6 variations on the chocolate breakfast smoothie

 

For months, I indulged daily in eating pieces of chocolate bars with 70 percent or more cacao. It was intensely deep dark chocolate. On good days, I could eat just one small square, and my tastebuds felt gratified and satisfied.

On bad days, half the bar – or the whole dang thing.

I’m not sure if it was the wee bit of sugar or the chocolate that led me to overindulge like that. Chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral most of us are low in, and stress depletes magnesium. Hence chocolate relieves stress. (Bet you knew that already! Yep, that’s the ticket! Stress made me overindulge!)

Sugar is plainly addictive (read more here). Instead of relieving stress, it adds to the body’s stress load and plays a role in obesity, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, diabetes, cancer, tooth decay, malnutrition, heart disease, etc.).

Yes, sometimes a little bit of sugar sneaks into my food (usually in small amounts in a condiment like ketchup or fish sauce), and very occasionally I satisfy a desire for a package of peanut M&Ms. Usually, however, if sugary sweetness is the main point, I forgo it, eating at most 1 teaspoon a day, far below the 32 teaspoons per day the average American consumes.

My tastebuds have changed so that I notice and enjoy the natural sweetness of foods like carrots, liver, caramelized onions, roasted veggies. When I ate sugar regularly, there was no such thing as “too sweet”. Now there definitely is. If you are moving away from sugar, wait for this to happen!

But what to do about cravings for something sweet, without sugar, and chocolate-y?

Make chocolate breakfast smoothies to start each day well!

If you’re concerned about lead and cadmium in chocolate, you can learn more here.

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Empty glass, Buddha Board

Here are the best ones I made in March 2016.

First, basic principles, because some of you like to improvise:

  1. As always, please use organic ingredients as much as possible, according to availability and your budget. It’s better for your body and for our shared planet’s present and future.
  2. A smoothie contains fruit or a fruit-like vegetable. I’ve used bananas and avocados. Think about which fruits go well with chocolate. You could try apricots, various berries, cherries, coconut, grapes, kiwi, mango, melons, orange, pears, pineapple, pomegranate. They can be fresh or frozen or slightly past their prime. You can also add spinach, which is so mild in flavor, you can’t taste it, once blended. Your taste may vary, but I sometimes like a little heat with my sweet: try adding a bit of dried pepper, chili powder, jalapeño, or cayenne for more bite and depth.
  3. I use non-dairy milks because dairy can be difficult to digest. I prefer coconut milk, almond milk, or a blend. I avoid soy milk because soy is a legume and more difficult to digest. You could try cashew, hazelnut, hemp, flax, quinoa, or rice milk if you like.
  4. For probiotics, add either a little dairy yogurt or cultured coconut milk.
  5. The fruit alone may be sweet enough. The riper a banana gets, the sweeter it becomes. If you want a sweeter smoothie, instead of sugar, add a pitted date or two – adds fiber as well as sweetness. Other healthy sweeteners include liquid or powdered stevia (or unprocessed stevia leaves if available), raw honey, or Grade B maple syrup.
  6. For the chocolate, I use raw organic cacao powder. You could also use raw cacao nibs. Cacao is less processed and has more fiber, nutrients, and calories, while cocoa has been heated and may have added ingredients such as sugar and dairy. Dutch-processed cocoa Read the labels!
  7. If you need more fat to fuel the day ahead, use avocado or add coconut butter or coconut oil.

The BCCD (Banana-Cacao-Coconut-Date)

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.01.15 AMHere’s what I tossed into the Vitamix this morning:

1 banana, broken into 1″ chunks
12 ounces coconut milk (from a carton, not a can)
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut butter
1 pitted Medjool date
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend on high for 30-60 seconds. The date blends so well with the cacao, banana, and coconut that you can’t tell it’s there. It adds fiber and sweetness.

Sometimes you need a little probiotic because healthy gut microbes help you digest better. Rather than taking supplements, I like to consume living food that’s been cultured or fermented every day – kim chi, sauerkraut, kvass, pickles, miso, non-dairy yogurt.

To make a probiotic version of this smoothie, just add a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened cultured coconut milk (aka non-dairy yogurt) if you are sensitive to dairy, or plain dairy yogurt if you can tolerate it.

Did you know chocolate is a fermented food? Watch Cooked with Michael Pollan on Netflix to see the fascinating process. I’m interested in whether raw cacao powder contains microbes from fermentation. I would assume that it does. Does anyone know for sure, and which ones?

Chocolate Salted Almond

This is hands-down my favorite. It truly knocks it out of the park in terms of rich flavor.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 9.36.04 AM1 banana, broken into chunks
12 ounces almond milk
2 tablespoons raw almond butter
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 pitted Medjool date
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Blend and consume.

I was turned down twice to donate blood last year because my blood pressure was too low. I started adding a pinch of salt to the water and apple cider vinegar (and gelatin and glutamine) I drink every morning. No more low blood pressure!

I love Maldon Sea Salt Flakes and sprinkle them on cooked meat and veggies, but you could use Himalayan, Celtic, or Real salt for the added minerals. One of my favorite food bloggers, Wellness Mama, has a good post on salt, as does Dr. Sircus. If you are moving away from processed food, I highly recommend reading these blog posts.

By the way, Trader Joe’s has the best price around for raw almond butter around. I buy a 16 oz. jar for $7.99. It has no added salt and comes in creamy and crunchy.

Chocamatcha

On St. Patrick’s Day, I added a wee bit o’ green to my morning smoothie. Matcha is the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. When you consume matcha, you’re consuming the actual dried, powdered tea leaf, not just water infused with tea leaves.

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One cup of matcha is said to contain the nutritional benefits of 10 cups of green tea. You can read more about the amazing health benefits of matcha here. If you like caffeine but want to move away from coffee, matcha is a good choice.

1 banana, broken into chunks
12 ounces almond-coconut milk
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
liquid stevia to taste

Add more or less matcha or cacao according to taste and your desire for caffeine. Blend and drink!

Hot Chocolate-Tea

Here’s another tea-based smoothie. I needed it after the “spring back” change to daylight savings time.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.36.43 AMPu-erh is a fermented, aged black tea, which I learned about from performance researcher Tim Ferriss. It improves alertness and mental clarity and reduces high cholesterol. SeeWebMD’s entry on pu-erh for more information on the health benefits.
I put Rishi brand Pu-erh Classic tea in a tea ball in a cup, and pour hot water over it, letting it steep 3-5 minutes (shorter if you want less caffeine).

I then pour the steeped tea into the blender and add the other ingredients. Whirl, and voila!

8 ounces filtered water, brought to a boil
1 heaping teaspoon pu-erh loose leaf tea
1 banana broken into chunks
4 ounces almond-coconut milk
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
stevia to taste

If you want a chocolate chai smoothie, add a Chai mix of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and black pepper).

If you want more creaminess, add coconut cream or butter.

The Grasshopper

Sunday, March 13, was a stupendously gorgeous, sunny, birdsong-filled morning here in Austin, Texas. SXSW was happening, and President Obama visited our fair city on Friday – and picked up food at Torchy’s Tacos, one that I go to occasionally, a small South Austin neighborhood place.

The mayor had asked those of us who work downtown to work from home that day because presidential motorcades bring traffic to a long, complete standstill. My massage studio, The Well: bodywork & changework, is downtown, and I rescheduled my Friday clients to Thursday and Saturday, tweeted about it, and got retweeted by the mayor!

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 9.42.10 AM

One of my friends (hello, Carola!) posted on Facebook a recipe for Coconut & Avocado Grasshopper Bars, which I want to try my hand at, but I admit my first lazy thought was to emulate that delicious blend of chocolate and mint in a smoothie.

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Mint growing outside my door

10 oz. coconut milk (from a carton)
1/2 large avocado or whole small one
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
a nice handful of fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Very delicious! I’m thinking that if you don’t have fresh mint on hand, you could use drops of peppermint essential oil to taste (careful, a little goes a long way)

Also, please note that using avocado will result in a much thicker, richer smoothie than using the same amount of banana. Avocado contains more fat and is denser. If your smoothie is so thick you need a spoon to eat it, you might want to add more coconut milk to thin it.

I’m wondering now how many desserts can be made quickly in liquid form using a blender!

Chocolate. Avocado. Chile. Chavochile?

This smoothie was an experiment, an attempt at a Mexican-influenced breakfast smoothie. Our neighbors in Mesoamerica, who have cultivated the chocolate bean for 3,000 years, brought it to new heights. They gave it the name xocolatl (bitter water in Nahuatl).

IIMG_4724 added two more ingredients popular in Mexican cuisine – chile and avocado.

By the way, chil is Nahuatl for pepper; the Spanish added the e. Chile refers to hot peppers (and a nation); chili refers to the spicy meat dish that contains chiles as an ingredient. Chili powder can be spelled either way. Chilli is ridiculous, in my opinion.

Chipotle (from chilpoctli, smoked chile in Nahuatl) is a dried jalapeño pepper with a smoky, earthy taste that’s fairly mild for a hot pepper.

The avocado (from ahuacatl in Nahuatl) needs no description. Formerly a rare treat, now they are abundant, at least in Texas supermarkets. The one I just cut into was perfect.
I’ve been reading that avocado seeds are actually nutritional powerhouses, so I’m adding that for the first time, too.

Note that you can buy chocolate bars spiced with chile; this isn’t a new idea. Lindt, Theo, and Dagoba are among the makers. Here’s a link to a chocolate-chili bar taste-off.

You can also add cacao powder to a pot of chili to add depth to the flavor. If this combination fascinates you, read the Wikipedia entry on mole.

Here’s my recipe for a xocalatl-ahuacatl-chipotle smoothie:IMG_4723

1/2 large Haas avocado, peeled, deseeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 avocado seed, peeled and chopped into pieces
12 ounces coconut milk (more to thin, if desired)
1 heaping tablespoon raw cacao powder
1/4 to 1/2 dried chipotle pepper (if unfamiliar or sensitive to heat, start with 1/4 and remove seeds)
1 tablespoon coconut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 packets stevia* powder, or to taste

As I sip it, I taste the bitterness of the cacao and the smoky heat of the chipotle, which lingers on my tongue, offset by just a little sweetness, in the rich creaminess of the avocado, coconut milk, and coconut butter. It definitely is a different kind of breakfast drink. I like it and recognize it is probably an acquired taste.

I’m going to experiment more with Mexican ingredients. Next time, I’m removing all the seeds (wearing gloves, of course) from a whole chipotle pepper for more of the smoky, earthy taste and less heat.

*Stevia is also a Latin American ingredient, coming from Brazil and Paraguay, and is pronounced STAY-vi-a in Spanish.

Do you have a favorite chocolate smoothie? Please share in the comments.

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