By Diane Giuliani, CHHC
Late last year my youngest son was participating in a See’s Candy fundraiser for his high school Chamber Choir. I spent several weeks looking at a color slick photo sheet on my kitchen counter of a variety of chocolate confections that See’s has earned great notoriety for. We all know what they are and many of us have our favorites in each box of those Assorted Chocolates and Nut’s and Chew’s. My longtime favorite used to be the Dark Chocolate Bordeaux’s with the chocolate sprinkles. You know the one I’m talking about?! Well I have to say that it’s been quite some time since I’ve indulged in one of them but I can readily recall the mocha flavored creaminess in my mouth. I will always, always be a fan of chocolate but a few years ago I chose to eliminate white sugar from my diet. This decision of course dramatically reduced my intake of sweet confections. Today I prefer to use more natural sweeteners like maple syrup, date paste, coconut sugar, raw honey, stevia and organic xylitol to sweeten my chocolate and other treats. In fact this month’s recipe is for a simple chocolate confection that you can make in your kitchen and surprise your loved ones with a healthy valentine indulgence that won’t leave you with feelings of GUILT. And for those of you who attended our open house in December, this is the recipe for the chocolate that we had on the table! But before we go there, allow me to share with you a little botany and history about the ever so infamous Cacao Bean.
All chocolate is made from cacao beans, also known as cocoa. There is no “season” for cacao and bees rarely visit its flowers. Their best pollinators are tiny insects called midges. Once pollinated, each flower develops into a pod-fruit that takes 5-6 months to ripen. Each fruit contains 20-50 almond-like seeds, or beans.
It was the Spanish conquistadors that brought cacao beans back to the royal court of Spain from the America’s, and it was just a matter of time before it found its way to France, Holland, England, Belgium, and Italy. The Europeans were the first to combine cacao with refined cane sugar.
Cacao in the RAW has many health benefits. Here’s the short list.
- It’s extremely high in antioxidants.
- It increases energy.
- It’s a rich source of magnesium, needed for healthy cell function.
- It’s a good source of iron and calcium.
- It helps to reduce depression and gives a sense of euphoria or well-being.
- It is high in the trace minerals Chromium, Manganese, Zinc and Copper.
- It contains Phenylethylamine or (PEAs), which are the major class of chemicals that our body produces when we fall in love. This helps to explain the deep connection between love and chocolate!
- It has significant quantities of the essential amino acid tryptophan, as well as high levels of serotonin, a primary neurotransmitter in the human body.
- It contains theobromine, a milder stimulant than caffeine, which is used in modern medicine as a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener), a diuretic and a heart stimulant.
Most of the commercial chocolate we find today in our supermarkets is not raw. However, if you look closer, read labels and visit your natural food stores, you’ll find that raw cacao is becoming more popular and readily available. Raw cacao powder can be added to smoothies, energy bars made with dried fruit, nuts and seeds, or your very own raw chocolate confections. A few commercially produced products that you can look for at stores or online are: UliMana raw chocolate truffles, Bright Earth Foods – Choco’Raw, Raw Revolution bars, and Larabars.
Not all of the chocolate that I eat is raw because I still enjoy small amounts of good quality chocolate bars (and yes, many of them are made with organic cane sugar), and I love to bake with cacao powder. So, I’ve come to accept the fact that I give up some of the medicinal value and healing properties of chocolate once it’s been heated.
I hope that you’ll be inspired to try the recipe I’ve included or better yet that you get creative in your kitchen and whip up a healthy chocolate concoction of your very own.
Inspired by Kendall Scott – Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen
1/8 cup cacao butter* – It comes in chunks that look like white chocolate
1/8 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp. real maple syrup
¼ cup cacao powder
¼ cup fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries*, or dried fruit of your choice
¼ cup shelled, unsalted, roasted pistachios, or nut of your choice
¼ cup raw shredded unsweetened coconut
1/8 tsp. sea salt
In the top of a double boiler, or small saucepan on med-low heat, melt the cacao butter, coconut oil and maple syrup. This process does not take long!
Pour melted mixture into a bowl and cool for a few minutes. Add the cacao powder, berries, pistachios, coconut and salt. Mix well. Spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper in a thin layer. Let cool and harden in the refrigerator. Break “bark” into desired sized pieces.
*Note: Cacao butter and fruit juice sweetened cranberries, can be found in most natural food stores or Whole Foods Grocery.