Nourish Your Body. Feed Your Soul. Shine Your Light.

Tag: healthy chocolate

Baltimore’s Best Chocolate {AKA The Purest Chocolate You’ll Ever Eat}

Dark chocolate and caramel have a special place in my heart.

When I was a kid, I remember going to Wockenfuss Candy in Baltimore with my mom and being treated to their dark chocolate caramels.

The buttery caramel would melt in my mouth, as the rich, dark chocolate shell cracked and coated my tongue.

As I’ve made changes to my diet over the past five years, I’ve still maintained a bit of a sweet tooth.

I’d be fine if I could never have chips or crackers again, but chocolate? I’d have a hard time with that one.

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In most restrictive, “diet and deprive,” calorie-counting approaches to eating, chocolate has been pushed to the periphery and isn’t something most of us think we “can” eat if we’re trying to be well.

One of my goals in writing this blog is to share ideas for “upgrading” our diet to nourish our body and transform our lives.

For me, chocolate – PURE chocolate – is an integral part of a nourishing diet.

When it comes to chocolate, quality counts – all chocolate is not created equal. That’s what sets chocolate apart – the quality of the ingredients and how it’s made.

In the heart of Baltimore is one such chocolate maker, someone who pours her heart and soul into everything she creates.

She’s an artist, a scientist and an inventor. She and her team lovingly and intentionally craft each piece of chocolate, and as one of her biggest fans, it makes a difference.

I first tasted Jinji’s decadent chocolates about a year ago on a trip to Belvedere Square – my favorite place to spend time in Baltimore.

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I was intrigued by the sign that read, Pure Chocolate by Jinji and grew even more curious as I saw some not so common flavor combinations: Chocolate Covered Date Poppers, Caramel Fudge, Hazelnut Fudge, Orange-Infused Truffles.

I could tell something was different about these chocolates and the person behind the counter.

One day, I introduced myself and quickly connected to Jinji, the friendly, vibrant creator of these chocolate joys.

We started talking about nutrition and food, and I soon learned that she graduated from the same health coach training program I completed in 2013.

jinji and dad

She had a passion for translating what she had learned about the health benefits of foods like raw cacao, coconut, fruits, herbs, and superfoods into an edible form.

She grew animated and passionate as she talked about her chocolate and about food in general – how so many of us make food this bad and forbidden thing.

And how we’ve given a bad name to something that can be so pure, beautifying, even nourishing.

Over the past year or so, I’ve made many trips to Jinji, always open to trying her latest creations but also staying loyal to my favorite staples like the chocolate-dipped caramel fudge, chocolate-covered date poppers (Medjool dates stuffed with raw honey, crunchy cacao nibs, and a pinch of salt and then enrobed in a thick dark chocolate shell), and pecan turtles.

The creamy caramel fudge!

The creamy caramel fudge!

Truffles galore! They're always so creative and decadent.

Truffles galore! They’re always so creative and decadent.

All of the chocolates are dairy-free, gluten-free and contain no refined sugar.

They’re raw, which means all of the antioxidant, nourishing power of the chocolate and other ingredients are left intact.

The quality of ingredients and low and slow nature of the process are what set Jinji’s chocolates apart.

Every single piece is made by hand with the highest quality ingredients.

If you’re a person concerned with purity in product, you’re getting the purest piece of chocolate you could possibly have.

She knows exactly where everything comes from, including her beans, which are sourced from growers in Ecuador, who she first met at a chocolate show in Paris.

cacao beans

I wanted to know who was growing our beans. I wanted to know that they were treated well. I wanted to know that it was a renewable resource in that area, that the ground was treated well.

After “tasting every single thing that sweetens things,” Jinji opted for a three-sweetener flavor profile, including mesquite for smokiness, lucuma for fruitiness, and coconut blossom for sweetness.

I asked her how she creates such a velvety, smooth texture to her chocolate.

“Low and slow” was her response. They put their ingredients in a stone grinder for nearly 24 hours and then temper it (alternate raising and lowering the temperature) to try to “coax out all of the flavors, all of the textures, everything that it’s capable of, bringing it to its full potential” before they put it into any molds.

The result? A rich and creamy, melt-in-your mouth bite bursting with flavor.

My new favorite is the peanut butter stuffed figs dipped in dark chocolate.

Pb stuffed fig

OH MY GOODNESS. You need to know about these figs.

Already a fan of what she was creating, I wanted to learn more about Jinji, how she got her start, how she was trained, where her passion and inspirations come from, and what makes her chocolate so different, so special, so incredibly delicious.

She was kind enough to sit down with me to share her story. After getting to know her and her chocolate better, I enjoy it even more than I did before!

I’m going to share with you Jinji’s journey. It’s an incredible story and one that I hope will encourage you to imagine what’s possible in your life, to start paying attention to everything and be open to its purpose.

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

Sweet & Salty Super Food Chocolate Bark {Dairy-Free, Paleo}

Chocolate.

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It’s one of the foods we think we “can’t have” when we eat in a way most people would consider healthy.

Fortunately, chocolate is one of the foods that absolutely can (and should!) be part of a nourishing, satisfying way of eating.

When it comes to chocolate, quality matters.

Raw cacao beans and powder (pronounced ka-KOW) have more antioxidants than any other food. Raw cacao isn’t treated by heat (and therefore damaged) like the more familiar cocoa powder, so its supercharged, health-boosting, disease-fighting antioxidant properties remain intact.

When we hear about the health benefits of chocolate, this is the kind we’re talking about.

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Here are just a few more of the health benefits of raw cacao:

This bark recipe is truly a super food recipe because it contains TWO types of chocolate – cacao powder and cacao nibs.

Raw cacao nibs come from the whole cacao beans, so they are a bit bitter but have a nice crunch to them. They work well in this recipe because the sweetness of the bark offsets the bitterness.

I served it last week at a luncheon at work and this past weekend at a women’s retreat where I did a presentation about taking a “Real Food Reset.” It was so much fun!

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I also used almonds, which are rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, and provide an additional crunch factor.

In another variation of the recipe, I used pumpkin seeds instead of almonds. Both were delicious!

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There’s one more ingredient in this bark that might not be so familiar – goji berries – but don’t let that deter you!

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are considered a superfood because of their high antioxidant concentration (when you hear “antioxidant,” think anti-aging, protective and pro-health!). Some of their antioxidant compounds can help protect our vision, too.

They tend to be a bit pricy, but a bag lasts me for several months, so I find that it’s worth it. I buy them on Amazon or at our local Asian grocery store (cheapest place to buy!), Vitacost.com, Wegmans, Whole Foods, Home Goods and most natural food stores.

barkmain

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut nectar, raw honey or 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 teaspoons maca powder (optional but recommended)
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries, roughly chopped
  • coarse sea salt, to taste

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Directions

  1. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spread nuts/seeds, goji berries, and cacao nibs evenly on the sheet.
  2. Fill a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and place it on the stove top. Rest a small glass bowl on top and turn the heat to medium low. Put the oil and sweetener in the glass bowl and whisk together until the oil melts.
  3. Once oil and sweetener are combined, gently whisk in the vanilla extract, raw cacao powder, and maca powder until silky smooth. **Be careful not to overmix or the chocolate will get clumpy.** That’s what happened to us the first time we made this!chocolate melting
  4. As soon as chocolate is smooth and shiny, pour it on top of the nuts/seeds, berries/fruit and nibs to cover them. Shake the sides of the parchment paper, so all of the nuts/berries/nibs collect in the middle and are covered with chocolate then use a spatula to spread it out in an even layer.
  5. Sprinkle a couple pinches of sea salt on top of the chocolate.
  6. Set in the freezer to harden for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove bark from parchment paper, break into pieces and enjoy! Store in the freezer or refrigerator, as coconut oil begins to melt as it warms up to room temperature.

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