When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread + A Nutritious Breakfast Idea (dairy-free, gluten-free)

Last Friday, CBC's Marketplace aired an interesting episode dedicated to food labelling, and the ways in which food companies try to persuade shoppers that their products are healthy choices by making deceiving nutritional claims.  This practice probably doesn't come as a surprise to many of us; we've heard plenty of stories in the media in recent years that have revealed the plain truth about what exactly is inside the packages of food that line our grocery store shelves.  One product that has received quite a lot of attention of late is a certain chocolate hazelnut spread.  While it definitely tastes delicious, the spread is far from a nutritious breakfast food as the manufacturer would like us to believe. (If you're interested in seeing exactly what is inside a tablespoon of nutella, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff gives an eye-opening demonstration in this Marketplace clip.)

Knowledge is power, and when we take the time to really read and understand the labels on packaged foods, we gain the wisdom to make healthier choices for ourselves and our families.  If you're a fan of chocolate hazelnut spread, you can choose a nutritious homemade version like the one I made this weekend that stars hazelnuts rather than sugar as its main ingredient.  There's no need to hide this easy-to-make and richly flavourful spread behind misleading claims; it really can be part of a nutritious breakfast.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

1 1/2 cups natural hazelnuts
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp vanilla
a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Spread the hazelnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and lightly toast them in the oven for about 8 minutes.  Place the toasted hazelnuts in a tea towel and rub them with the towel to remove as much of their skins as possible.  

Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process on high, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the hazelnuts are finely ground.  (This could take several minutes to get them ground finely enough.)

In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm the coconut milk and add the cocoa powder, stirring until a smooth mixture forms.  Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the honey and vanilla.

Add the coconut milk and cocoa mixture to the ground hazelnuts in the food processor bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.  Process on high speed for another several minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until a smooth spread forms.

Spoon the chocolate hazelnut spread into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and store it in the refrigerator.

We like to stir a spoonful of this nutty, chocolatey spread into a bowl of oatmeal topped with bananas, hazelnuts, and cinnamon in the morning -- it's a happy way to start the day.  

Chocolate Hazelnut and Banana Oatmeal

1 serving of hot oatmeal, prepared according to package directions 
  (*use certified pure oats, or quinoa flakes, or a hot brown rice cereal for gluten-free options)
1 small banana, half of it coarsely chopped and half of it sliced into rounds
1 tbsp homemade chocolate hazelnut spread
chopped hazelnuts and cinnamon, for sprinkling on top
a splash of unsweetened almond milk

Spoon the hot prepared oatmeal into a bowl and stir in the chopped bananas.  Swirl in the chocolate hazelnut spread with a spoon, then top the oatmeal with the sliced bananas, chopped hazelnuts, and a bit of cinnamon.  Add a splash of almond milk and serve.  Delicious!

It's a good feeling to be able to make healthier, homemade alternatives to packaged foods that aren't all they claim to be.  I'd love to hear about your kitchen successes in recreating store-bought favourites at home -- please share your ideas!

This recipe is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.


  1. This look delicious, thanks for sharing it at Gluten Free Wednesdays - I love hazelnut spread :)


    1. Thanks Cassidy! I love the Gluten-Free Wednesday carnivals -- there are always lots of delicious looking food ideas there, and it's great to have the opportunity to share recipes. :)