Easter is nearly here and with it often comes the almost inevitable overindulgence of chocolate and sweet treats. However, for those of us who would prefer not to overindulge but still have the joy of special treats, we now know there are lots of options for so called ‘sweet treats”.
To begin with, when we’re looking for healthier options it really is preferable to choose a dark chocolate which contains at least 70% cacao (NOT COCOA). Whilst cacao and cocoa look very similar, they are in fact quite different when it comes to nutritional value. Cacao powder as well as cacao butter and cacao nibs are derived from the cacao bean which has remained in a raw state. Cacao powder comes from cold pressing raw cacao beans, removing the fat which is the cacao butter and at the same time, preserving the living enzymes and nutritional benefits. Cocoa powder on the other hand, has been roasted at high temperatures, transforming the molecular structure of the once raw cacao, which then decreases the nutritional value of the bean. As with many foods, when we start to tamper with the foods, we seem to deplete the nutritional value of the food. We’re often being told that chocolate has all these health benefits, but certainly not when it’s been tampered with.
As well as that, when we look at the ingredients of a chocolate bar, it really does tell the story!! A traditional commercial chocolate bar generally contains full cream milk, sugar, cocoa (not cacao) butter, cocoa mass, milk solids, emulsifiers, and flavours. Compare this to one of my favourite Loving Earth Dark Chocolate Bars with the ingredients being 72% raw cacao beans, evaporated coconut nectar, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds.
We’ve known for some time now that raw chocolate otherwise known as cacao can be a beneficial ingredient in our diet as it’s believed to be high in antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals especially magnesium. Cacao powder is great to use whenever we want a chocolate flavour in any of our cooking. It’s also terrific to add to smoothies.
If you want to make your own healthy Easter eggs and you don’t have a mould, the following is an easy recipe which I like. It obviously isn’t your traditional Easter egg but is just as (or maybe more) delicious.
Filling Ingredients -10 Medjool dates; 1 tbsp almond nut butter; 1 tsp melted coconut oil
Raw Chocolate Ingredients – ½ cup cacao butter; ½ cup cacao powder; ¼ cup maple syrup
Filling – Blend pitted dates with nut butter and coconut oil in food processor. Remove and roll mixture into individual egg-shaped balls, place on baking paper and freeze for 10 mins.
Raw Chocolate – Melt cacao butter in a heat proof bowl seated over a saucepan containing simmering water. Remove from heat, whisk maple syrup into the cacao butter then add cacao powder, whisking until combined well.
Dip frozen caramel eggs into melted chocolate and sprinkle with bee pollen or cacao nibs for an added touch. Place back in freezer until chocolate solidifies. Then store in refrigerator.
For another hit of chocolate, you may want to try this raw chocolate brownie recipe.
Raw Chocolate Walnut Brownies
Ingredients – 2 cups Australian walnuts; 10 Medjool dates pitted; 3 tbsp melted coconut oil; 4 tbsp raw cacao powder; 1 tbsp shredded coconut; 1tbsp cacao nibs
Roughly chop walnuts in food processor then add dates and coconut oil, blending until well combined. Place in a bowl, adding 1 tbsp water (or more if needed) to help mixture hold together. Press in 15cm square lined tray. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and cacao nibs. Refrigerate until set. Serve with strawberries, blueberries or your favourite fruit.
I have written about the health benefits of hemp seeds as well as sour cherries. Below is a recipe which contains both of these healthy ingredients and it is delicious!!
Raw Chocolate Hemp Slice with Sour Cherries
Base Ingredients – 1 cup Australian walnuts; 1 cup hemp seeds; ½ cup raw cacao powder; ½ cup almond butter; ½ cup maple syrup.
Topping Ingredients – 150g Dried Tart Cherries; 250g Loving Earth Dark Chocolate; 1 tbsp shredded coconut; 1 tbsp cacao nibs.
Coarsely chop walnuts and place in bowl. Mix hemp seeds, cacao powder, almond butter and maple syrup. Then add chopped walnuts stirring until well mixed. Press mixture into a lined small brownie pan and refrigerate until set.
Now melt chocolate in bowl seated over simmering water. Remove chilled slice from refrigerator and sprinkle with dried cherries, shredded coconut and cacao nibs. Drizzle with melted chocolate and refrigerate until chocolate is set.
Last Easter, I also wrote about one of my favourite recipes, Raw Vegan Coconut Rough.
Happy cooking and enjoy!!