Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chocolate! Do I Need to Say More?

Hello Blog Universe!

It has been a pretty intense past couple of weeks. Between working two jobs, moving, running a 5K, and unpacking/shopping for the new place I have just been so overwhelmed! Finally we are getting settled and work has calmed down a bit. Last night was my first real night of being able to relax! I made myself and my best friend the Spicy BBQ Chickpea Burgers from Oh She Glows, and we chatted over some wine for a couple of hours. I feel lucky to have so much going on, but it really makes me appreciate what little down time I get! It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of your life, so it is extra important to find a balance and make sure you're taking care of yourself.

One of the ways that I look forward to treating myself with is, of course, chocolate! Not just regular ol' Hershey's milk chocolate either (yuck!) I'm talking about the wonders of cacao: chocolate's purer, healthier relative.  I have always had a major sweet tooth growing up, and throughout my whole journey of getting healthy and weight loss, I never lost it. When I found out that chocolate could be beneficial to your health (in moderation, of course), you know I jumped right on that train. I was able to find healthier ways to satiate my chocolatey cravings with the use of cacao. You can find it at any health food store in a variety of different forms.  By (one) definition cacao is: the dried seeds of a tropical tree that are used to make cocoa and chocolate. In the simplest terms, it is the raw base of what we all refer to as chocolate, before the sweeteners and preservatives are added.

In this form and in the minimally processed forms like certain dark chocolates, cacao provides a number of health benefits. I found this great little chart that explains it pretty well!

Now you're absolutely craving some yummy chocolatey goodness, aren't you?! I honestly add cacao nibs to a ton of things like as a topping on a smoothie, sprinkled on top of my waffle in the morning, mixed in with yogurt, the list goes on. Luckily for you, I've also found and tested some pretty amazing (and healthy!) recipes to curb my craving and provide me with all of these wonderful benefits.

Chocolate Chia Seed Superfood Pudding - Gluten-free and Vegan
serves 2 from Free People Blog
1 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (like almond or coconut)
1/4 cup chia seeds
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
Dash of pink Himalayan sea salt
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup or raw honey
Dark Chocolate shavings for garnish

Add all of the ingredients to a large glass jar with a lid, give it a quick stir, then put the lid on. Shake it like crazy to mix it all up. Refrigerate until very thick and pudding-like, at least 4 hours or overnight, shaking or stirring occasionally. Serve the pudding chilled with whatever topping you’d like.

100% Raw, Clean, Guilt-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
recipe courtesy of The Blonde Vegan 
Serves 9-12 (depending on how big you make them)
Peanut Butter Portion:
-       ½ cup natural peanut butter
-       ½ cup natural almond butter (you can also do 1 cup of one or the other)
-       1 tbsp organic agave syrup (may substitute with maple syrup or honey)
-       2 tbsp organic coconut oil (melted)
Chocolate Portion:
-       ½ cup cacao powder
-       1 tbsp organic agave syrup
-       1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
-       ¼ cup organic vegan chocolate chips
  1. Whip out your trusty muffin trays, and if you don’t have them, buy them, because they come in handy for just about every yummy treat.
  2. Combine the nut butters, coconut oil and agave syrup in a bowl and stir until the ingredients are well mixed.
  3. Place a spoonful of the mixture into each muffin cup until you have used it all.
  4. Place in the freezer until hardened. Now time to start on the chocolate portion!
  5. Combine the cacao powder, coconut oil, agave and chocolate chips in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  6. Place a spoonful of the chocolate mixture over the hardened peanut butter mixture.
  7. Pop them back into the freezer and harden. Now comes the hard part – wait until they are hard so you can nom on those puppies!

Both of those recipes are certified delicious, and boyfriend approved. Just try typing in "cacao" on Pinterest, and you'll see how diverse this amazing superfood can be!

What recipes using cacao have you tried and loved?

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