Chocolate Sunday on Tuesday – Cacao Nibs!

I started to write this post before we lost power because of Toronto’s ice storm… Hope those still without electricity are staying warm, and safe.

Last week I bought a bag of raw cacao nibs for the first time. Sweet cacao nibs, a “Mayan Superfood” with antioxidants, fibre and magnesium, according to the label. Certified organic too!

cacao nibsThen I got home and thought – “What do I do with them?”

The manufacturer’s website suggests eating them right out of the bag. That was perfect advice for the last couple of days.

Before the storm hit, I added the nibs to my breakfast yogourt for a treat. Plans to bake with them over the weekend were put on hold!

One of my favourite breakfasts is a combination of Greek yogourt, fresh and sometimes dried fruit, nuts and/or seeds, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

A serving of Greek yogourt is nourishing and satisfying (high in protein)… but not very exciting on its own. Fruit and nuts or seeds add a variety of textures and nutrients, and lots of flavour. The cacao nibs add a whole other dimension.

Raw cacao nibs are the essence of chocolate. I like them, but they don’t taste like the chocolate I’m used to. The ones I bought, sweetened with organic cane juice, taste more “healthy” than chocolate chips, probably their closest conventional counterpart.

The texture of the nibs is a surprise too – less consistent and smooth than processed chocolate. As well, the nibs vary in size and shape. Every mouthful is interesting, and you don’t need a huge quantity to be satisfied.

My best breakfast this past week consisted of Greek yogourt, organic raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, cut-up Brazil nuts, cacao nibs, cinnamon and a bit of honey. Delicious – and it held me until lunchtime.

Happy Holidays! Planning to blog again Friday.

Chocolate Sunday – Granola!

The first gift my husband gave me when we were dating was a jar of granola, which he swears he made himself.

Our daughter is skeptical about this story, because it’s my father-in-law who’s the chief granola-maker in the family. A retired pharmacist who learned to be precise about measuring and mixing long before he began baking, Dad is also known for his other specialties including blueberry tortes and potato-leek soup.


Dad’s granola, updated

He doesn’t remember where he got his granola recipe, but it’s been a family favourite for a long time. I’ve made it many times myself.

As an alternative, a few years ago, I also began using a simpler recipe – the Maple-Nut Granola from Aviva Allen’s Organic Kosher Cookbook. It calls for a mix of oats, nuts, olive oil, maple syrup and a bit of sea salt – nothing else – and has become my other favourite granola recipe.

Dad’s granola is no more difficult to make, but it virtually teems with ingredients – coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, up to three kinds of nuts, and – as “optional” ingredients – chocolate chips, raisins, and vanilla extract. The add-ons were never optional for me, though – especially the chocolate chips. The recipe uses honey as sweetener, but I tried it this week with maple syrup, and that was good too.

Most of the component ingredients remain discrete in the finished product, but the granola also includes a few larger clumps – the best parts – which provide a tasty, unexpected hit of melted chocolate.

Both recipes are delicious, and should probably be eaten sparingly. I often sprinkle granola over a plainer cereal, and add berries or bananas, and almond milk.

When I made the granola this week, I reduced the amount of coconut because it is high in saturated fat, and I used oat bran instead of wheat germ because I wanted to minimize the amount of gluten. I also used olive oil for its health benefits, even though the original recipe didn’t specify it.

The recipe is very flexible, and optional ingredients in the original version are listed without quantities. I measured what I used so I could include amounts in the recipe that follows.

Dad’s Granola (updated)

4 cups rolled oats

½ cup coconut

½ cup sesame seeds

1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, or a mix of nuts)

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ tsp. sea salt

½ cup oat bran

¾ cup chocolate chips

¾ cup raisins

½ cup liquid honey or maple syrup

(optional: 1 tsp. of vanilla if using honey)

½ cup olive oil

1. Oil 9 x 13” pan, and add dry ingredients in order given.

2. Add oil and maple syrup or honey (with vanilla, if you like), and mix well.

3. Bake 20 minutes at 275F, stirring every five to seven minutes.

4. Let cool about an hour. Store in glass jars.