When I was growing up, many of my friends considered breakfast cereal and cartoons a Saturday morning ritual. Be me? I didn’t particularly care for either. Now, though, I do make an exception for a good granola. One homemade with lots of crunch and goodness. One that can be eaten any time, not just for breakfast. One that will not only satisfy but nourish at the same time. Yes, I can make room for a ritual like that – and especially if it contains chocolate!
Yup! Just to make it a little naughty, there is chocolate in the granola I am sharing today. But, I mean that in only the very best way as this recipe uses raw cacao, (the seed from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made) and it is wickedly good-tasting and wickedly good for you, too. If you scan on down, you will see exactly what I mean.
HIGH ANTIOXIDANT RANKINGS FOR CACAO
You may think kale deems supreme (and it is great stuff indeed)! But, I think you may want to consider this: Some rankings like the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), a method of measuring antioxidants in biological samples, rates raw cacao and unsweetened cocoa powder in the top 10 of many nutritious foods. The high antioxidant level contained in cacao may be able to repair the damage caused by free radicals and reduce the risk of many diseases.
That’s good news for chocoholics out there, but you just need to make sure it is the right form. If you indulge in a chocolate bar, dark is best (cacao content of at least 70 percent or higher) and ditch the high sugar content while you are at it.
5 MORE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CACAO
As if that ORAC rating wasn’t enough to convince you regarding cacao and some of its chocolate variations, hold on. There is more good news:
1. Cacao may be a fountain of youth. Many of the antioxidants present in cacao are flavonoids, including anthocyanidin – great for the prevention of free radical damage and boosting collagen protection – a strong anti-ager.
Don’t miss this: Here are some other daily habits to keep your body and mind youthful.
2. Your outlook may improve. The neurotransmitters that are increased when you consume cacao may promote a sense of well-being. Perhaps there lies the reason for the piece of chocolate on your pillow at fine hotels.
3. You might like your lab results. Cacao may be an aide to cardiovascular disease as it may block the oxidation of undesirable LDL cholesterol.
Don’t miss this: Here is another magical way to keep your cholesterol in check.
4. It acts as a great protector for your nervous system. Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.
5. It is a complicated but beneficial mix. Cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.
RAW CACAO AND ITS IMPORTANT DISTINCTION FROM COCOA POWDER
Make no mistake, raw cacao, nibs and roasted cocoa powder are all nutrient giants in the antioxidant world. But, before we get to the recipe, let me tell you why I choose organic, raw cacao as a star ingredient.
Cocoa powder may look identical to raw cacao, but is not the same. Here is why: raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans – unroasted is the key word here. The process keeps the living enzymes in the bean. Conversely, cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures, and it is this roasting process that changes the molecular structure of the bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the nutritional level. It is still high though, but not as high as its unroasted counterpart.
In this recipe, you are cooking the raw cacao, but not at the high temperatures that cocoa powder is when roasted. The raw cacao, once sold only in specialty shops, can be found at many grocery stores and makes a great addition to smoothies, hot chocolate and when baking, too! Just make sure it is organic.
RECIPE: NO GUILT, ALL-GOOD CACAO GRANOLA
This granola makes a great portable, filling, anytime snack. And the smell, when it is baking? It is downright bewitching!
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin organic coconut oil
- 1/2 -3/4 cup raw organic honey (start with 1/2 cup)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened organic raw cacao powder*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- splash of vanilla extract
- 3 cups organic rolled oats
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup organic cacao nibs
- 1 heaping tablespoon ground flax seed
- 3/4 cup chopped dried fruit of choice: The sour of dried cherries or cranberries are great, but dried bananas, strawberries or raisins could be nice. too.
*Note: Consumer Labs also found that some raw cacao powder to be contaminated with heavy metals. Look for fair traded, organic varieties.
Now do this:
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Warm the coconut oil until it melts by placing it in a small saucepan on a very low flame for just a few seconds or even just near the warm stove. It melts quickly! Take off the heat.
- To the warm and melted, but not hot, coconut oil, add the cacao powder, salt, vanilla and honey. Mix until smooth. Taste and adjust for sweetness.
- In a very large mixing bowl add the oats, almonds, cacao nibs, flax, and coconut. Mix well.
- Pour the coconut oil mixture over the oat mixture and combine until well coated.
- Add the granola to a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread to a thin and even layer.
- Bake the granola for 25-45 minutes. But keep an eye on it and check every 5 minutes or so after the 20-minute mark. Shuffle it around a bit, too, with a spoon. (The goal is to get the granola crisp but not burned or browned. Better to undercook it and put it back in the oven a bit later to crisp up some more than burn it!)
- Cool the granola.
- Add the dried fruit of choice and mix well.
- Store in airtight container.