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Kat Barry: Healthy chocolate can satisfy craving

Published 2:24pm Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The other night, I was overcome by a chocolate craving. I try not to eat a lot of sugar on a regular basis. Of course, I love a big piece of vegan cake for a treat now and then, but on the day-to-day I’m much more likely to have a spoonful of peanut butter on half a banana than I am to eat a cookie. Or even chocolate for that matter. I had to scour my pantry to see what I could do about this craving. How could I satisfy my desire for something naughty but not totally negate my healthy eating habits?
After a spin of my lazy Susan, I was able to come up with two simple and supremely healthy homemade chocolate dishes. Both of these recipes are easy, require no fancy kitchen tools and are ready in a short amount of time. The best aspect to both of these recipes is they are extremely rich and satisfying, yet really good for you. They offer all of the benefits of cacao without any of the refined sugars, milk products, preservatives and bad fats found in over-the-counter, store-bought desserts.
For the first recipe, I remembered I had some really ripe avocados that needed to be used. I learned to make chocolate mousse from avocados at a raw foods class I took a few years back so I knew I could improvise. In about three minutes, I whipped together a decadent and delicious chocolate mousse. This is a great one if you need a chocolate fix in a hurry. You have all the health benefits of avocados and cacao in a fabulous and simple raw dish, without the nasty cholesterol and refined sugars that are in traditional mousse.
Second, I came across a large block of chocolate I purchased around Christmas time for making chocolate bark. I’d gotten side tracked during the holidays, so now was a perfect time to make some and keep on hand. Not only does making chocolate desserts at home save your money and waistline, it also impresses your friends. I took the chocolate bark I made into work with me yesterday and my coworker said, “I can’t believe you made your own chocolates!”  I explained to him that it’s so simple, everyone can do it in minutes.
My mom taught me the basic recipe a few years ago and I’ve shared it at cooking demonstrations and in classes. I sometimes modify it a bit and throw in pepitas or cayenne peppers and cinnamon. Just like any recipe, you can build off of it and make it your own.

Raw chocolate mousse
3 ripe avocados
4 Tbs. agave nectar
¾ cup cacao powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
Blend all ingredients thoroughly in a blender. If you don’t have a blender you can use a wire whisk.
Serves six.

Dark chocolate bark
12 oz Fair Trade unsweetened pure dark chocolate (at least 70 percent)
3 Tbs. pure maple syrup
2 ½ cups unsalted mixed nuts
Coarse sea salt (about 1 tsp.)
Parchment paper

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a small pot inside another pot with an inch or two of water. (I used one pot inside a larger one this past time because I’d loaned out my double boiler. It’s equally as effective, but the chocolate melts faster when you use a double boiler).
Whisk the chocolate regularly while it melts, but it only takes about 5 minutes with a double boiler and about 10 to 15 minutes with the sauce pan combo set-up. Add the maple syrup and stir in. You’ll notice it becomes thick like fudge right away when the maple syrup is added. Just remove at once, and roll out onto a parchment using a rolling pin. Press in the nuts then sprinkle with sea salt. You may need to use the rolling pin to really press in the nuts. You want the chocolate bark to be about ½-inch thick.
Transfer parchment onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until cool and firm, about 30 minutes.

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