Juniper Beetroot Truffles and the Gift of Mindful Eating
Do you ever just inhale chocolate when you’re stressed? I do. I buy myself a fancy bar of dark chocolate as a special treat, and then before I know it half of it is gone and I don’t even remember eating it. This repeating experience is what made me want to learn more about mindful eating - that is, being aware of what you are putting into your body and the sensation of it. Food engages many of our senses, which makes it the perfect tool to practice mindfulness techniques on. And besides, good food really does deserve our full attention, don’t you think?
This is all part of my “evil plan” to introduce mindfulness techniques and practices into my daily life and share them with others. It is exhausting feeling constantly distracted and distant; I want to cultivate the ability to be fully, completely, joyfully present.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you recognize, connect with, and cope with your emotions and physical sensations. It can be really helpful in a lot of different contexts, especially mental illness. If your anxious mind has a tendency to race, consider giving mindfulness a try to help calm it. The goal of mindfulness is to reach a state of full attention to your present experiences. Food, with all of the senses involved in enjoying it, is the perfect place to start.
There are a lot of resources on mindful eating* out there and it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Plus many of us have trouble fitting in the time to devote our full energy to every meal. I propose a compromise, a starting point: anytime you reach for a sweet treat this holiday season, make the agreement with yourself that you will enjoy it in a mindful way. This may sound like a bit of a chore but it’s actually a total reward, because I am certain that you will enjoy that said treat so much more by giving it your full attention.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you reach for one of these beautiful truffles:
- Are you distracted by anything? If so, let it go. Put aside your phone, turn off the TV, and go somewhere quiet and peaceful.
- How do you feel about being able to eat this truffle right now?
- What do you notice about it, before you put it in your mouth? Color? Texture? Scent?
- Once you place it in your mouth, what do you experience? What texture is it? What flavors can you identify? Do different areas of the treat taste differently?
- Pay attention to the flavor receptors on your tongue. Do you taste sweet? Sour? Bitter? Salty?
- Think about the ingredients in these truffles and where they came from. Can you envision the juniper tree that gave its spicy juniper berries to this recipe? Can you picture the rich red beets underground that lend their earthy sweetness and beautiful color? Can you feel the nourishment of those plants enter your body?
- Chew slowly as you savor the rich flavors in your mouth. Allow yourself to enjoy them for as long as you’d like before you swallow and finish your truffle.
Now, wasn’t that enjoyable? Perhaps a little outside of your comfort zone, but didn’t you feel so much more connected to your sweet treat than you would have if you distractedly ate it while focusing on other tasks?
Here’s the recipe:
3 -4 juniper berries
1/2 c. heavy cream (or coconut milk if you want to make these vegan)
2 Tbs. butter (or non-dairy shortening)
1 tsp honey (or agave syrup if you’re vegan)
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, plus more for coating (about 6oz)
- In a small saucepan, quickly roast the juniper berries until fragrant (don't burn them!) then add the heavy cream, butter, and honey. Bring to a gentle simmer then shut off the heat and allow the juniper to infuse in the cream mixture for a couple of hours. I added a bonus sprig of juniper foliage, which is optional.
- Chop up the 8oz of dark chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream mixture back up until it just barely starts to simmer, then strain the liquid over the chocolate mixture, being sure to separate out any juniper berries. Let this sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir until it's one big creamy mixture and no chunks of chocolate remain. (If they do, you can place the bowl over some gently simmering water to heat it until everything is melted.)
- Place the mixture in the fridge and stir it every 5 minutes until it's thickened enough to roll into balls. Roll it into small balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in the fridge.
- Temper your extra chocolate. While it is tempering, prepare your beet powder: you can purchase it pre-powdered at most health food stores, but I made my own out of some dehydrated beets I had in my pantry. I just used a coffee grinder to pulverize them into a powder and then sifted it to remove any big chunks.
- Dip the balls of ganache into the tempered chocolate and then gently scoop them out with a fork. Tap the fork on the top of the bowl's rim to remove any excess chocolate (it will fall through the tines of the fork while the truffle sits on top), then place the truffle in the beet powder and gently roll it around. Remove and place on waxed paper to cool and harden. All done!
These festive chocolate truffles make a great holiday gift as well, which is why I'm posting the recipe in time for the holiday season to hit full swing. Enjoy!
*If you struggle with mindless eating or bad patterns when it comes to food, I would highly recommend looking at some more in-depth resources about mindful eating. The podcast “Food Psych Podcast” is a particularly great resource when it comes to the way in which we eat, but there are plenty of other great resources to be found with a simple google search. There’s a lot more to it than I covered in this blog post but perhaps it whetted your appetite to learn more. Enjoy the moment!
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