Part of what Move::Still::Free is about is taking the time to seek, taste, appreciate and enjoy life’s sweetest nectars. What sweeter nectar is there than chocolate? The poet Fernando Pessoa said, “There’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates”. The Latin for cacao tree means “food of the gods.” Need I say more?
Cacao – chocolate in its raw form – is indigenous to the tropical regions of the Americas, cultivated for millennia in Mexico, Central and South America. The cacao bean was, historically, considered a divine food reserved for deities and sacred ritual. But it was the Europeans, once they got their hands on the cacao seeds, who added sweeteners (sugar) and fats (milk) to create the sweet-tasting chocolate that we know today.
The first time I ever tasted raw cacao was in the Amazon jungle. I was hugely disappointed at how little raw cacao seeds actually taste like chocolate. The hard-shelled cacao pod is filled with hard seeds covered in a white slimy pulp. The raw seeds have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the chocolate flavour that we’re familiar with. It’s actually hard to believe that those same raw seeds will eventually taste like chocolate. But it’s in these seeds that all the goodness resides.
the benefits (as if I had to twist your arm)
Over the years my tastebuds have acquired a taste for dark chocolate. The more bitter the better. And it turns out that the more pure cacao is in your chocolate – in other words, the darker and more bitter it is – the better it is for you. Yay! That’s because it is the actual cacao that contains all of the health benefits:
- The alkaloids in cocoa solids are linked to increased seratonin levels. In other words, chocolate makes you happy. Um duh.
- Cacao contains healthy fats which are known to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Cacao contains antioxidant-rich polyphenols, particularly flavanols, which slow down the production of free radicals in our body, contribute to lower blood pressure, improved arterial and coronary circulation, and improved memory and cognition.
I’ve recently discovered how easy it is to make your own high-cacao dark chocolate! And it’s raw and vegan too. A friend made them for me as a little going-away treat before I left Hawaii. I begged her for the recipe and she was kind enough to pass it along. So this recipe is credited to my friend Banka, a yoga teacher and activist from New York, and all around awesome gal.
This is the easiest thing to make and it is delicious. It’s so easy in fact that if you have a craving for chocolate, you can satisfy that craving in about 15 minutes. It’s a way better deal than going out to the convenience store and buying a chocolate bar.
1 cup raw coconut butter or any raw nut butter (ie. peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia butter)
1 cup food-grade virgin coconut oil or cacao butter
1 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup sweetener (ie. honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia) – use more or less according to taste
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp maca
1 tsp spirulina
1 tsp lucuma powder
1 -2 drops of food-grade lavender oil
chopped nuts or cacao nibs
*** The possibilities are endless. Get creative and experiment with different flavours.
If you need to melt the oil and coconut butter, use the double boiler method by placing a metal bowl over a pot of hot water. Add the oil and the coconut butter, and allow to melt. Nut butters are soft enough and don’t need to be melted.
Once melted, remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays or molds and place in the freezer. Wait 10 minutes. Once hard, these tasty treats are ready to enjoy!Reference articles:
Why you should eat and drink high-cacao dark chocolate
A brief history of chocolate