I have had a little cacao obsession this week.
It started with the avocado love from last week, which just sort of melted into an avocado chocolate mousse; and finished with cacao and cashew kale chips…. Lucky that cacao is chock full of antioxidants: 10-15 times more antioxidants than blueberries, and 20 times more than green tea to be precise – whoa! Cacao beans are super rich in magnesium, and are also high in chromium, iron, zinc, vitamin C and manganese. If you are worried about the caffeine content, it is actually quite low – around 1%, compared with coffee which had around 10%.
So what’s the deal with cacao anyway? The cacao tree grows the cacao pod which is the fruit. The pod is full of fabulous seeds which we know as cacao beans. You can find cacao as beans, nibs, powder and cacao butter. The nibs (like chocolate chips) and the powder lend themselves fabulously to baking, trail mix, smoothies, desserts and my new gourmet granola (I will post the recipe soon!).
The difference between cacao and chocolate, or ordinary cocoa, is that the latter is like a watered down version of cacao, with added extras like sugars, binding agents, milk solids, colourings and other chemicals. Vitamins and minerals are very sensitive to heat, and as most chocolate and cocoa is made using high temperatures, the end product is severely depleted in antioxidants, and has almost none of the vitamins and minerals it began life with. Good quality raw cacao however is produced using low temperatures and so maintains much of the original nutrient profile, hooray! Although it’s not something you should really eat in the same quantity as vegetables, the health benefits make it such an awesome alternative for a sweet treat! You will find it in health food shops an some specialty shops. Look for organic and products that have been produced using low temperatures and minimal processing.
Avocado chocolate mousse is a tricky way to healthy up dessert. Put all the goodness of avocado (as mentioned last week), with the happiness of cacao and you get a silky little delectable with a difference. There are a number of ways to go about it, and I have spooned the mousse into some cute little walnut cases which not only add deliciousness, but protein and extra omega 3s, making this quite a legitimate snack!
Chocolate Avocado Mousse Cups
Adapted from Smooth Criminal Chocolate Mousse Tarts from My New Roots
To make the walnut cups, blend 3/4 cup walnuts and 1 tablespoon maple syrup/agave in a food processor until combined. Press into small muffin tin to make 8 cups, or larger moulds to make 4 cups. Pop into a very low oven and bake until firm and a little crisp. Carefully remove from the tin and let cool.
**To make this recipe conducive to raw food diets, refrigerate the cups instead of baking, or dehydrate for 1 – 2 hours.
To make the mousse you will need:
2 ripe avocados
2 tbs good quality raw cacao powder
1-2 tbs agave or maple syrup
5 very soft dates / soaked dates, pitted; or extra agave/maple syrup
A pinch of sea salt
A scant 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped
2 tbs coconut milk
A handful of good quality dark chocolate (optional)
Put all ingredients (except chocolate if using) into a clean food processor and blend until smooth. If you are using the chocolate, melt it now and fold into the mousse.
Spoon the mix into the cups and serve! You can garnish these babies with any fruit that you have at hand if you like.
Which brings me to the cacao and cashew kale chips. I have never made a sweet version of kale chips before, but was rummaging around for a sweet treat this afternoon and this hit the spot for me perfectly! You just can’t go wrong with kale chips it seems. I added cashews for a little extra substance.
Cacao and Cashew Kale Chips
To recreate this little treat, mix 1 teaspoon coconut oil (softened/melted), 1 teaspoon cacao powder, 1/2-3/4 teaspoon maple/agave syrup, a small handful of blitzed cashews and a pinch of sea salt and massage into a big handful of torn kale. Spread out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in a very low oven until crispy (20-30 minutes). Alternatively, dehydrate for at least 2 hours. Delicious!! Double, triple and quadruple the recipe as needed! You have been warned.