Curiously Cacao

Cacao bean trees grow on tropical rain forest plantations in South America.  The trees grow pods, (cacao pods) on them after about 2-3 years.  Some trees produce pods year round.  If left on the tree too long, the pods turn black. (bad).  Each pod contains 20-70 beans (seeds).  The cacao bean rest in a delicious cream-colored, acidic, aromatic pulp, which aids the fermentation process.  This makes the process of making chocolate possible.  When these pods are broken open you want to use only the white seeds and nothing else.  Unfortunately most chocolate companies use all of the seeds, good and bad, to save money.  But, what these companies don’t tell you is that the other seeds used are moldy.  So essentially you are eating chocolate made with moldy cacao seeds.

When the husband and I decided to go on this venture, to learn more about chocolate, we visited Chocolate Maya.  Maya Schoop-Rutten, owner and operator of Chocolate Maya, gave us a great overview of what “real” chocolate is.  She was so informative and educated about all of the ins and outs of making “good’ chocolate.  Quality chocolate, made from the best cacao nibs is what you want to ingest, not your everyday chocolate bar.  Sorry folks.

So, next time you want to indulge in a piece of chocolate think twice.  Unless you have purchased it from the best, Chocolate Maya.

 Chocolate Maya

15 West Gutierrez Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Easy Homemade Granola Bars

On a whim I decided to make some homemade granola bars.  I was very particular about my ingredients, and did not want something with too much sugar, and not enough taste.  I did a little research and found an old recipe from the New York Times.  All the ingredients were exactly what I wanted.  Low in sugar, great taste (I was assuming before I even made them), and fairly easy.  They turned out fantastic!  I added the Omega 3 Trail mix from Trader Joe’s, which has cranberries, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, almonds and pinenuts, in one little package. You can add anything you want and play around with the recipe.
Granola Bars
3 tbs.canola oil

 2 cups rolled oats

 1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 teas. cinnamon

1/4 teas. salt

1/3 cup honey

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 teas. vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Oil a 9×9 baking pan. Add oil to saucepan. Add the oats. Stir over medium heat until the oats are lightly toasted, taking care not to let them burn. Stir until they are beginning to smell toasty and have slightly darkened, six to seven minutes.  Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl. Add the flaxseed, cinnamon and the salt.

Combine the honey, vanilla and brown sugar in the pan in which you toasted the oats. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 5 minutes. Pour over the oat mixture, and stir until it is evenly distributed over the mixture. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then stir in chocolate chips and anything else you may choose to add.

 Pour into baking pan, and spread evenly. Place in oven for 18 minutes. Do not allow to brown or the bars will be hard instead of chewy. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool. Cut into small squares.

 Makes 15-20 bars.

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes

  2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder

 Pinch of salt

 2 cups superfine sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

 2 cups cold water

2 tsp. white vinegar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips

 Cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place 12 paper cups in a muffin pan.  Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and sugar into a large bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl, combine the applesauce, water, vinegar and baking soda.  Add the flour mixture and stir well to combine.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the mixture into the cups. Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes and cool. Serve dusted with cocoa.