Quick sweet dessert with raw cacao

Having given up sugar (well, almost), there are those times when I need to satisfy a craving for something powerfully tasty and sweet. Usually it’s post-dinner that I get that feeling that a little something sweet would be satisfying. And my favorite sweets are those that contain chocolate.

So once every couple of weeks when that craving hits, I add these ingredients (all organic if available):

  • raw cacao
  • coconut oil
  • maple syrup

into a small bowl, stirring to mix. Continue reading

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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

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Morning green drink nourishes, improves health and energy, staves off hunger pangs

These days I’m doing Functional Movement System training 5 days a week and doing 15-20 hours of massage per week. Just had my 62nd birthday, and I’m feeling pretty darn good! Illness, including even seasonal allergies, seems to be avoiding me.

To keep my energy levels high and to feel great, I’m making a green drink each morning. Here’s what I put in it*:

  • IMG_4171A small handful of berries. I used blueberries today. They contribute to brain health.
  • Another fruit or combination, like apple, banana, or pineapple. I find green drinks most palatable when just mildly sweet. Avocado is good, too.
  • Greens. I add a big handful of power greens (chard, kale, mizuna, and arugula), enough to cover a dinner plate well. They add vitamins and minerals and fiber and other healthy benefits.
  • A chunk of ginger root the size of the end of my thumb, for digestive health.
  • Same size chunk of turmeric root, an anti-inflammatory.
  • A bit of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, up to a tablespoon, for alkalinity, nutrients, and to keep candida levels down (if I haven’t already drunk it in a glass of water).
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil for energy.
  • A half scoop of whey powder for protein. (I use a half scoop because I am small.)
  • 12-14 ounces of filtered water.

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Raspberry chocolate super-smoothie bliss

I’ve made this smoothie twice now, and it’s definitely worth sharing. Raspberries and chocolate complement each other very, very well, and this smooth is loaded with nutrients from superfoods, keeping you hydrated and giving you energy.

I added measurements this time! Last time I just threw things together in the blender. Except for the first two packaged ingredients, these are not exact, just indicators. Use your own judgment.

  • 1 14-oz bottle Zico coconut water
  • 1 6-oz container of organic raspberries
  • 2 T dried goji berries
  • 1 T Cortas pomegranate molasses
  • 2 T Artisana organic coconut butter
  • 2 T organic raw cacao nibs
  • 1 T cacao powder
  • 1 T maca powder
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1 T ground flax seed meal
  • 1 T flax seed oil
  • peeled ginger root equal to about 1 T

I put everything in the blender and let it run on a high setting for a couple of minutes to pulverize the cacao nibs. It makes about 3 servings.

Coconut butter is a fairly new product on the shelves of health-oriented grocery stores. It uses both the coconut flesh and the oil, so you get fiber from the coconut, and not just the oil. You could even make it yourself. You can use it as a spread (like butter!). Apparently it makes a great match with maca powder.

That’s an area of food research where I’d love to see more work done — what food combinations boost each other. I’ve read that green tea and lemon work really well together too.

The chia seeds soak up liquid and expand, so the smoothie will gel after blending to a nice thick texture, very filling. Chia seeds are another recently “discovered” superfood from Mexico. They boost energy and keep you hydrated through the fluid they absorb. Long-distance runners often use them. They also provide calcium, boost brain functioning, contain anti-oxidants and omega-3s, lower bad cholesterol and raise the good, control high blood pressure, and do many other good things for the human biological machine.

Maca powder is made from a South American root with these properties:

Maca is a nutritionally dense super-food that contains high amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. Maca root is rich in B-vitamins, which are the energy vitamins, and maca is a vegetarian source of B-12. To boot, maca has high levels of bioavailable calcium and magnesium and is great for remineralization.

Maca root helps balance our hormones and due to an over abundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.

Instead of providing hormones to the body, maca works as an adaptogen which means that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually. If you’re producing too much of a particular hormone, maca will regulate the production downward. However, if you’re producing too little, it’ll regulate the production upward.

You can google each of these ingredients to learn the health benefits, but this smoothie feels and tastes like an explosion of well-being from your tastebuds down to the cellular and energetic levels.

You could use frozen organic raspberries or any other kind of berry, but please do not use non-organic berries as their skins are thin, and pesticides are easily absorbed into the flesh. (That may not be scientific, but it makes sense to me.)

No particular reason for using both flax seed meal and flax seed oil except that I had both on hand!

Strawberry, pomegranate, and cacao breakfast smoothie

Inspired by Patrice’s mango-cacao drink that she gave me a taste of on Friday (very yummy), today I made myself a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

I usually make green smoothies without fruit, so this is a special treat. I’ve felt in need of some self-nurturing. A bout of self-acceptance arose in the last couple of days that was a bit hard on my ego. Yesterday I had a sore throat, which seems to happen when “I” feel “under attack”. Unusual for me, I took a nap to give my immune system more resources and let my unconscious mind/inner healer do some amazing work. Today I’m better but still feeling the need to pull inward.

I happened to have a container of organic strawberries. I picked out the darkest, softest ones (more than half), pulled the stems off, washed them well, and added them to a can of 100% coconut water in my blender.

Strawberries are one of those produce items that are good to always buy organic. Every year, they are near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies.

(You can now download EWG’s Dirty Dozen app for your smart phone or iPad here. It’s free. No more wondering if it’s safe to buy nonorganic when you’re at the grocery or farmer’s market! I buy organic produce when it’s available. If organic is not available, I buy nonorganic if it’s on EWG’s Clean 15 list of produce. If not, I find something else that’s safe to eat.)

Also, more soapbox coming. Just because it’s sold at a farmer’s market doesn’t mean it’s organic. The majority of sellers that I’ve seen in the Austin area farmer’s markets are not organic-certified growers. Seek out organic growers and buy from them. You’ll encourage the rest to switch over.

Better yet, grow some of your own produce yourself. If you haven’t gardened before, it’s easy to start with herbs in pots. Next, try mixing in some greens like chard, kale, and collards into a nontoxic flower bed. Square foot gardening takes more effort to get started, but it’s really a fun way to garden and very low maintenance after your first planting.

Note: This applies to American readers. I presume that international readers have something like organic certification for growers. Not sure whether the EWG lists apply outside the U.S.???

Okay, soapbox off.

To the coconut water and strawberries, I added about 3 tablespoons of organic raw cacao nibs.

Then I put in a tablespoon or two of flax-seed meal, shelled hemp seeds, chia seeds, and maca powder.

Can’t forget a thumb-size chunk of peeled ginger. This is not an exact science here, more experimenting in the kitchen, which is much, much more fun once you learn basic principles than following a recipe exactly. But following recipes is how you learn.

Then I added about 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses. In Austin, you can get it at Fiesta and Phoenicia Bakery, stores that carry Middle Eastern brands. I use the Cortas brand, a product of Lebanon containing only natural pomegranate juice concentrate.

After adding all these ingredients, I ran my blender for a couple of minutes on the highest setting to really pulverize the cacao. When I can afford a VitaMix ($450-650 new), I’ll get one and wonder, I’m sure, how I ever managed to live without it. A VitaMix will pulverize the cacao quickly.

It was so delicious, it was hard not to drink it all in one sitting, but I managed to save some for tomorrow morning. Strawberries, cacao, and pomegranate make a great menage a trois!