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Written by Emily York on February 12, 2013 – -
If you think cleaning up your diet means kissing Valentine’s Day candy goodbye, think again! Saying no to processed, packaged, bad-for-you sweets doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy a sticky treat. In this article, Brenda Davis shares her story of falling in love and transitioning into a vegan lifestyle with along with her husband. She shares her Vegan Turtle recipe, complete with a caramel filling made from dates and pine nuts. You’ll feel great making these candies for the ones you love.
My husband, Paul and I are in our 35th year of marriage. We met on a ski hill when I was 17 and he was 20 years old (we had been in high school together but he was 3 years ahead of me so we didn’t really know one another). My best friend had a crush on him. We couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t away at university because he was super smart in high school, and it didn’t make sense that he wouldn’t be in school. I ended up on the t-bar with him and I thought I would ask him a few questions so I could tell my friend (she was working that day, otherwise she would have been skiing with me). What happened next was unexpected. He said just a few words and I was smitten. He was 6’3” and so quiet I could hardly hear him – something about his gentle, soft-spoken nature really drew me in. My best friend had broken up with her previous boyfriend because he was too quiet. I remember her saying, “Don’t ever let me go out with such a quiet guy again”. When I saw her that night, I told her I talked to Paul. I told her that he had taken a year off university to work to make enough money so he could pay his own tuition and living expenses next year. I also told her he was not the right guy for her – just too quiet. She said, “Bren, maybe he is the right guy for you!” What a friend. She was my maid of honor at our wedding 2 years later. She is still one of my dearest friends. She was recently with my daughter and I as we searched for my daughter’s wedding dress.
Paul and I transitioned to a vegan diet together. Over the first 10 years of our marriage, we gradually started eating less meat and more lentils. Eventually, I decided I wanted to become completely vegetarian, so I asked him if he wanted to go all the way and drop animal products from our menu. His answer surprised me. With a big smile he said, “I thought you’d never ask. I’d love to”. I couldn’t have found a more wonderful, loving and supportive life partner.
On Valentine’s Day, I usually make a red and white supper. I set a red and white table – with red napkins, little chocolate hearts in red foil, etc. I serve sparkling water with pomegranate or cranberry juice, a green salad with red peppers and pomegranate seeds, and we often have pasta with a red sauce (and green veggies, of course!), and a vegan cheesecake with raspberries and dark chocolate. We exchange cards and celebrate love. When the children were still at home they absolutely loved the tradition. It was a day they were always anxious to help set the table.
One of my favorite vegan chocolate treats is Vegan Turtles. They are perfect for Valentine’s Day. You can even turn them into vegan hearts if you are so inclined. This recipe I created using Cherie Soria’s raw vegan caramel from a book we co-authored called The Raw-food Revolution Diet. Enjoy.
1 cup pitted, tightly packed medjool dates (or other dates)
½ tsp vanilla
If using hard dates, pour boiling water over dates and let sit for about 10-15 minutes. Drain well before use. Place dates, pine nuts and vanilla into a processor and process until very smooth. It should look like caramel. You will have to stop the processor and stir with a spatula a few times.
Freeze caramel. It is much easier to work with when frozen.
Line 2 cookie sheets with silicon sheets or parchment paper. Place pecans on the cookie sheets, with 4 pecan halves for each turtle, in 5 rows of 3 turtles each.
Make balls with caramel (about 2-3 teaspoons of the caramel for each ball). Press the ball on top of the pecans. Freeze the caramel overnight or until completely solid.
Put the chocolate bars in a small pot over low heat until the chocolate is entirely melted. Stir to make it smooth.
Take one pan of turtles out of the freezer.
Lift each turtle off the parchment paper or silicon mat and brush or spoon chocolate to cover the bottom. Place back on cookie sheet and brush or spoon the chocolate over the top of the turtle. Do this for each turtle, then return tray to the freezer. Remove second tray and repeat.
Let the chocolate set completely before removing the turtles from the trays. Place in an airtight container and store them in the freezer. They taste best right from the freezer!
1. For vegan milk chocolate turtles, use rice milk chocolate bars.
2. For a beautifully decorated turtle, melt some rice milk chocolate and drizzle over the dark chocolate.
3. Make different shapes – shape caramel into hearts or even Easter eggs. Be creative. You can also use different nuts such as hazelnuts if you like.
Brenda Davis, registered dietitian, is a leader in her field and an internationally acclaimed speaker. She is co-author of eight books: Becoming Raw, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Vegetarian, The New Becoming Vegetarian, The Raw Food Revolution Diet, Defeating Diabetes and Dairy-free and Delicious, and the soon to be released new Becoming Vegan (two versions – one “express” consumer-friendly edition and one “comprehensive” scholarly edition). She is also a contributing author to a ninth book, The Complete Vegetarian. Brenda has authored numerous professional and lay articles. She is the lead dietitian in a diabetes intervention project in Majuro, Marshall Islands. Brenda is a past chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. In 2007, she was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame. Brenda lives in Kelowna British Columbia with her husband, Paul. She has two adult children.