28 Dec
2016

How did we end up with chocolate?

Cacao bean unprocessed

Before the sixteenth century, chocolate did not exist in the minds of Europeans (who later became Americans).  The use of the fermented cacao bean seems to have originated in Mexico as early as 1900 B.C..  The Mayans left some historical record of their use of roasted cacao seed paste with water combined with chili peppers and cornmeal as a drink to the gods.

By 1400 B.C., the Aztecs had taken over a sizeable part of Mesoamerica and began to import it, and collected cacao from the peoples they conquered as a tax, similar to what we might consider property tax.  Cacao became a form of trade currency for the Aztec people, both within their society as well as with travelers.

Columbus first encountered the cacao bean in 1502 and observed its value to the local people, so he took it home to Spain where it largely sat unnoticed.  It was only after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that chocolate was brought to Europe where it was still served as a beverage and
sweetener was added.  Initially it was available only to royalty, but within a century it became available to all.

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the English, Dutch and French colonized and started cacao plantations, mostly operated by slave labor and animal drawn machines.  The industrial revolution brought the beginnings of what we now know as chocolate, with the advent of adding alkaline salts to chocolate to reduce the bitterness, and removing cacao butter to make the chocolate cheaper and of a more consistent texture.

A short time later, it was discovered that by adding back some of melted cacao butter, chocolate became moldable into bars and other shapes.  Milk chocolate was invented in 1875 by Daniel Peter when he added Henri Nestle powdered milk.

Through much more trial and error we have many varieties of chocolate that line our shelves today!

 

The Politics of Cacao Today

A large majority of cacao used today comes from West Africa, where small farmers are often financially abused because they are at the mercy of large companies.  Farmers are too often forced to sell their harvests to middle-men who do not look out for their best interest so they are financially short-changed and can do nothing about it.  This often forces them to resort to child labor to reduce costs.

Buying fair trade certified chocolate ensures that the farmers that produced the cacao that made your chocolate have received a fair price for their product and gives the farmers the opportunity to continue and better their business.  With so much turmoil in the country of Africa, please take the time to help even in this small way!

How will chocolate benefit you?

The health benefits of cocoa are amazing and applicable to everyone.  Cocoa in any form provides fiber, protein, fat and carbohydrate; all four categories of nutrients.  It also provides riboflavin, niacin, folate and B6, as well as manganese, copper, magnesium and iron.

Folate is important for the developing fetus during pregnancy, so don’t be shy about adding some cocoa to your diet if you are expecting!

Manganese and magnesium contribute to the formation of healthy bones and teeth, and manganese supports the healthy functioning of the pituitary gland for hormonal support.

Copper helps maintain healthy blood, nerves and collagen formation, which contributes again to healthy bones as well as ligaments, tendons and even skin.

Iron is the portion of your blood that forms hemoglobin to carry oxygen to your body…just a little important!  Lack of iron can cause anemia, so be sure that if you are excessively tired you have your iron levels checked.

And, contrary to what seems to remain as popular belief, consuming fats is very important for your overall health.  Cocoa butter contains fats consisting of palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid.  Palmitic and stearic acid are both saturated fats and contribute to the richness of chocolate.  I am going to insert a plug here that saturated fats are not the face of evil in your food.  Quite to the contrary, the body needs and metabolizes saturated fats quite well, both for repair and energy.  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Saturated fats are excellent carries of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  These vitamins are responsible for healthy bones and teeth, healthy blood and immune system function and healthy eyes, just to name a few.
  2. The brain is composed primarily of fats and cholesterol (yes, you’re a literal fat-head).  Saturated fat is a wonderful precursor to the fats and cholesterol that are necessary to maintain the health of the brain.
  3. Saturated fats are the preferred energy source for your heart and are easily used for energy during times of physical exertion.
  4. Saturated fats do NOT build up in your blood vessels randomely.  There are many processes that contribute to plaque formation in the arteries, but all of them begin with the base of inflammation in the body.  Cholesterol and saturated fats are simply a mechanism for the body to attempt to heal damage that is done by inflammation, which then leads to artery blockages.

For more information on fats, grab a copy of Mary Enig’s book called Know Your Fats.

And finally, oleic acid is an omega-9, mono-unsaturated fatty acid.  Omega 9 fatty acids are largely unmentioned because they make up a small percentage of fats in foods, but they are beneficial for decreasing inflammation, supporting the health of the brain and therefore improving memory and brain function.

All of these nutrients combine to help the following conditions:

  • High LDL Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Circulatory complaints
  • High blood pressure
  • Stiffness of arteries and veins
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Lung disorders
  • Immune deficiency

Keep in mind that eating chocolate alone will not correct all of the above imbalances.  Make sure that the rest of your diet is healthy and free of GMOs, preservatives, unhealthy fats and high amounts of sugar.

Why you want to Choose Non-GMO Chocolate

While cacao, according to my research, has not yet become a genetically modified food, there are other ingredients to be careful of when purchasing chocolate products.  Many chocolate products contain soy lecithin that is derived from soy, and over 90% of soy crops are GM.  Another ingredient that may be GM in your chocolate products is sugar.  Sugar beets are one of the main sources of sweeteners and most crops are largely GM.  Lastly, if you are a consumer of milk chocolate, the milk products used to make chocolate may be sourced from animals that are fed GM feed, resulting in tainted milk.

How to add it to your diet

Lest I miss the obvious, eat a chocolate bar!  However, that comes with the caveat that when we talk about the benefits of chocolate we are referring to high cacao content–namely, dark chocolate or cacao powder.  Milk chocolate, while it tastes wonderful, has less cacao content and more sugar making it a less than ideal choice.

If you are not one that enjoys dark chocolate, try adding cacao powder to other types of food like smoothies or even breakfast cereals or yogurt.

Using cacao as a baking ingredient is also a great way to integrate it into your diet.  The process of heating harm only the B-vitamins as they tend to be sensitive to heat, but the other nutrients will be preserved.

Looking for where to find Non-GMO chocolate?  Visit my blogs for each category to find what your taste buds are looking for!

27 Dec
2016

I can remember my Mom making hot chocolate in a saucepan on the stove top when I was young and it tasted so much better than the hot chocolate out of the pouch!  While it took a little more time than just rip, dump and stir, the flavor was more chocolaty and the texture was richer.  MOMables has a great recipe for homemade hot chocolate you can find here.

If you prefer the ready-made chocolate powder, I have found some of that for you as well!

Do the dump-and-stir


Earth Circle Organics is a great source for many Non-GMO products, including their  organic Balinese drinking chocolate.  Containing only cacao powder and coconut sugar, you can enjoy this knowing that is it is low glycemic and great-tasting.  This product is easy to use as hot chocolate in hot water, or even add to your morning shakes or cereal!  Why limit this tasty chocolate to just hot water!

Be the first of your friends to try Organic Balinese Drinking Chocolate.  Find it at the most affordable price from Amazon!

 

Guittard Chocolate Company also makes two varieties of cacao powder for drinking.  If you enjoy the homemade hot chocolate, try their Cocoa Rouge unsweetened powder.  Or the Grand Cacao for the simple and easy cup.  Find both varieties of Guittard Drinking Chocolate on Amazon in one order, or buy your favorite!

Guittard Chocolates are always a 5-star product!

 

 

NibMor produces organic, fair trade drinking chocolate in three flavors, all of which receive 4.5/5 stars rated by a high number of consumers!  Made with cacao powder, coconut sugar and a touch of salt (which I think it what sets this apart), look for all of their flavors on Amazon:

  • Traditional
  • 6 Spice 
  • Mint

While you could always make your own flavored hot chocolate at home with a touch of essential oil or organic liquid flavor, it is a nice treat to grab your favorite flavor without the extra work and make it easy.

Or for you moms out there that try your hardest to give the best to your kids but don’t have the time to make everything, this is a great way to save yourself a little sanity and still know you are giving them something that will not harm them and they can still enjoy!

Shop for the lowest price of NibMor Drinking Chocolate on Amazon.

 

Enjoy one or all of these knowing they are Non-GMO project verified!

26 Dec
2016

In my search for the yum-factor in chocolate, I found a few brands that stood out as unique and different.  When I use the word “specialty” I apply it to unique flavors that are hard to find in the mainstream chocolate market.  Below you will find a selection of chocolates that you probably won’t find in your local grocer but would greatly enjoy as a treat!

Raaka Virgin Chocolate produces some of the most unique chocolate flavors that I have seen.  Their out-of-the-box style translates into new ideas in chocolates.  They have created a process that involves steaming cacao beans over simmering wine to create a Cabernet Sauvignon bar, and another batch aged in bourbon casks to flavor the bourbon from the oak cask to create the Bourbon Cask Aged bar.  Have you ever heard of this??  I think it is artistic and amazing.

Look for the other unique flavors of Raaka:

Pink Sea Salt—Coconut Milk—Smoked Chai—Yakon—Ghost Pepper—Mint and Nibs

Find all of the Raaka flavors on Amazon!


Taza Chocolate makes artisan chocolates with stone-ground cacao beans to add another dimension of flavor and texture to their chocolate bars.  Visit my artisan chocolate blog for more on their traditional chocolates, but read on for a preview of their chocolate bars!

Origin bars are made with only one type of bean so that they retain the full flavor of that alone, and if you are a dark chocolate lover this is your stop.  From 60% to 87% dark chocolates, you will get your chocolate fix really easily.

If the darks aren’t singing your tune, try the Amaze Bars!  You will find familiar flavors with the unique stone-ground chocolate that adds a deeper chocolate taste and texture that I personally quite enjoy.  It is mildly gritty but that adds to the experience.  Eating melt-in-your-mouth chocolate has always been somewhat boring for me.  Find your favorite flavors, or try them all:

Maple Pecan–Cranberry Pumpkin Spice–Gingerbread Cookie–Peppermint Stick–95% Wicked Dark–Sea Salt and Almond–Coco Besos Coconut–Cacao Crunch–Toffee, Almond and Sea Salt–Raspberry Crunch

Find your favorite Taza Chocolate Bar on Amazon!

 

And last but not least is Spicely Organics.  As their name suggests, Spicely Organics specializes in spices but they also manufacture teas and chocolates.  Combining tea with chocolate, they have created unique and original tea-infused chocolates that will reveal a new definition of specialty chocolates.  Here again, the only place to find their chocolates is on their website, but I believe that you will not want to pass up their unique flavors!

  • Chai 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Green Earl Grey 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Honeybush Caramel 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Honeybush Caramel Milk Chocolate
  • Jasmine 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Jasminn Milk Chocolate
  • Lapsang Souchong 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Mate 72% Dark Chocolate
  • Mayan Pepper Chai 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Raspberry Rooibos 60% Dark Chocolate
  • Turmeric Tea 60% Dark Chocolate

Enjoy all of these chocolates knowing that they are Non-GMO Project Verified!

Indulge…

21 Dec
2016

Chocolate chip cookies, here we come!  Pre-heat the oven because I have some goodies for you!

I have also written a bit about Guittard in my artisan chocolate review, so I will keep it brief in saying that Guittard has managed to create an artisan chocolate that is readily available for everyone.  Visit my artisan blog here.

They have created eight different blends of chocolate chips for baking (or in my case eating as well), three varieties of baking wafers, three baking bars and two cocoa.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Guittard becomes your new favorite all-around chocolate company!

 

Look for their baking selection on Amazon:

  • Chips
    • Akoma semi-sweet chips–33% cacao
    • Butterscotch baking chips
    • Choc Au Lait baking chips–vanilla milk chips
    • Extra dark chocolate chips (my favorite)–63% cacao
    • Green mint baking chips
    • Milk chocolate maxi chips–31% cacao that is extra large!
    • Real semi-sweet chocolate chips–46% cacao
    • Super cookie chocolate chips–48% cacao that is uniquely shaped for more chocolate per chip
  • Wafers
    • Bittersweet organic wafers–74% cacao
    • Milk chocolate organic wafers–38% cacao
    • Semi-sweet organic wafers–66% cacao
  • Bars
    • Bittersweet-70% cacao
    • Semi-sweet-64% cacao
    • Unsweetened-100% cacao
  • Powder
    • Cocoa rouge unsweetened powder
    • Grand cacao drinking chocolate

Theo chocolate also makes two varieties of sweetened baking bars in 70% and 85% dark chocolate.  Theo makes organic, fair trade chocolate that is soy free which is great for those with soy allergies.

 

As always, you will never find anything on this website that is not guaranteed non-GMO!

 

20 Dec
2016

Artisan chocolate is somewhat of a controvertial definition, as it can be interpreted different ways.  For my purposes, I am taking “artisan” to be defined as made by someone who takes the bean and makes chocolate from it.  While many chocolate companies buy chocolate and melt it down to make their designs, artisans work from beginning to end, from bean to butter to chocolate.  Thus they are more expensive but often more unique and flavorful, with a more decadent melt-in-your-mouth texture.

From pure dark, milk and white chocolates to chocolates with fruits and nuts, I guarantee you will find something to make you feel like royalty.  Even gold-dusted chocolate!

Shop their website by classic gifts, gifts by occasion or seasonal gifts.  If you are looking for something that will make your special someone like they’ve never felt before, look no further.

zChocolat receives raving 5-star reviews from their customers for both excellent customer service and amazing products.

Shop zChocolat Product Collection and find the best-kept chocolate secret on the web!

 

I was completely unaware that there still existed a company that produced chocolate from stone-ground beans, but there is!  Taza Chocolate uses traditional, hand-carved Mexican stone mills called molinos to grind cacao beans to preserve the flavor of the beans and leave the ground cacao of a coarse texture.

The concept I love the most about Taza is that they continue the tradition of making Mexicano Discs as well as chocolate bars.  They strive to retain the Mexican culture of creating chocolate from beginning to end.

See my review on specialty chocolates for Taza’s unique chocolate bars!

Find unique-flavored discs at Taza: Spiked Eggnog–85% Super Dark–Cacao Puro–Chipotle Chili–Cinnamon–Coffee–Guajillo Chili–Salted Almond–Vanilla–and Taza flavor collections on Amazon!

Guittard is a family-owned company that strives to make unique blends at their headquarters in California from bean to bar.  You will find eating bars ranging from 38% to 91% cacao to satisfy any chocolate taste buds, and a wide selection of baking chocolate to include chips, bars, wafers and powder.

I personally have found their chips a wonderful addition to my baking (and eating), and I find a few of their bags at my local grocer.  If you cannot find them locally, you can find many Guittard products on Amazon.  Packages of multiples are quite affordable!  I award Guittard 4/5 stars only because they are not yet organic, but they received a solid 4.5/5 stars from their friends on Amazon.

 

Xocolla Chocolates are impossible to find anywhere but on their website, but I had to include them here because they are fine, hand-crafted chocolates.  Due to the high specialty of their products, they have created only four varieties: matcha, dark, milk and moka (mocha).  Xocolla is sold only by the case, but it would be a treat worth having all year round!  Just make it last 🙂

Visit their website here!

 

zChocolate, Guittard and Xocolla are all guaranteed non-GMO.

Go ahead…I know you want to….

 

12 Dec
2016

If you are looking for a little something that adds a little unique flavor to your diet, look no further than Sonoma Syrup Company.   Add to coffee, tea, or even water to make your beverages more palatable, or even add to baked goods for a unique flavor.

They are made with cane sugar and water, and infused with flavors…keeping it simple so you don’t have to worry.  Look for the following flavors of Sonoma Syrup Infused Simple Syrup on Amazon:

  • Classic-light vanilla flavor
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Pumpkin Pie Latte
  • Sea Salt Caramel
  • Bittersweet Chocolate
  • Pomegranate
  • White Ginger
  • Meyer Lemon
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon
  • Lime
  • Almond
  • Hazelnut
  • Raspberry
  • Acai Black Currant Superfruits

Non-GMO Project Verified for your health!

Which one is your favorite??

 

6 Dec
2016

My loyal readers…if you have ever tasted a well-known Whoopie Pie, then you understand why this excites me so much!  If you haven’t, all I can say is you’ve missed out, but there is a healthier option that I am excited to share!

In case you don’t know what a whoopie pie is, it is a tasty little treat of marshmallow filling between two cake-like cookies.  Yum!

The Piping Gourmets has created gluten free, dairy free whoopie pies that are also Non-GMO Project Verified!

Check your local Safeway’s freezer sections for these tasty delights 🙂

9 Nov
2016

Chia is a great superfood to add to any food because it offers omega 3 fats, proteins, fiber and minerals.  This also makes it a great addition to snacks because proteins and fats have a higher caloric content and will stave off hunger for a longer period of time.

One of my favorite chia snacks is Mamma Chia.  I first encountered the Chia Squeeze packets several years ago and thought it was one of the best inventions ever!  Made in 6 flavors, it comes in a convenient packet with a resealable lid so it is perfect for on-the-go and kids’ snacks.

Mamma Chia Squeeze comes in boxes of single flavors or combination on Amazon, perfect for stocking  up for school!

If the squeeze packets just aren’t your squeeze, try the Mamma Chia Vitality Bars, with nuts and crunch and tasty flavor!  Their current flavors are Caramel and Sea Salt, Maple and Glazed Pecan, and Peanut Butter and Sea Salt.  You can also find other flavors from the past on Amazon, grab them before they’re gone!

11 Oct
2016

I need Snacks!

256px-dry_fruitNuts, dried fruit and jerky….yeah I hear you!  It’s so hard to find snacks that are sourced non-GMO.  Sometimes I find myself walking around the grocery store hoping that something new that I can eat will magically sprout from the shelves.  Jack and the Beanstalk….

But I have a solution for you!

UrthBox has created a novel and unique way to get the snacks you crave every day.  You choose the size of box you want, how often you want a box, and it can even be specialized for gluten-free, vegan or special diets…all non-GMO!  Of the snack companies that I have found that have similar standards, Urthbox is the best priced and offers the most options.

Check them out here…I guarantee you won’t regret it!