Now that it’s October, cue all the chocolate, all the Halloween, all the autumn, all the crisp leaves, all the pumpkin spiced everything, and all the cozy fall nights. Bring on all the scary movies, all the pumpkin picking, all the apple eating, all the boot wearing – and did I mention alllllllll the chocolate eating?
The kickoff to October and the countdown to Halloween just wouldn’t be right without a new blog post on a delicious chocolate treat to make and savor all month long. Although I’m a kale and sweet potato devotee, chocolate will always have a place in my heart – and it should have one in yours too. Chocolate, as you should know, is (basically) health food. No, it’s not a leafy green, but chocolate does boast some serious health benefits, when consumed in moderation.
Q: What should I look for in a chocolate bar?
When it comes to choosing your chocolate, go with the least processed form possible. Always purchase unprocessed cocoa powders, raw cacao, and high quality dark chocolate (with at least 60% cocoa) that does not contain additives, excess sugar, food colorings, or tons of other weird ingredients. In fact, when it comes to healthy chocolate – less is so much more.
My go-to bar of chocolate goodness is my bae is Alter Eco chocolates. Not only are their quinoa, rice, sugar, and cacao non-GMO and sustainably grown and harvested, but they’ve founded their company on very specific values: be reliably delicious, environmentally responsible, and socially just. This means partnering with fair-trade and small-scale farmers who use organic growing practices to grow the most natural, minimally processed, and nutritious food possible. It also means that Alter Eco sources 100 percent of its products from small-scale, farmer-owned cooperatives. This ensures a practice of empowered farmers who have the opportunity to work for themselves, while investing their money directly into the food production and living standards within their community.
Alter Eco’s foods are not only better for the planet (their packaging is completely recyclable), but they’re better for your waistline and health as well. Seriously, my go-to favorite bar, Dark Blackout, has just four ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, raw cane sugar, and vanilla beans.
Q: Is it really necessary to purchase organic and fair trade chocolate?
As a nutritionist, I say a million times yes. Conventional and industrial chocolate (like most industrialized food products) is produced on the cheap. This means using low quality cacao beans and employing farmers who are poorly paid and treated. Due to the poor quality of the cacao bean, the resulting chocolate product is pumped with sugar, soy lecithin, and other ingredients to improve taste and texture. In fact, most conventional chocolate bars barely contain any cacao at all – to be called “chocolate” in the United States, the bar most contain more than 10 percent cacao. Good old Hershey’s bars have 11 percent.
Chocolate Health Benefits
Now that you know what to look for in a bar of chocolate (organic, dark, fair trade), you should know why it’s just so darn good for you. Chocolate is a rich source of:
• Magnesium – this mineral is essential for nerve function, neurotransmitter release, blood pressure regulation, and production of the antioxidant glutathione. Just 1 square of dark chocolate contains about 95mg of magnesium, or about 24 percent DV.
• Theobromine – A bitter alkaloid, which acts as a natural vasodilator (dilates your blood vessels to allow more blood flow and oxygen), a diuretic (increases urination to rid body of excess fluids), and a heart stimulant. Darker chocolate has WAY more of these beneficial compounds than lighter, milk chocolates.
• Antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. These biologically active compounds act to reduce free radical oxidation within the body.
• Dark chocolate consumption may increase beneficial HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
In this recipe, healthy dark chocolate meets tahini and maple syrup for a delicious, sweet, and salty bite. Each square is rich and creamy, nutty and sweet. I’ve been hooked on these squares for a few days now, and I know that you’ll love them too. They’re the perfect October treat!
Nutritious dark chocolate + nutty tahini + sweet maple syrup = these simple, nutritious, and absolutely delicious Chocolate Tahini Squares.
Chocolate Tahini Squares
Makes about 16-18 small squares
½ cup almonds
1 cup unsalted tahini
½ cup maple syrup + more to taste
¼ tsp sea salt + more to taste
3 ounces dark chocolate, 85% cocoa or more preferred (Alter Eco Dark Blackout is my FAV)
Sesame seeds, for garnish
In a high-speed blender or food processor, add almonds and grind into chunky flour – nearly the consistency of almond flour with some pieces of almonds remaining.
Add in tahini, maple syrup, and sea salt. Blend until mixture is thick, gooey, and completely mixed together. Taste the mixture and see if you need to add more maple syrup for sweetness or sea salt for a sweet/salty balance.
Pour mixture into a small square-baking tray lined with parchment paper. Batter will be quite gooey, so use a spatula to spread evenly into tray.
Place mixture in the freezer and allow to set for 1-2 hours.
When tahini squares are nearly set, roughly chop dark chocolate and melt in a double broiler on the stove, stirring frequently.
Remove tahini batter from the freezer and remove from baking tray. Using a wet knife, cut mixture into even squares. Place squares on a baking rack or cookie-cooling tray over a piece of parchment paper. Drizzle melted dark chocolate over squares, until tops are covered. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and place back in the freezer to set – about 20 minutes or so. Take one (or two) out & devour.
Store chocolate tahini squares in the freezer, where they’ll keep for 2-3 weeks. There’s, of course, no way in the world they’ll last that long. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Alter Eco partnered with Vegukate and provided samples to test and review. The opinions presented in this blog are completely my own – Alter Eco is my favorite chocolate and I’m obsessed.
Nutritious dark chocolate + nutty tahini + sweet maple syrup = these simple, nutritious, and absolutely delicious Chocolate Tahini Squares. Read the recipe (2 comments)
Arugula + Eggs + Magic Green Sauce = Breakfast Perfection Read the recipe
The vegan wonder ingredient + dark chocolate + fresh raspberries = a lifechanging mousse made with Aquafaba! Read the recipe (1 comment)
Fresh grilled chicken and summer vegetables + the perfect way to use summer herbs in a delicious chimichurri sauce. Read the recipe
Collagen peptides + rich cacao + crunchy nuts + antioxidant bursting chia seeds + sweet dates = the ultimate beauty ball. Read the recipe (1 comment)
10 (nutrition and wellness) things you should know today: July 11, 2016. Read more
Sweet and seasonal strawberries + antioxidant rich matcha + creamy almond milk + fiber filled chia seeds = one delicious and sweet way to celebrate spring! Read the recipe (3 comments)
Spiralized zucchini + crisp red cabbage + sweet carrot ribbons + flavorful cilantro + heavenly almond and ginger sauce = a vegukate take on pad Thai. Read the recipe
White beans + red beet + oat flour + sweet vanilla and maple syrup + chocolate = red velvet brownies, duh. Read the recipe (2 comments)
Spring produce + protein filled quinoa and chickpeas + the most magical green dressing = Spring Abundance Bowls with Magic Green Dressing Read the recipe (2 comments)