Monday, February 4, 2013

No guilt: Enjoy chocolate without fat or sugar

Chocolate covered strawberries is just one way to enjoy homemade cacao powder concoctions.

Simply Living
February 4, 2013

I’m not a big fan of chocolate but my husband is.  However, until recently, Ralph has been careful not to overindulge.  For health reasons, he didn’t want to consume too much saturated fat or sugar, ingredients found in most manufactured chocolate products.  His self-imposed limit was one small piece of dark chocolate a day and he rarely cheated. 

He doesn’t restrain himself anymore. 

Ever since we discovered how easy it is to make fat-free, sugarless, no-cooking-involved confections at home out of raw cacao powder, Ralph eats as much chocolate as he wants without guilt or health worries.  In fact, the way he now consumes chocolate might even be beneficial to his health.

Raw cacao beans are high in essential minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium and copper.  Research suggests that the antioxidants found in raw cacao beans aid cardiovascular health by improving circulation and lowering blood pressure. 

As if that weren’t enough, when you eat a confection made out of raw cacao powder, feel-good signals flood your body.  Neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins send out messages of calmness and wellbeing that improve moods and act as anti-depressants.

Sound good?  Tastes better!   

It only takes three basic ingredients - raw cacao powder, liquid and stevia – to make fat-free, low-calorie, no-cook chocolate confections at home.  However, how much of each ingredient to use depends on what you want to make.  I like to start each day with a hot chocolate drink made with more liquid than the gooey mixtures Ralph prefers.  Adding extra liquid to the powdered cacao creates a thinner, syrupy concoction while adding less yields a more fudge-like texture.  Similarly, the amount of stevia (we use both a powdered form and a liquid form of stevia) will determine how sweet the chocolate becomes. 

The two brands of cacao powder we use – Raw Cacao Powder by NavitasNaturals and Madre Labs’s CocoCeps – are both excellent.  For stevia, I’m partial to the brand NuNaturals, which makes both a Pure Liquid Clear Stevia as well as NuNaturals' NuStevia White Stevia Powder.  For a liquid, we have tried water, tea, juice and unsweetened soymilk but any liquid will do. 

Making no-cook, chocolate at home is all about experimentation.  It’s important to begin with just a little, perhaps a couple tablespoons of powder mixed with a teaspoon of powdered stevia or about 10 drops of liquid stevia.  Add to that a few drops of liquid, stirring until it is no longer lumpy then increase the liquid a little at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.  To determine if the chocolate’s texture is what you want or if it is sweet enough, take frequent tastes.  Remember, eating chocolate made without the fat or sugar is good for you! 

Once you’ve arrived at a desired consistency and flavor, try dipping various fruits and nuts into the chocolate.  Strawberries, which are just coming into season in Florida, are yummy when dipped in stevia-sweetened cacao syrup.  After enjoying them fresh, try placing a few chocolate-dipped fruit on a platter to place in the freezer for a few hours where the cold air will cause the chocolate to harden. 

End result:  A satisfying dessert that’s low in calories and fat, tastes delicious and - most important – will make you feel good while improving your health.

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