Easy, healthy(-ish) chocolate

Most of us like chocolate. I dated a guy once, and on the first date learned that he HATED chocolate. I really should have ended it there. Who doesn’t like chocolate? That relationship was doomed.

Chocolate, in its most pure form, cacao, is actually quite harmless, and in fact has many health benefits. It is mega high in anti-oxidants; these polyphenols are said to balance blood sugar, moderate blood pressure, improve cholesterol, improve brain function and be an anti-inflammatory. It is also a good source of magnesium, iron and calcium. Plus, it’s said to be a mood booster and anti-depressant and the caffeine can increase energy.

The problem with cacao is on its own it doesn’t taste all that great. You can buy it in nibs, or I usually get the powder, but it is bitter due to the fact that it has no added sugar and has not been processed. One easy way I get some everyday is buy putting about 1/2 teaspoon in my morning coffee. It doesn’t really make it taste like mocha, which I actually hate, it just sort of enhances the richness of my black coffee. You can add it to smoothies, oatmeal, whatever you want. Sprinkle away. You aren’t supposed to cook raw cacao in order to maintain the integrity of the anti-oxidants, so I’m hoping adding it to my coffee isn’t defeating that purpose!

But let’s be honest, sometimes we want a creamy, sweet yet bitter, melt-in-your-mouth piece of dark chocolate. The trouble with most commercial chocolate is that while it may be dark chocolate, the chocolate has been processed.

Raw cacao is not strictly raw. All chocolate is fermented, which is part of why it is so good for us. Fermented foods have a lot of touted health benefits. (Hence, why I drink wine. It is healthy!!) The beans are then roasted and then at that point, we have cacao that is either ground into nibs or powders.

Cocoa goes through an additional process, often what we are used to is referred to as “Dutch processed.” Natural cocoa is a different process, but it is still processed. Both of these cocoa powders have fats and other additives.

For this reason, this recipe is raw and uses the raw cacao.

The other main ingredient is coconut oil. Yes, it is very high in fat–saturated fat, in fact. It is pure oil. The point here is not to make a food that is meant to sustain life. This recipe is not a weight-loss secret. It is meant to make an indulgent treat that has some benefits. If you are going to eat a fat, better coconut oil than butter, and coconut oil gets solid at cooler temperatures, which not all oils will do as readily, so you can end up with a chocolate candy that is the texture of a traditional dark chocolate bar. Also, coconut oil has a nice coco-nutty flavor, which is great with chocolate. These are so rich, I think you would make yourself physically ill before you ate so many as to become a real sabotage of your otherwise healthy day. Definitely use organic, virgin coconut oil. All oils change when heated and they lose any benefits they may become more harmful than beneficial. Make sure the coconut oil has nothing added to it and does not say, “hydrogenated.” You decide if coconut oil is right for you.

You will have to sweeten it. You can certainly eat this without sweetener, but than I REALLY don’t think we want to call it “candy.” You could use sugar, but  you would have to melt it and we are going for a natural, unprocessed, raw treat here. I suggest maple syrup or honey or a combination of the two. You could use agave, but that also has been processed. They each have benefits, and they each have their own unique flavor.

That is all the recipe needs, but of course I encourage adding vanilla extract, salt and maybe some tasty hidden treats!

THE BASIC RECIPE

1/2 cup raw, organic coconut oil at room temperature (it needs to be liquidy, so heat it for a second if it is not)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (I sift it)
1/4 honey (use the same measuring cup as the oil, and the honey will slide right out)

Optional additions

I don’t REALLY consider these optional, but you do you.

1/4 shredded dried coconut (unsweetened!!!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Good-quality salt: pink Himalayan, sea salt flakes, whatever. Not Morton’s iodized is all.

  1. Combine all the ingredients with a wire whisk
  2. Pour into ice cube trays to set for about an hour (I used small silicone ones to get more close to cubes and to make them tiny. This recipe made 24)
  3. Sprinkle with salt
  4. Pop out of tray and into mouth!

They need to be stored in the freezer and only taken out when ready to eat. These most definitely will melt in your hand…as well as your mouth.

Then the real fun begins!

I made one batch where I added an almond because “sometimes you feel like a nut.”

And I made one batch with two coffee beans, much like those addictive dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. For the coffee ones, I wanted a little more sweetness because the coffee was adding more bitterness, so I added 1 tablespoon of maple syrup in addition to the 1/4 cup honey.

For both of them, I added some chocolate, then 1 almond or 2 coffee beans, then topped with chocolate, and then finished with flaked sea salt.

You could add raisin, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, a walnut, a cashew or nothing at all!

I would try to limit yourself to one a day…or one per sitting, but savor them as the chocolate melts away and leaves you with a crunchy nibble in the middle!

Happy snacking!

 

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