Bursting Hearts & Bark

My dad was an avid gardener. He had a beautiful and abundant garden full of vegetables, colorful annuals & perennials. He used to take such pride in giving me a
tour during each phase of the growing season. It was a special time that I cherished with him.

One of my favorites in the garden were the Bleeding Heart flowers. I was really enamored with them. I not only thought those little heart shaped flowers were really pretty, I was also amazed that nature could create a little flower that actually looked like a heart with blood dripping from it. I also loved the name of the flower, especially the way my dad pronounced it with his Boston accent. I think of my dad whenever I see them and can hear him pointing them out to me.

I was doing my weekly grocery shopping recently and I came across a couple of items that weren’t on my list; goji berries and golden berries, both listed as a “special buy, limited availability”. I’m usually pretty good at sticking to my list, but every so often make an impulse purchase or two. The “limited availability” really had me. I certainly didn’t want to miss out, so I grabbed a bag of each!

Once I got home I sampled a few of each and thought about how I’d use them. Naturally I thought about doing something with them involving chocolate. Since it’s close to Valentine’s Day, and the goji berries are red I thought it would be fun to do something using my little heart molds. The red goji berry peeking out of the chocolate heart reminded me of the little bleeding heart flowers. I feel like bleeding heart seems like a sad name for a treat celebrating the holiday of love, so thought I’d call them Bursting Hearts, because they’re bursting with love!
Quick & Easy Chocolate

This recipe is perfect when you want a quick and easy chocolate. It’s sweetened with pure maple syrup making it a treat with some added nutritional benefits. It can be used as a base for molded chocolate or bark, or just dropped in dollops on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet to make your own little “chocolate kisses”. I used goji berries in my Bursting Hearts & golden berries & cacao nibs in my bark. This chocolate can get slightly soft if left out too long, so keeps best refrigerated.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup cacao butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cacao or cocoa
2Tbs pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt
Toppings of choice. I used goji berries in my hearts and golden berries & cacao nibs in my bark, but feel free use whatever dried fruit or nuts you like best.

Directions:
Melt cacao butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add cacao, maple syrup, vanilla & sea salt. Stir until melted. Spoon into desired molds.  Place in freezer for about 10 minutes or until completely frozen. Remove from freezer and pop out of molds.

*Pictured are my Bursting Hearts & Golden Berry Bark.

For the Bursting Hearts, my molds were about 1/2” hearts. To make them follow directions above and spoon into 1/2″ heart shaped molds. Carefully place a goji berry in the center of each heart. Place in freezer for about 10 minutes or until completely frozen. Remove from freezer and pop out of molds. Store in refrigerator.

I had some chocolate left after filling the heart molds so decided to make some bark with the rest of it. I lined a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and poured the rest of the chocolate onto it. I strategically placed some golden berries and sprinkled on some cacao nibs and placed it in the freezer for about 10 minutes until it was completely solid, removed from the freezer and broke into pieces. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

The nice thing about bark is you can get creative with whatever ingredients you like, unsweetened coconut, nuts, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, whatever your heart desires!

Prep Note: Using the ingredients I used, this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, grain-free, paleo & vegan

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