Truffles and Treatboxes

A Cookbook Quest: Why am I writing a cookbook about truffles (the chocolate type, not the odd-shaped dusty fungus after which chocolate truffles are named) and creative truffle packaging ideas? The working title for this book is ‘Creative Treats: Truffles and Treat Boxes (volume 1)’. I had the simple but not easy (for me at least) idea to create a non-profit, Creative Treats Club, to combine my favourite hobbies of baking and paper-crafting. I was introduced to scrapbooking when my children were young and a love of all things paper-crafting was born. Scrapbooking led me to card-making which in turn led me to what is now my favourite type of paper-crafting: designing and making custom boxes, perfectly-sized to hold small home-baked treats or hand-made items, which I refer to as Treat Boxes. These #TreatBoxes are donated to local nonprofit and charitable organizations for distribution to individuals within the community. Creative Treats Club is all about Creatively Connecting Community. My aim is to provide fun-filled workshops for individuals to embrace their creativity through making handmade boxes and home-baked treats. (and to create and sell treat boxes). And to use proceeds from these activities to provide small, unexpected treats to brighten the days of others. 

In my retirement I knew I wanted to support The Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County for several reasons. My father, Howard, passed away from Dementia-related complications in March 2005. My mom, Alice, has been living with the challenging effects of Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) since 2012. PPA is a form of dementia that first affects language abilities. Mom is basically non-verbal now and since 2021 has been showing signs of other dementia symptoms. And. my father-in-law, Kurt, has unfortunately progressed well beyond the mild cognitive impairment phases of dementia that he was diagnosed with in 2017? While I do raise some funds to support the Dementia Society, the primary way in which I support that community organization is by providing weekly Creative Cards and Crafts workshops to individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. It is through these workshops that I met Daniel Dixon. You can read more about Daniel and his love of truffle-making a in our book when it is published.

The first time that I visited Debra Dynes Family House (DDFH), I knew that it was the perfect organization to distribute the Treat Boxes that Creative Treats Club made. Barbara Carroll is the executive director. Creative Treats provides Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, as well as Halloween and winter-themed Treat Boxes to parents and children within the Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhood located between Debra Avenue and Dynes Road. Creative Treats also brightens the days of individuals in the much broader community served by the DDFH Food Bank.

The Creative Treats idea seed was planted many years ago when my friend, Michele’s, sister, Patsy, introduced me to great work that the Soup Sisters (and now Broth Brothers) are doing to support women shelters. What a great idea: bring together people to create delicious soups and donate those soups to women’s shelters. While I love soup (and Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers cookbooks), making sweet treats is more my thing. What meal is truly complete without dessert? I had been giving away cutely packaged cookies and other sweet treats in cellophane bags for years before I discovered how much I love designing and making boxes. Who doesn’t love the element of surprise that comes with opening a box to reveal its contents?

Gingerbread cookies have been a long-time favourite. I will never be able to decorate them with the artistic flair that we see demonstrated by so many bakers on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Even if my cookies aren’t perfectly decorated, they taste amazing and are always truly appreciated.

I was showing Daniel and the others in my Creative Card and Crafts classes the butterfly gingerbread cookies that I (along with the help of the Creative Treats community) had made and decorated to put into the Mother’s Day Treat Boxes for DDFH. Daniel piped up that he loves to make truffles. And we came up with the idea of including truffles within the Father’s Day Treat Boxes. Daniel made over 400 truffles to fill over 100 small boxes (that I made with the help of the Creative Treats community) that were included in those Father’s Day Treat Boxes. And Daniel taught me that making truffles is fairly simple. And that truffles are the perfect treat to include within Treat Boxes. Truffles keep for quite a long time in the fridge or freezer. And there are many styles and sizes of boxes that can be made depending on how many truffles you want to include in your Treat Box.

Daniel and I held our first Truffles and Treat Boxes workshops in September 2021 as a fundraiser for the Dementia Society BrainyActive challenge.  Daniel taught the participants how to make truffles. And I taught them how to assemble a variety of boxes to hold their truffles. We held more workshops in December 2021. Then we hatched the plan to put together a cookbook in time for Giving Tuesday 2022. A two-sided book featuring our favourite recipes and Treat Boxes. You open the cook book from one side to explore the recipes and instructions for making a variety of truffles. Turn the book over to explore the designs and instructions for how to make a variety of sizes and styles of boxes to hold the truffles. The cookbook will be a perfect companion to our Truffles and Treat Boxes workshops and courses.