approach chocolate.

  5. Glorious day! Never in my life would I have imagined receiving a shout-out for my sushi-rolling skillzzzz! You da bomb, baby. Also I would like EVERYTHING IN THIS POST.

    Happy second blogiversary, my friend! And many mooooooore! (That last part has to be read like how you sing it.)


    1. I read it and sung it ;)

      Thank you Hannah! I think you were one of the very first people to ever comment on a post 2-ish years ago, and I enjoy your comments as much now as I did then!

  6. Congratulations on completing 2 successful years. Keep rocking and I wish you all the best. stumbled on your blog for the first time and I am impressed.


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! And thank you :)

  7. Awesome blog and awesome recipe's on it! I am loving the dark chocolate one, I have to make that!!

  8. Congratulations on another great year. I love summary posts that allow you to reflect on where you've come... and share a tasty chocolate treat. I recently discovered how uber simple vegan chocolates can be (after one locates the coveted cocoa butter!!). :)

    1. Vegan chocolate are impressively simple for something that comes out tasting so good! I've seen cocoa butter increasingly at fancy supermarkets, so it might be getting easier to find?

      Also - thank you!

  9. Congrats on your two-year anniversary, Kari. It really is amazing that someone found your blog by googling about a broken toe! xx

  10. Congratulations on two great years, Kari. I've enjoyed reading about all of your bite sized thoughts!

  11. happy two years!!! seriously one of the tastiest reads i've found in bloggy land. :) that said...biting hair, wat the heck is up with that one?!?! :P

    1. I know! There are some odd people out there ;)

  12. Kari isn't it funny how some people get on to your blog. Some of your ones are quite eyebrow raising :-)
    So happy that I found you in blogland, your posts are always a joy to read. To another bloggy year dear lady!

    1. Thanks so much B...I have no idea how some people landed here but I'm very grateful for those of you who came in more normal ways and to you for your always lovely comments!

  13. Congratulations on two years of blogging! That's a great achievement and I love reading it.

  14. happy blogiversary - I love your celebration post and your screen grabs and especially the search terms - I wonder are many theses written about search terms - because I am sure there is some fascinating questions there :-) We have been making sushi lately - I wish I could rose it better and I quite fancy the idea of the raw cauli rice though am not sure I could convince sylvia to give up the carbs. The chocolate making is more out of my league but seems very clever and fun

    1. I am quite sure that chocolate making is well within your league, you of the bread making and lamington making and many other hard things I steer clear of! I'm not sure if cauli rice sushi would suit Sylvia's tastes but it is an enjoyable variant of the regular sushi types. I haven't tried mixing rice and cauli but have also wondered if that would work...perhaps that would suit Sylvia better.

      That idea of a thesis on search terms is a brilliant one :-)

  15. Happy two years Kari!! This is a well thought out post..:) Those sea salt chocolates looks so yummy!

    1. Thank you Brandi! And they are delicious!

  16. HAPPY 2 YEARS!!!
    What a funny post! I agree, It is probably best not to ask a food blogger to diagnose a broken leg :0!!
    I really like looking through my stats, and discovering what people actually type into the search bar. Oh and you have done so well learning how to do the drop down menu and changing your header... blogging teaches us things we never knew it would ;)

    1. It does indeed! When I think back to 2 years ago, I cringe at just how little I did know then...and suspect I might be doing the same in another 2 years when I look back at this point :P

  17. happy 2 years! looks like you've learned a lot with the blogging side of things and have tried a lot of new foods!

    1. Thank you :) And yes, I have definitely got through many, many new foods...luckily for me, mostly delicious ones.

  18. Congrats on 2 years! That's awesome. 1) all of your posts look amazing, can't wait to try the cheesecakes, 2) those search terms are awesome. I have some good ones myself, but not nearly as good as yours, and 3) raw sushi and chocolate? Amazing. :)

    1. Thanks so much Colynn! And yes, search terms go a long way to brighten up a day ;)

  19. Amazing!! I'm so happy to have found your blog, Kari - you come across as the most genuinely sweet person (plus you post delicious food!) LOVE these creations.... I have food envy right now.

  20. Congrats on 2 years of blogging Kari! I've enjoyed your posts over this time and feel honoured to have meet you in person (I still have plenty of your posts to catch up on too).

    I love the funny search terms, in fact I might have to do some digging around in Google Analytics too when I get a spare moment. Your sushi looks wonderful too!

    1. Thank you Mel :-) And as the first blogger I've had the privilege to meet in person, thank you for bringing home for me just how much I value the comments and connections that go back and forth!

  21. Congratulations on 2 years of blogging! Some of the Google search results are weird - I get the same kind of thing.

    1. The oddest thing is, who is out there even entering those terms into their search engines? Never mind that they ended up here, some phrases just seem mind boggling!

  22. Happy two years! I'm so happy you blog! : )

    Those search terms crack me up! I've had some pretty hilarious ones too. The things people search for! Too funny.

    And, as always, the recipes sound great.!

  23. Happy blogiversary! And thanks so much for sharing your sweet treats at Raw Foods Thursdays! I absolutely love my chocolate with a spicy kick, and I look forward to trying yours!

  24. Happy 2 years!! I always enjoy reading your posts and learning more about vegan and vegetarian cooking and all your insights on food and life. The search terms are hilarious! Bite hair? I see...haha
    I'm so glad we became friends through our blogs. Your genuine, kind, passionate, and bright personality shines through in your writing, and I can relate to a lot of your thoughts and opinions. I wish I can see you in action in the kitchen (is that creepy?) Your recipes all sound so creative and fun to make ;),

    1. You don't sound creepy at all, but you might be disappointed if you saw me in the kitchen ;) It isn't always smooth sailing! More generally, thanks so much for your sweet comment Min. You always make me smile with your kind words.

  25. Happy blog birthday my dear! I got so much amusement out of this post! I love seeing random search terms, I never understand how people get to my blog on the basis of some of them! And good for you for figuring out how to do drop down menus. I have NOT figured that out yet no matter how hard I try ;)

    These recipes are fantastic! I love raw sushi and chocolate is never a bad idea.

    Here's to another wonderful year! So glad I found your blog!

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