chocolate for health and happiness

 

Many of us associate the sensuality of chocolate with a guilty pleasure or with heart-shaped boxes that arrive just in time for Valentine’s Day. Yet, chocolate is far more than a sweet treat. When eaten in its raw form of cacao, this true superfood is rich in minerals (including one of the highest concentrations of magnesium in a plant food), life-giving phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

According to Ayurveda, raw cacao, or very dark chocolate, is predominantly bitter; which means it’s a food that stimulates digestion, but only when taken in small amounts, so enjoy bites of chocolate rather than an entire plate.

Chocolate provides your mind with a healthy natural lift and stimulates a cascade of neurotransmitters to help you feel blissful, loving, and even smart! This nutritive food can be restorative, rousing, and, quite literally, inspirational.

The following healthy chocolate indulgences are designed to enhance your digestion and support your heart’s desires, whether you’re flying solo or sharing decadence with a Valentine this year. Be daring and play with creating concoctions of your own!

Chocolat Chaud – Pour Hiver (Hot Chocolate for Winter)

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

4 cups whole milk – full fat is best, cashew milk also works
4 whole cinnamon sticks or star anise (optional)
2 whole vanilla beans (optional)
3 tsp coconut sugar or organic powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp high-quality salt
8 ounce chocolate, chopped (maximum 60% cacao)
Zest of one organic orange (optional)
Two drops wild orange or orange essential oil (optional)

Chop the chocolate into small pieces (small enough that the chocolate is able to easily dissolve into the milk). Set aside.

Place the milk, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans into a small, thick-bottomed pot on low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk once in a while to ensure that the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

After 10 minutes, remove the milk from heat. Allow the cinnamon and vanilla to steep for another five minutes. Strain the milk, place it back in the pot and return it to a simmer.

Add the vanilla, sugar, salt, and chocolate and whisk vigorously until the chocolate has melted. Heat for another three to four minutes, constantly stirring, and serve.

If desired, add a dollop of whipped cream to each serving. Garnish each cup with a pinch of orange zest. Add essential oil as desired.

Dude, Where’s My Fudge?

Preparation Time: 40 minutes, including set time
Yield: 12 ounces or about 16 squares

1/2 cup cashews, ground
1/4 cup vanilla almond granola (optional and recommended for crunch and texture)
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder

1/2 cup maple syrup or raw agave
1/4 cup raw cacao butter, melted
1/4 cup coconut butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla

Using a food processor grind the cashews. Pour the ground cashews into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Set aside.

Melt and soften the raw cacao butter and coconut butter. Using the food processor, combine the wet ingredients again until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is well incorporated.

Spread the fudge batter into a greased glass casserole dish or spoon it into greased molded candy squares (coconut oil works great for this). Chill in the freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.

Raw Matcha Truffles

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 24 Truffles

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup cold-pressed coconut oil
2 tsps matcha green tea powder
3/4 cup raw cacao powder or raw carob powder
1 Tbsp Fruits of the Earth by HealthForce Nutritionals (optional)
3 to 4 Tbsps raw honey or maple syrup or yacon root syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Dash of vanilla extract
Dash of good quality mineral-rich salt
1 heaping Tbsp raw walnut butter (optional)

Grind the shredded coconut into flour and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and use your hands in a kneading motion to combine all of the ingredients. Be thorough in your mixing. Taste to make sure it is chocolaty and sweet enough – you want to love these.
Roll the batter into one-inch balls, set them apart on parchment paper and freeze or refrigerate for 10 minutes to set. They are delicious and filled with health-giving, vitality-inducing antioxidants.

Fudge-Inspired Rosemary Brownies

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Yield: About 16 brownies

Once these babies have cooled to room temperature (if you can wait that long to taste them), you’ll experience bites of moist chocolate goodness imbibed with the savory kick of rosemary. Not only is it flavorful, rosemary is a beneficial herb for the winter months, beloved for its ability to strengthen circulation, metabolism, and elimination.

I adapted this recipe from one I found in Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book. Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite source for all types of grains, especially all-purpose, gluten-free baking flour.

For a grain-free brownie, substitute the gluten-free flour mix with 3/4 cup blanched almond flour and 1/4 cup coconut flour. You can convert this recipe to vegan by substituting the eggs with egg replacer. (Ener-G brand egg replacer is my fave for baked goods.)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil
5 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp rosemary extract or vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose, gluten-free baking flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
2 tsps fresh chopped rosemary or 1 Tsp dried rosemary
Pinch of good quality, mineral-rich salt
4 drops certified pure therapeutic grade rosemary essential oil (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan with coconut oil.

Set up a double boiler method over medium heat. Melt the coconut oil and the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat.

In a small separate bowl with a wire whisk or fork, beat the eggs and then whisk into the chocolate/oil mixture. Beat in the rosemary extract and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, rosemary and salt. Beat in the chocolate mixture until smooth. Spread the brownie mixture into greased pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, and allow to cool completely before digging in.

The Spirulina Fudge Experiment
Preparation Time: 45 minutes, includes time for fudge to set
Yield: About 12 squares

1/4 cup raw almond butter, tahini or walnut butter
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp coconut butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp spirulina manna by HealthForce
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder (optional)
pinch of good quality mineral-rich salt

Whisk together the almond butter, coconut oil, and honey in a small bowl until smooth.
Stir in the spirulina, optional cacao powder, and salt.

Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap, then pour in the mixture.

Cover and freeze for 30 minutes, or until the fudge is firm and easy to cut into squares. Store squares in an airtight container in the freezer.

Raw Chocolate Crunch Hearts
Yield: About 14 Hearts

1/2 cup melted cacao butter
1/2 cup raw cacao or carob powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
1/8 cup goji berries (optional)
1/4 cup ground candied pecans, almonds, or peanuts
1 tsp vanilla bean powder or cardamom powder
1 tsp fresh grated orange or lemon peel

In a double boiler method over medium-high heat, melt the cacao butter so that it becomes liquid, but not hot.

Grease a silicone heart-shaped ice cube tray with softened coconut oil. Set aside and have ready.
Stir in the cacao powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, cacao nibs, optional dried fruit, nuts, vanilla powder, and orange peel.

Fill each heart to the top with the chocolate batter, then refrigerate or freeze for at least 20 minutes on a flat, even surface to set. The hearts will pop out easily once they’re set – just push from the back of the silicone ice cube tray to “pop” them out. Keep these treats frozen or refrigerated. They’ll stay good for several weeks.

Supercharged Chocolate-Mint Dreams

Preparation Time: about one hour, including set time
Yield: 24 cups

Chocolate for the Outside:
1 cup melted cacao butter or coconut oil
1 cup cocoa, raw cacao or carob powder
4 Tbsp maple syrup or raw agave
2 tsp vanilla
1 24-count mini muffin or mini brownie pan
24 mini paper cupcake cups (optional)

Supercharged Mint Cream Filling:

25 to 30 whole fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp spirulina manna powder (by HealthForce)
1 1/2 Cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/3 Cup, plus 1 Tbsp maple syrup or raw agave
3/4 Cup coconut butter, softened
1 Tsp mint or vanilla extract
Pinch of good salt

Using a double boiler method over medium-high heat, melt the cacao butter so that it is liquid but not hot.

Once the cacao butter has melted, add the remaining ingredients from the “chocolate outside” list and stir until well-combined. Use this immediately so it stays liquid while you work and keep it on the stove over low heat until the last step is completed.

Pour 1/2 teaspoon of the chocolate outside mixture into the bottom of each mini cup. Let this cool in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or until the chocolate outside is firm.

Meanwhile, use a food processor to make the “mint cream filling.” Chop the fresh mint leaves into tiny pieces, then add the shredded coconut. With the machine still running, add the spirulina and remaining mint cream ingredients. Process until the mixture is sticky and pliable. Taste for sweetness.

Spoon a generous teaspoon of the mint cream filling into the center of each opening. Fill up the remainder of the cups with the chocolate outside mixture. Refrigerate or freeze on a flat surface for at least 20 minutes, or until the chocolate outside coating is firm.