Though she prefers “cacao” — the ancient word for this delectable treat — Trina uses “cacao” and “chocolate” here interchangeably.
I’m a dark chocolate lover, but since transitioning to a live, plant based live-it — an eating style that focuses on foods that are alive, which for me, means raw and vegan! — nearly two years ago, I had not indulged much. That is, until I came across a raw chocolate bar last year at the annual Green Festival in Washington, D.C.
It was raw, dark, smooth, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I wanted more. The problem was … I couldn’t find it at my go to markets. Finally, one of the clerks at My Organic Market in Alexandria suggested I try Bethesda Co-op, which is off the beaten path for me, but worth the trip. After confirming they did indeed have raw chocolate bars available, I made my way out to stock up. That brings me to a second problem: the cost. Each bar is $4.99.
What a relief (and delight!) when I came across a recipe on Rawified. I was looking for something else, but immediately got sidetracked with the cacao. Now I could make my own, with just a few ingredients. All I needed was cacao powder, a sweetener (I prefer coconut nectar — it’s low glycemic and raw), and coconut oil (oh-so-great for you in so many ways). It seemed so simple … and pure.
So I made my first chocolate, and the experience was divine. Have you ever smelled raw cacao? Yum. And that finished circle of chocolatey love? Heavenly. The friend I shared with was equally delighted.
Since that first batch, I’ve experimented a bit. One staple: I add a pinch of salt to my recipe. I’ve also tried adding almond butter, mint, orange zest powder, cacao nibs, dried pineapple, desiccated (dried, shredded) coconut and cinnamon. All the versions are joyous to me!
I encourage you to do find the culinary creator in you and try incorporating your favorite flavors or foods into the recipe. This ancient tree fruit (yes, the bean from the Theobroma cacao tree — technically a seed — is really a fruit) goes with just about anything. You can try lavendar, vanilla (cacao’s mythological lover), cayenne, coconut, cherry, mango, gogi berries and even coffee beans. It’s hard to go wrong if it is a food or flavor you love.
Warning: Don’t be alarmed by the cost of the ingredients – they go a long way. And if for some crazy reason you tire of making these little cacao delights, you can use the ingredients in so many other ways. The cacao powder makes fabulous hot chocolate, chocolate pudding, or a coconut chocolate milk beverage. The coconut oil … well, you can just eat this solo! A tablespoon a day is so good for you, and great for your hair and skin, too. It can be used as a substitute for butter, and it’s great in desserts. Make coconut nectar your go-to sweetener for everything, and the Himalayan pink salt is unrefined. Unlike the more common, refined table salt, it isn’t stripped of all the minerals essential for your body … and health.
If you purchase the raw cacao bean to grind into powder yourself, try eating the bean as a snack. The raw cacao — the taste and smell — just tantalize your senses as it explodes in your mouth. Crush beans into a powder using a mortar and pestle (or you can use a food processor or even a coffee bean grinder) and add to your ground coffee along with a little cinnamon powder. Allow to percolate and … delish!
Soon, you’ll be running back to the market to restock your cacao ingredients, so you can satiate your chocolate desires. There are more benefits to cacao than a chocolate fix, though. It’s rich with the antioxidant flavonoid. A 2003 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry study finds cacao has more flavonoids than black tea, green tea or red wine. Antioxidants help destroy free radicals (toxins) in our bodies. They also help reduce inflammation.
Cacao’s antioxidant content may also help reduce LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and prevent cancer or improve conditions if you already have the disease. You’ll also get a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals including, calcium, copper, iron, sulfur, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc; vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, and E; as well as protein and fiber. Other blissful compounds — such as anandamide, phenylethylamine, and tryptophan — help improve mood and mental well-being. And that’ just scratching the surface!
Lucky for us, it’s all packed into cacao beans, which you can use to create delicious, nutrient packed treats.
Now my mouth is watering. I’m off to savor some cacao!
Pure Cacao Bliss
Adapted from Rawified’s recipe for Raw Chocolate.
2.5 tablespoons Organic raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon Organic raw coconut nectar
2 tablespoons Organic coconut oil
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Your pure love!
Place the coconut oil in a small glass bowl, then place that bowl inside a larger bowl with hot water. This melts the coconut oil while preserving the enzymes.
While the coconut oil is melting, add the remaining ingredients to a separate mixing bowl and stir. When the oil is melted, add to the mix and stir until blended and smooth.
Line mini ramekins (or a muffin tin) with small baking cups. Pour chocolate into cups and place in freezer for 10 minutes or until hardened.
Get creative and add something you love to the mix. I love embellishing the plain chocolate with cacao nibs, peppermint oil, cinnamon, orange powder or oil, desiccated (shredded coconut), dried pineapple bits, your favorite nut butter or a combination of any of these. If you add a nut butter, coconut, or other food that should be in the middle, pour a layer of chocolate, add the filling, then top with another layer of chocolate.
Keep your chocolate cold, it will melt if it gets too warm.
Using a mix of coconut oil and cacao butter keeps the chocolate hardened at higher temperatures, but I prefer the taste of the coconut oil solo.