Chocolate is on our minds. There are few people in this world who do not like chocolate. Chocolates in heart shaped boxes are one of the most popular gifts given to people you love on February 14th, Valentine’s Day.
The origin of Valentine’s Day is linked back to two early Roman saints, both named Valentine, both executed on February 14th, but unconnected to romantic love.
One account from the Third Century describes Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. A different account claims Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II on the outskirts of Rome.
Because of the similarities of these accounts, it’s thought they may refer to the same person. Enough confusion surrounds the true identity of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.
The first mention of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday appeared in the writings of Chaucer, specifically in the 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules. Chaucer describes the nature of love when “every bird cometh to choose his mate…on seynt Voantynes day.” Centuries later, people celebrated with songs, poetry and roses.
Valentine’s Day chocolate and candy weren’t yet intertwined, as sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe.
In the 1830's, when Queen Victoria reigned, Valentine’s Day turned into a commercial bonanza where Victorians would shower their significant others with Cupid-themed gifts and cards. Later in the 1800s, some well-known chocolatiers came up with a process of extracting pure cacao butter from whole cacao beans to create a more desirable form of “drinking chocolate.” This process resulted in an excess of cacao butter, which was used to produce more varieties of what was then called “eating chocolate.”
In a stroke of marketing genius, these chocolates were packaged in heart-shaped boxes decorated with Cupids and rosebuds. From that point on, giving chocolate for Valentine’s Day has been a symbol of romance.
Author and teacher David Wolfe from his book “Superfoods, The Food and Medicine of the Future” expresses our unfailing love for chocolate in this way, “There is something about chocolate; there is something in chocolate; there is something we know about chocolate that is beyond touch, taste and tantalizing sensation. The essence of chocolate is truly indescribable, ineffable, inexpressible.”
It is widely known that chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants, may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, raises HDL and may protect LDL from oxidation, may reduce heart disease risk and may protect your skin from the sun.
Is all chocolate equal?
David Wolfe’s book explains the healing and energy-giving qualities of many ancient food groups that were formerly unknown outside the countries of origin. They have come to the forefront in present-day culture. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is one of these superfoods, of the nut type.
Other common names for Cacao are cocoa, chocolate, xocolatl (Aztec).
All chocolate is made from cacao beans (also known as cocoa beans). All the antioxidant value, mineral benefits, neurotransmitter rejuvenating properties, and overall health-giving qualities of chocolate are found in original cacao. Chocolate consists of just one ingredient – no sugar, no dairy, no chemicals required – just cacao.
The raw cacao bean is one of nature’s most fantastic superfoods due to its mineral content and wide array of unique properties. Since many of the special properties of cacao are destroyed by cooking, refining, and processing, most people eating chocolate candy and chocolate food products do not experience its true healing qualities.
Getting to understand the power of raw cacao and how to use it in recipes will change the way you view the chocolate industry. When not heated, cacao is the best natural food source of the following nutrients antioxidants, magnesium, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, copper, vitamin C, omega 6 fatty acids, phenethylamines (PEA), anandamide, tryptophan, serotonin, fiber, and theobromine.
PEA are a class of compounds found in abundance in cacao. They are destroyed by roasting the beans. Therefore, they are not present in conventional and organic cooked and processed chocolate. PEAs are a major class of chemicals that we produce in our bodies when we fall in love. This is likely the main reasons why love and chocolate have such a deep connection. PEAs also increase focus and alertness.
Cacao is the seed (nut) of a fruit of an indigenous American jungle tree. Eighteenth-century Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus thought cacao was so important that he named the genus and species of this tree himself: Theobroma cacao, or “Cacao, the food of the gods.”
There is no cacao season – chocolate is always in season. The cacao tree flowers and produces fruit all year long. The cauliflori flowers have five petals with pale, lightly scented, mushroom-like growths that grow straight out of the trunk or large branches.
Cacao flowers are rarely visited by bees. They are best pollinated by tiny insects called midges. The fruits usually grow to between seven and eight inches in length. Each fruit contains anywhere from twenty to fifty almond-like seeds, or “beans” surrounded by a sweet, thin pulp. It is these seeds that are called “the food of the gods,” or cacao beans – the raw, natural form of chocolate.
Cacao trees grow best in the shade of larger trees where they are protected from wind and excessive sun. They like to grow inside latitudes of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator. Within this zone, cacao trees can adapt to a large range of tropical conditions, but they must have warm temperatures to thrive (79 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius is ideal). They love environments where temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. All of these factors make cacao a great greenhouse plant. You can purchase cacao trees over the Internet for your home or greenhouse. If conditions are just right, in a few years, you cacao trees will bear fruit.
Trying the recipes that are part of this article will give you a new experience with the taste of real chocolate in its truest form. Refined sugar and preservatives are part of the majority of chocolate on the market. They will not be present by making your own chocolate foods.
You can offer the people you love chocolate with all of its life-giving qualities by preparing any of these recipes on Valentine’s Day, and any day when you want to express how much you care about the people in your life.
When shopping for raw cacao or any chocolate, purchase Fair Trade or better quality raw organic cacao to ensure your cacao and chocolate products have not been harvested by slave labor. Check out your product at www.fairtrade.net or www.globalexchange.org. Educate yourself and those you love.
1. Ole Mole! Chocolate Tortillas adapted from a recipe by David Wolfe
Makes 6 Tortillas
1 10 oz. bag organic frozen corn kernels
½ cup dry golden flaxseeds
½ cup sunflower seeds, dry
4 spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon paprika or chile powder (spicier)
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
2 squeezes lime juice
Ground flaxseeds into a fine powder using a spice mill. Finely chop the garlic, Chop the spring onions. Add all ingredients to the food processor and blend until smooth.
Place six equal amounts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, flatten into circles and back at your oven’s lowest temperature or on warm for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Turn the tortillas over using a wide spatula. Remove the parchment paper and bake for another 30 minutes. Watch the tortillas during this time to make sure they stay flexible and don’t get too stiff. (If they turn out stiffer that you would like, you can use them as a flat tostado.)
If you have a dehydrator, place the six equal amounts on a Paraflexx sheet, flatten the circles, and dehydrate for about 4 hours. Turn the tortillas by placing another dehydrator tray on top of the already cooked tortillas and turning over so they are now on the new dehydrator tray. Dehydrate them without a Paraflexx sheet for 1 to 2 more hours. Make sure they remain flexible enough to fold.
Note: These are slightly spicy, slightly chocolaty tortillas. Stuff them with nut/seed pate or hummus, avocado, salad, or salsa. Serve them with guacamole, microgreens, and slices of lime. See the Jackfruit Carnitas as a filling possibility.
2. Jackfruit Carnitas a recipe by Elaina Love
1 can jackfruit
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 teaspoon mineral salt
1 tablespoon Mexican seasoning (or more depending on your flavor preference)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ onion diced
½ cup water or more to simmer.
Drain the can of jackfruit then rinse well under running water.
Marinate jackfruit with remaining ingredients, except diced onion and water, for 30 minutes to 1 hour (the longer the better). Use your hands to break up and mix well OR place all ingredients in a food processor and use the pulse button until it becomes the consistency of pulled pork.
Heat 1 more tablespoon of avocado oil in a skillet and sauté onion for 3 minutes.
Add marinated jackfruit and water and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Mixture should be tender and slightly thick and fragrant. Take off the lid for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking to brown the mixture a little.
Test with a fork for flavor. You may need to add more salt or spice depending on your taste.
Assemble your tacos and enjoy!
3. Dark Chocolate Soup recipe fromthegroundupwellness.com
This is a dessert option filled with usable nutrients and real food! Kids love it too!
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup soaked and drained dried dark apricots (no sulfur)
¼ cup walnuts
2 teaspoons cornstarch or 1 teaspoon agar, agar
¼ cup cacao nibs
Scant ½ cup raw cacao powder
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon and sea salt for serving
Heat coconut milk and almond milk in a double-boiler over medium heat.
While milks heat, whisk together cornstarch, cacao nibs, in a bowl.
Process walnuts and apricots in blender or food processor until they form a paste (should be a little chunky).
Add walnuts/apricots and chocolate mixture to double-boiler and whisk until evenly combined.
Add vanilla and continue to whisk for 3-4 minutes more, until the soup thickens and cacao nibs melt.
Top with a little cinnamon and a tiny pinch of Celtic sea salt.
Note: Store in fridge for up to two days. Serve hot for “soup” and cold for pudding.
4. Pecan Roll recipe by David Wolfe
Makes 10 small pieces
1 serving Cacao chocolate spread
2-3 pinches ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, not soaked, plus 2/3 cup extra for filling
1 cup medjool dates, pitted, not soaked
Blend the 1 cup pecans and the dates together in a food processor to make a dough.
Dust cinnamon onto a clean work surface, and place the dough on it.
Sprinkle some more cinnamon on top of the dough and flatten it out, either by hand or with a rolling pin.
Once the dough is about .2 inches think, and about 6 x 6 inches square, cut the edges so they are even. Spread the Cacao chocolate spread on top. Chop the 2/3 cup pecans and place over the chocolate spread.
Pick up one side of the dough and start to roll to the other side, so you end up with a spiraled log. Roll in parchment and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Cut this log into .6 inch-wide rolls. Sprinkle with cacao powder and cacao nibs or nuts if you have them.
Note: It may be easier to place the dough on a parchment sheet before flattening.
5. Cacao Chocolate Spread Recipe by Nestandglow.com
Or use Artisana Coconut Cacao Bliss
Makes 8 servings
1 can Coconut milk, not low-fat
4 tablespoons raw cacao powder
4 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place everything in a blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until everything is mixed and broken up.
Chill for a few hours in the fridge before using.
Keep in the fridge and use within a week.
Use coconut milk that doesn’t have added stabilizers, as they will prevent it from setting.
Note: If you can only find coconut milk with guar gum, put the can in the refrigerator for an hour. When opening scoop the milk from the top and discard the liquid on the bottom to remove the stabilizers. You can find the Artisana Coconut Cacao Bliss at the Healthy Life Markets in Charleston, WV or online.