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.
Here are just a few more of the health benefits of raw cacao:
- Good source of the mineral magnesium, which is beneficial for heart and nerve health
- Stimulates the release of neurotransmitters in our brain like dopamine that make us happy
- Loaded with anti-aging, anti-inflammatory antioxidants
- Packed with protective flavonoids that protect our body from damage due to things like stress and other environmental irritants
- Contains a compound known as “the bliss molecule,” aptly named because of its feel-good properties
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!
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!
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.
- 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
- Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spread nuts/seeds, goji berries, and cacao nibs evenly on the sheet.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Sprinkle a couple pinches of sea salt on top of the chocolate.
- Set in the freezer to harden for about 30 minutes.
- 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.