Tag: chocolate

Chocolate Bliss Aphrodisiac Smoothie

I love chocolate.

I’ve been eating more of it than usual lately, so it’s been on my mind. No holiday in our house is complete without a box of Jinji chocolates, which are raw, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

They are the best chocolates on the planet.

I’ve also been whipping up some chocolate-based treats in my kitchen to share with friends and coworkers, including these no-bake mint chocolate bliss balls and these cherry chocolate brownie bites. We use raw cacao powder – chocolate in its purest form – as the base of those recipes. It’s packed with health and mood benefits like these outlined by Dr. Mercola:

Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate – more than 20 times than that of blueberries

Cacao can improve heart health, cholesterol, stress levels, and inflammation, to list just a few physical advantages. Fringe benefits cacao releases into the brain include anandamide, endorphins, phenylethylamine, and serotonin, all sparking descriptives like “blissful” and “euphoric.”

Chocolate is known to increase neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine (PEA), serotonin, and anandamide (the “bliss chemical”) in the brain. That’s just one of the reasons we crave it and feel so good when we eat it.

I opt for raw cacao (not Hershey’s cocoa powder) as my chocolate of choice because in its raw, unheated form, its antioxidant properties and phytochemicals are most potent.

Today’s recipe pairs the blissful phytochemicals in chocolate with the libido-enhancing properties of maca powder.

Maca root is a cruciferous vegetable indigenous to Peru that has dozens of health benefits and is known for its energy-boosting, hormone-balancing, libido-enhancing powers.

It is an adaptogen, which is a “natural substance that works with a person’s body and helps them adapt; most notably, to stress. Adaptogens are a natural ally in dealing with persistent stress and fatigue because they work with regulating important hormones.”

Maca has a mild, malted taste and is a great smoothie add-in, which is how we’re using it today. Make sure you buy gelatinized maca root (it will say it on the bag) because it is easier to digest. I buy mine at MOM’s Organic Market, but you can also find it online or at your local health food store.

This smoothie is thick and creamy thanks for the chia seeds, flaxseed and frozen banana. It’s more like a decadent desert, but I enjoyed it for breakfast!

Nothing like a little chocolate and maca love to get the day started right and put you in the mood for whatever is to come 🙂

Chocolate Bliss Aphrodisiac Smoothie

This smoothie combines bliss-inducing chocolate and libido-enhancing maca powder for a delicious, rich and creamy treat.

Course Breakfast
Cuisine Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 person
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk unsweetened
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1.5 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1 Medjool date pit removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 frozen banana

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except banana in a blender for about 30 seconds.

  2. Add banana and blend until smoothie and creamy. Pour into a glass and top with raw cacao nibs for some crunch and an extra chocolate boost!

Recipe Notes

Option add-in: 1 scoop collagen protein powder

Chewy Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites {Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan}

Chocolate + peanut butter = awesome

Chocolate + caramel = awesome

Chocolate + sea salt = awesome

Chocolate +…just about anything = awesome!

I recently wrote about my favorite chocolate place in Baltimore, which features combinations of chocolate most of us would never think of that happen to taste aaaamazing.

In the spirit of yummy chocolate treats, today’s recipe features chocolate + cherries, another winning food combo that doesn’t get enough love.

My friend, Anna (check out her photography site!) recently posted an action shot of her daughter Paisley after enjoying this chocolate-covered cherry smoothie.

paisley2

Bill and I have been making that smoothie a lot lately for breakfast, and the flavors in it inspired today’s recipe for chewy cherry chocolate brownie bites.

YUM.

Several ingredients in these brownie bites are anti-inflammatory, health boosting and super satisfying, including almonds, walnuts, and cacao powder.  Those three foods also made my Top 11 Sweet Treat Staples pantry list.

Cherries are known for their inflammation-fighting, antioxidant-rich properties, and their tart flavor works really well with the slight bitterness from the chocolate and the sweetness from the dates.

My friends and coworkers, Michela and Jillian, were all over these when I brought them to a party last week. Jillian called them Cherry Bombs, which is pretty appropriate since they are like an explosion of flavor! 🙂

cherry choco bitescherry bomb

Yield: 20-24 bites

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted (about 10-12 dates)
  • 3/4 cup dried bing cherries, unsweetened (Trader Joe’s sells these cheapest)
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt + a pinch

Directions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the “s” blade or a coffee grinder, process the cacao nibs until they are broken into smaller pieces. Set them aside.
  2. Put the almonds and walnuts in the food processor and process until finely ground, about 45 seconds.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture becomes sticky – about 2 minutes.
  4. Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter, and roll them in the crushed cacao nibs for some crunch! Store them in the fridge. They taste even better after they’ve had a chance to sit for a couple of hours, so all the flavors can meld.

From Under Armour to Belvedere Square: Jinji’s Inspiring Journey to Pure Chocolate Bliss

In case you missed the first post in this series about my favorite chocolates (and my #1 indulgence), click here. This post tells the story behind the chocolate and its inspiring owner and creator, Jinji Fraser!

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Born in Germany (her dad was in the military) and raised in Baltimore, Jinji grew up without any particular interest in food.

She credits her uncanny smell memory with many of her creative inspirations.

Her first food memory is one that she draws on a lot for inspiration and is a key part of one of her favorite treats – Chocolate-Covered Date Poppers stuffed with raw honey, crunchy cacao nibs and sea salt.

date popper

The inspiration? Honeysuckles.

As a child spending her summers in Alabama, she and her brother would spend hours lying by her grandmother’s endless chain link fence, interwoven with honeysuckles, pulling them off one by one and soaking in the sweet nectar.

Inspiration can literally come from everywhere […] Inspiration is everywhere all the time.

As we sat at the table during the interview, she saw a bag of popcorn lining the counter of one of the food vendors and told me it made her think about her new corn-infused chocolates and how they would taste different if she incorporated popcorn instead of corn flakes.

Her creative wheels are always turning; she’s open to being inspired.

Jinji’s start in the chocolate business came in a rather unexpected way.

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The Turning Point

After graduating with a college degree in Communication and Culture and completing her health coaching training through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she returned to Baltimore, eager to become a nutrition counselor and teach classes.

Her first corporate job after college was working at Under Armour. At that point, she had no inkling she would a) have her own food business and b) have anything to do with chocolate.

One of her roles at Under Armour was designing nutrition and fitness programs for kids with Living Classrooms, a non-profit organization based in Baltimore.

living classrooms

As she was doing that, she had her first “aha” moment:

You know what? I’ve gotta do food. This is what I want to do.

With nothing holding her back or tying her down, Jinji left her corporate job and went out on her own. She started organizing events around food and got connected to the local healthy food and chef community, including Daniela Troia, owner of Zia’s Café & Plantbar (another favorite place of mine at Belvedere Square).

The turning point in her career came one night during an event she had organized at The Black Olive that centered on creating a delicious raw food dinner to introduce people to that way of eating.

Throughout the night, Jinji kept stepping over a postcard that was turned over on the ground. Eventually, she heeded the urge to pick it up and flip it over (after all it was her event and she knew she should at least pick up the trash). The card was advertising raw chocolate workshops.

I can’t imagine what compelled me to actually look into this thing. This is totally not me to go do this thing.

But she did, and it changed her life and career forever:

I went to this workshop that wasn’t very good. It didn’t need to be good. All I needed was to see this thing, to see chocolate being made and to see that process of making it and the amount of work that goes into it. I just needed to see that. And once I did, I said, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m going to do.’

Jinji has been “completely in love with chocolate ever since.”

Her father, Guy, who retired from the military after 38 years of service, came on to help her with the finances and logistical and administrative details.

Jinji and her dad

Jinji and her dad

He’s a big heartbeat of the business,” she says. He’s also a welcoming, friendly face. I always look forward to seeing and chatting with him when I’m looking for my chocolate fix 🙂

The Path

Like most successful people, Jinji’s path has not been an easy one. I asked her what barriers she’s faced in business.

“ALL of them,” she said.

Her greatest challenge was figuring out how to work with chocolate and turn it in to decadent and carefully crafted bites of bliss.

chopped chocolate IMG_0308

Chocolate is so emotional. You have to get that in order to work with it […] It’s never the same from one day to the next. […] It takes on whatever energy you have. I swear it does. It knows how you feel, and it reacts to that […] When I was starting out, I don’t know that I really understood that. I thought it was just like candy, like everyone else does […] but I didn’t really get that there’s something much deeper to it than that.

When she first started, she would get stressed out trying to make the “perfect” piece of chocolate.

Eventually, she learned that if she was patient, wasn’t in a rush, took her time, and just loved the process of what she was doing, it was so much easier to work with.

melted hazelnut

I’ve found the same to be true in my career and life. When I feel like I’m forcing things to happen, it’s exhausting. It doesn’t feel easy. And often, it doesn’t feel quite right.

When I’m patient, enjoying the process and allowing myself to be “in the zone,” on the other hand, I feel alive, and I’m fully present and being the best and truest version of myself. I’m all of me, and things just flow. Whether I’m teaching a workshop, leading a cooking class, or speaking to a room full of people about WHY health matters, it comes easily to me, and I shine.

Think about what makes YOU feel most alive. What comes easily to you? What feels right and natural? Pay attention to that. Do more of it. Be open to what “ease” is trying to tell you.

The Future & “The Nod”

I asked Jinji what’s next and how she envisions her future, given the success she has had in such a short period of time since opening her business.

She wants to travel, see the world, and most importantly, connect.

I feel like enough people love chocolate that they could be connected by chocolate. I feel like enough people would be open to this world that I’m creating right now. There’s just so much happiness in it.

I really just want to travel. I want to get other kinds of inspiration. I want to taste things. I want to share with people the things that I’m doing. I want to keep teaching and doing workshops and talking to people and really just connecting people with chocolate.

chocolate class

But don’t worry, Baltimore, Jinji’s chocolates will always have a home here.

In some capacity, the chocolate will live on in Baltimore because I love Baltimore and I love what I’m doing here, but that’s not my story, that’s not the end of my story at all.

It is so much bigger than Baltimore. It has to be. It just has to be. I really have this dream of just seeing the entire world and all of the people out there […] I love what I’m doing. I love people.

Jinji loves what she does and is grateful for it.

I come and I make chocolate all day long. As bad as life could ever get, at the end of the day, I make chocolate for a living.

One of the greatest joys of her career has been meeting so many chefs and other people who truly love food, including her crew from Belvedere Square.

We have this saying, a couple of chef friends of mine: ‘At the end of the day, we do it for the nod.’ When someone eats something that we’ve made and they just nod, we’re like,

‘That’s the moment, that’s the thing, that’s why we do it.’

If you want to try Jinji’s chocolates, here’s where you can buy them, but to get the best of the best, visit her shop at Belvedere Square Market.

box of chocolate

3 Chocolatey Valentine’s Day Sweet Treats

I will always remember my first Valentine’s Day with my then boyfriend, now husband, Bill. I’m super sentimental and have been known to pull the line, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money – just do something creative. I like homemade things.” Haha. This is an evil thing women do to men, but he always comes through for me, so it must be working!

Vday

That first Valentine’s Day, he took my words to heart and made me a card, complete with foam, puffy paint, and felt letters he cut out himself, along with a now scruffy-looking teddy bear and flowers. The card read, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you are the world. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

I feel blessed to be married to a man who knows the importance of romance and making me feel loved on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Since we are likely to be snowed in on Valentine’s Day this year,  we decided to make the most of the time and whip up some yummy Valentine’s Day sweet treats!

If you like peanut butter, chocolate, walnuts and almonds, you will like at least one (if not all) of these recipes!

All the recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and raw, so everyone can enjoy them! They come from one of my favorite bloggers, Angela Liddon, at oh she glows.

They’re listed in order of awesomeness. It should be no surprise that the chocolate peanut butter combo is the winner. It is AMAZING!

IMG_3306

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip – oh my chocolatey peanut buttery goodness. That is all I will say…you HAVE to make this stuff…As tempting as it will be to literally drink the whole bowl, try dipping strawberries, bananas, or apples in it!

IMG_3305

Seductive Raw Chocolate Walnut Fudge – Holy cow. This melt-in-your-mouth fudge is simple to make, loaded with chocolate/walnut/maple flavor and won’t stay around for long!

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Raw Almond Butter Cups – Almonds. Cinnamon. Chocolate. What’s not to love?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

3 Chocolately Valentine’s Day Sweet Treats

I will always remember my first Valentine’s Day with my then boyfriend, now husband, Bill. I’m super sentimental and have been known to pull the line, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money – just do something creative. I like homemade things.” Haha. This is an evil thing women do to men, but he always comes through for me, so it must be working!

Vday

That first Valentine’s Day, he took my words to heart and made me a card, complete with foam, puffy paint, and felt letters he cut out himself, along with a now scruffy-looking teddy bear and flowers. The card read, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you are the world. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

I feel blessed to be married to a man who knows the importance of romance and making me feel loved on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Since we are likely to be snowed in on Valentine’s Day this year,  we decided to make the most of the time and whip up some yummy Valentine’s Day sweet treats!

If you like peanut butter, chocolate, walnuts and almonds, you will like at least one (if not all) of these recipes!

All the recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and raw, so everyone can enjoy them! They come from one of my favorite bloggers, Angela Liddon, at oh she glows.

They’re listed in order of awesomeness. It should be no surprise that the chocolate peanut butter combo is the winner. It is AMAZING!

IMG_3306

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip – oh my chocolatey peanut buttery goodness. That is all I will say…you HAVE to make this stuff…As tempting as it will be to literally drink the whole bowl, try dipping strawberries, bananas, or apples in it!

IMG_3305

Seductive Raw Chocolate Walnut Fudge – Holy cow. This melt-in-your-mouth fudge is simple to make, loaded with chocolate/walnut/maple flavor and won’t stay around for long!

IMG_3312

Raw Almond Butter Cups – Almonds. Cinnamon. Chocolate. What’s not to love?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

5 of My Favorite Sweet Treat Recipes!

One of my favorite books that really simplifies how to eat real food is Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. I love what he has to say about junk food.food-rules-cover-484

Rule #45: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Let’s be honest. If every time we wanted fries, baked goods or ice cream we had to cook them ourselves, we would eat a lot less of those foods. It would truly be a treat when we ate them instead of something we can easily do every day thanks to modern food manufacturing.

In college, I was given the nickname “Betty Crocker” by a group of my husband’s fraternity brothers and roommates because of all of the baked goods I made for them, including my specialties of cookies and cream brownies and half-inch thick chocolate chip cookies.

Now that I’m focused on nourishing my body (and my friends and family) with wholesome, minimally processed or refined foods, I take a different approach to baking.

As I’ve learned more about how to cook and bake in a healthier way, I’ve discovered that a variety of foods found in nature are sweet, minimally (if at all) processed AND delicious, including fruit, dates, raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, applesauce, and blackstrap molasses, to name a few. They are great substitutes to use in recipes that call for highly refined white sugar.

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Like any sweet treat, these are meant to be enjoyed occasionally, not every day, because the more sugar we consume, the more our bodies will crave. In fact, many of us are literally addicted to it.  Two of the keys to curbing a sugar addiction are to minimize our sugar intake and make sure we are eating enough nutrient-rich whole food at regular intervals, so our bodies feel nutritionally satisfied.

Many of the sweet treat recipes I prepare will often include fiber, which helps the sugar in the food release more slowly into the bloodstream, giving your liver more time to metabolize the food.

I like to think of food choices on a continuum of “Good, Better, Best.” All of these options are better choices than grabbing a box or bag of sweets with long lists of ingredients we can’t pronounce. 

Here are links to 5 of my favorite tried and true sweet treat recipes!

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  1. Homemade Rolos (oh she glows) I LOVED Rolos growing up. I made these last night for dessert, and they were gone by the time we finished playing Catchphrase! I used Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips because they only have 3 ingredients and are gluten, dairy, and soy free (you find them at Target, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and MOMs). oh she glows is one of my absolute favorite blogs. Angela posts so many amazing and delicious recipes – from baked goods to side dishes and salads – and I’ve tried about a half dozen of them and will feature them in future posts.
  2. Chocolate Mint Truffles (Mind Body Green) – I made these for multiple holiday parties this year, and they were full of minty goodness. They’re vegan and don’t contain any processed sugar, but no one will know!
  3. Peanut Butter Granola Bars (The Family Vegan) – This recipe is from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook, which my hubby gave me as a gift for Christmas. We have already made 10 delicious recipes from the book this year, so I can’t recommend it enough!
  4. Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Cookies (Fast Paleo) – These are a great gluten and dairy-free alternative to chocolate chip cookies, and they are delicious! An alternative option is to use half raw honey and half maple syrup instead of using only honey. Sometimes I also do half peanut butter and half almond butter instead of only almond butter.  I use Enjoy Life chocolate chips in these as well, but you can skip the chips altogether, if you prefer, and add cranberries instead!
  5. Banana Bread Muffin Tops (oh she glows) – I just made these for the first time last week, and I really enjoyed them with walnuts and raisins!

Unfamiliar with some of the ingredients? Just do what we do, and buy them off of Amazon. They are usually cheaper there than anywhere else, and we get free 2-day shipping with our Amazon Prime Membership!

I would love to hear if you end up trying any of these recipes. Feel free to share them, and stay tuned for more!

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