3 Superfood Snack Recipes: Boosting Energy with Cacao

While it’s awesome that the cacao plant happens to have many amazing health benefits—do we really care? It’s CHOCOLATE! And we would eat it no matter what. Well, hold on a second—before you go run out to the store to load up on the stuff—let me just warn you that raw (naturally fermented) cacao and processed chocolate sold in bars and pieces are two entirely different things.

Processed chocolate is made with roasted cocoa, sugar, milk, and other ingredients that turn it into a solid food.  Raw cacao has an intense flavor that is similar to unsweetened dark cocoa powder or baker’s chocolate. It can take a bit of getting used to at first, but trust me, with some tweaking, you can bake some pretty awesome chocolate chips cookies—okay, now you have my permission to get excited.

A Bit about the Cacao

The Incas considered cacao the drink of gods, which is how it got its scientific name– Theobroma cacao– from the Greek words Theo (god) and Broma (drink). This little bean is touted to improve memory, increase bliss, reduce heart disease, shed fat, boost immunity, and create loads of energy… and did I mention—it’s CHOCOLATE!

Here is another fact that blew me away: Raw cacao contains almost four times more the antioxidant value than that of regular, processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries and a whopping 119 times more antioxidants than bananas! 

Cacao Beans, Nibs, and Powders

No doubt you have probably heard of, or even eaten cacao nibs, but cacao beans and cacao nibs are two are very different things. Cacao beans are the whole bean straight from the cacao fruit, while cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and chopped up. Think of them as a crunchy healthier version of chocolate chips that work remarkably well as a replacement in our beloved chocolate chip cookie.

This superfood delivers a ton of benefits. First, it contains anandamide, a mood enhancer known as the bliss molecule. It’s also an aphrodisiac, balances hormonal swings, prevents cardiovascular disease (be still, my heart), prevents premature aging, naturally lowers our blood pressure (who can be stressed when eating any form of chocolate?), and a litany of other things. Mostly, it tastes great and makes life all that much sweeter.

If you’re new to cacao, start slowly.  For example, if you prefer milk chocolate, then you can start by adding some raw cacao to a smoothie to make it easier for you to get used to the stronger taste. Over time, you will grow to love its strong and intense flavor, and more importantly, you will appreciate how good it is for you.

Here are some recipes for you to begin your love affair with cacao:

Nutty Cacao Breakfast Bites

Prep: 20 min.

1 cup pitted whole dates, soaked 3-4 hours in cold water
1½ cups roasted pistachios, ground finely
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey or agave
½ cup peanut butter or cashew butter, smooth or crunchy
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup chopped cocoa nibs
½ teaspoon salt

Soak dates in enough cold water to cover for 3-4 hours. Puree dates with ¾ cup of its soaking water in the blender. Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with 1 cup ground pistachios and the remaining ingredients. Roll into golf-sized balls then roll over remaining ground pistachios to coat, and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Coco-Cacao Banana Smoothie

Prep: 5 min.

2 tablespoons sweet cacao nibs
1 peeled banana
1 teaspoon chia seeds
¼ cup ground cashews
1 tablespoon chocolate protein powder
1 cup coconut milk, almond milk or whole milk
Ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and mix on high for 1 minute.

Cacao Nib Cookies

Prep: 40 min.
Bake: 7-8 min.
Yields: About 3 dozen cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ teaspoon GF vanilla extract
2¼ cups all purpose, whole wheat or white spelt flour
2 cups sweet cacao nibs
1½ cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, lightly toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.  In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat shortening and butter. Beat in sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla until combined. Add in flour mixture and mix until almost smooth, then stir in nibs and nuts.
  2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto sheet with parchment paper. Bake 7-8 minutes; let cool.   

*Note: Toss in some dried cranberries or blueberries for extra antioxidant value.

Love cacao? What are some of your fave recipes that use this superfood? Share with us!

Tags : recipes   dessert   snacks   superfoods   cacao   

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