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I'm Crystal Vaughn

a classically trained chef taking holistic plant-based nutrition on a grand adventure through North America. When I’m not creating in our traveling kitchen, you can usually find me on my yoga mat or a hiking trail.

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I always thought chocolate making was super complex and you had to have just the right finesse and patience (which I don't have much of) to get beautiful chocolate.  In culinary school we practiced the art of tempering chocolate and it was way to tedious too interest me. 

I always read ingredients on the chocolate bars I purchase and the more I read the more I realized that you could make your own with a few simple ingredients without all the temperature checking.  So I dove in to figuring it out.  It didn't take long and this simple three ingredient bark was born.  It has the perfect amount of sweetness mixed with the delicate bitterness of good cacao.


You can top the bark however you would like but for a pretty Valentine's Day inspired version I like to add freeze dried raspberries, goji berries, rose petals and almond slivers.  Feel free to choose whatever your heart desires!  You can add any variety of seeds, nuts, dried fruit and edible flowers for something a little extra fancy. 


Set up a double broiler.  Put a small amount of water in the bottom of a small sauce pan and place a heat safe bowl inside it but make sure it is not touching the water.  Place over medium-low heat and add cacao butter to bowl.


Stir occasionally until melted.  Add cacao powder and maple syrup.


Stir until combined and smooth.  Remove from heat.


Place parchment paper in an 11"x7" container (or similar) pour the chocolate mixture in.


Sprinkle your toppings evenly over the chocolate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Remove from fridge and break into pieces. 


Sending love and chocolate,


Valentine's Day Chocolate Bark


1 cup cacao butter
1/2 cup cacao powder*
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 to 2 tbsp each: rose petals, freeze dried raspberries, goji berries and slivered almonds


1. Set up double broiler: place a small amount of water in a small saucepan.  Put a heat safe bowl on top of the pan.  Make sure it does not touch the water. 

2. Add cacao butter to bowl and put the double broiler over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Once melted add cacao powder and maple syrup to bowl.  Stir until well combined and remove from heat.

4. Place parchment paper in an 11"x7" container.  Pour chocolate mixture over parchment paper. 

5. Sprinkle toppings over the chocolate.**

6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

7.  Break apart into desired sized pieces. 

Notes: *Cacao powder is a less processed version of cocoa powder.  You could probably make this recipe with cocoa powder if that is what you have on hand but I have not tried it.  **You can put the chocolate in the refrigerator for about 8 to 10 minutes before you add the toppings if you want them to be sitting more on top instead of sinking into the chocolate.  

Equipment needed: small saucepan, heat safe small bowl, heat safe spoon or whisk, measuring spoons and cups, 11"x7" container (I used a pyrex) or similar, parchment paper and a refrigerator. 

 *This post contains affiliate links.  They are in bold.  I only share products I love and use on a regular basis.  If you are interested in seeing what products I use and recommend simply click the word(s) in bold.  If you are moved to buy it, I will receive a small commission that helps support this blog and other projects I am working on.  Thank you for your support!

Products used for this recipe:

Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Cacao Powder, 1 Pound
Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Cacao Butter, 1 Pound (Raw, Keto, Vegan Friendly)
NOW Foods Organic Maple Syrup,Grade A Dark Color (formerly Grade B), 32-Ounce
If You Care Parchment Baking Paper, 2 Pack
Pyrex Basics 2 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish with Red Lid - 7 inch x 11 Inch
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I have been working on this recipe for a couple weeks and I am so excited to share it with you.  I don't know many people who will tell you vegan and gluten-free baking is easy.  The first time I tested this recipe I was very pleased how they turned out.  I have never claimed to be much of a baker but I may be changing my tune after this recipe!

Sometimes my family just gets me!  My aunt and cousins sent me some fruit from the Rio Grand Valley in Texas as a belated Christmas gift.  There isn't much I would choose to receive over food.  This delicious citrus brings back great memories of my childhood road trips to South Padre Island to visit my Tutu (grandmother).  We would buy bags of fruit on the way to and from the Island while passing through the Valley.

This year my dad's satsuma tree in Florida did not bear much fruit so no new recipes with those (here are my Dark Chocolate Truffles I made with them last year).  I was more than thrilled to get these and get in the kitchen!  I have been working on some other cookie recipes when I received the oranges and decided they would be a lovely addition.


After a few tries I think I have the perfectly orange scented chocolate chip cookie that are surprisingly simple to make.  I really hope you will give these guilt free treats a try.  I have shared them with my yoga classes and on ski trips and so far everyone has loved them!

Love and chocolate and citrus (oh my!),


Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies


3 cups of oats, divided
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat non-stick baking mat.

1. Place 2 1/2 cups of oats in a dry blender or food processor and pulse until a flour is made.

2. In a medium sized bowl add oat flour, the remaining 1/2 cup of oats, arrowroot powder, vanilla powder (if using extract add with wet ingredients) and salt.  Stir well.

3. Stir zest into the dry ingredients.

4. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together orange juice, melted coconut oil and maple syrup. 

5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until completely combined.  Working quickly from this point so the oats don't absorb all the liquid and make the cookies dry.

6. Fold the chocolate chips into the cookie dough.

7.  Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball, slightly flatten to get desired shape and repeat until all the cookies are made and spread out on the sheet pan.

8. Bake for 18 minutes.  Enjoy!

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It's almost Valentine's Day and since no fondue spread is complete without a little chocolate; I introduce to you my Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondue!  You guys are in for a treat.  This creamy caramely dip is so yummy. 

For some reason a fondue night feels like a wonderful way to spend Valentine's day.  Get all cozy, spread out all your dippers around the table and open a glass of wine.  This recipe is perfect for two but is easily doubled or tripled for a get together with friends. 


Sadly, I will be missing Valentine's with my husband this year so we will have to celebrate at a later date.  What makes it worse is I abandoned him last year to spend a month in Guatemala (maybe next year we will spend it together??).  For this year I am headed south, back to Oklahoma, to help my mom move out of our house.  A very bittersweet trip to say goodbye to the last real place that felt like home. 

Enough about me!  I really hope you give these fondues a try.  They are sure to impress your loved ones and be a fun night for all involved!  In my opinion you don't need cards and gifts to show you love somebody.  Usually a delicious meal does the trick :)


Happy Valentine's Day!

Love and chocolate,


Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondue
Serves 2*


1 cup of dates, pitted
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 tbsp cacao powder**
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla powder (1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
assorted dippers


1. Soak the pitted dates for 20 to 30 minutes and drain.

2. In a blender or food processor add soaked dates, non-dairy milk, cacao powder, maple syrup, melted coconut oil vanilla powder, and salt.  Blend until smooth.

3. Heat chocolate until warmed through either over a double broiler or in a small saucepan over low, stirring frequently.  Be sure not to scorch the fondue.

5. Optional: sprinkle a little coarse salt over the fondue before serving.

4. Serve with your favorite dippers: strawberries, apple slices, pretzels, graham crackers, cookies and/or marshmallows. 

Notes: *Approximate serving.  Could easily be doubled or tripled for a larger group.  **You can replace the cacao powder with cocoa powder, which is more processed.

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition or disease. It does not replace medical advice from a licensed professional.