In America, we all know how Valentine's Day works: it is a day to declare your undying love to your sweetie. If you are a youngster, you go for the box of sweethearts. As an adult, you spring for some form of sugar like an overpriced box of chocolates, a gorgeous but equally inflated bouquet of long-stemmed, red roses, and a romantic gesture such as a fancy dinner on the town or exquisite jewelry.
While there's absolutely nothing wrong with showing your sweetheart your undying love, 2022 is the year we are turning age-old traditions on their heads - starting with these outdated Valentine's Day traditions.
We know we eat too much sugar. The average American now consumes, on average, 152 pounds of sugar per year. Let me spell that out for you - that's one pound a week. Ideally, you should get less than 10% of their calories from sugar. This equals 13 teaspoons of sugar per day (based on 2,000 calories per day). The current average is 42.5 teaspoons of sugar per day!
We also know that over consumption of sugar leads to a plethora of health issues not just weight gain, but hormone dysregulation, Type 2 diabetes, etc.
So, can we compromise here?
Let's continue to shower our sweetheart with affection and objects of our adoration, but nothing says "I love you" more than a homemade treat that won't break the bank, bust your pants, or make you feel guilty.
Let's take a look at all of the ways the ingredients (some of which are defined as "superfoods") in these delicious treats contribute to your health and health goals this year. All of these recipes utilize simple ingredients including "superfoods". What makes them super is how they are processed (or not processed).
Raw Honey. There is a significant difference between what is labeled as “honey” and “raw honey.” Raw honey has not been heated, filtered, or mixed with other sweeteners like corn syrup or sugar. It has been used therapeutically for thousands of years and contains natural enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that make it a powerful sweet ingredient.
Cacao (not cocoa) - has remarkable health benefits that may have you thinking twice about your homemade chocolate consumption. Cacao has one of the highest plant-based source of magnesium, and most of us are definitely deficient in this vital mineral. It's also unbelievably high in antioxidants, iron, calcium, and four scientifically proven "bliss" chemicals – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feeling happy. No wonder so many of us crave cacao. Be careful with non-organic cocoa as it's been treated with toxic pesticides and fumigation chemicals, and may contain GMO (genetically modified ingredients).
Unrefined Coconut Oil is extracted from raw coconuts and processed at a low temperature to preserve the biologically active enzymes and antioxidants. It's helpful in balancing blood sugar balance because it's made from medium and short chain fatty acids, which provide the body with a quick and readily digestible source of energy, especially compared to long-chain fatty acids from animal fats, which take longer to metabolize.
Flax, chia and hemp hearts - all three are defined as "superfoods" in that they all contain antioxidants (cancer-fighting properties), minerals, protein, soluble fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Why are these so great for your body? They promote heart health and regular bowel movements, support strong bones, improve blood sugar management, and help with weight management.
Have I convinced you to take a look at these recipes? Three excellent options to choose from - or make all three!
Cashew Coconut Energy Balls
Coconut & Honey Chocolate
Flourless chocolate torte with honey and almonds
I started making these tasty treats for backpacking trips. They pack well, and are a better fuel source than traditional trail snacks.
Cashew Coconut Energy Balls
1 cup dates
1 cup roasted & salted or raw cashews
1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds/flakes
2 Tbsp “Superseed blend” (chia, hemp hearts, and flax seeds or flax meal) or any combination thereof
1 tsp vanilla
OPTIONAL add-ins depending on your taste preferences
2 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp organic cacao powder
2 scoops of collagen powder
1 scoop of protein powder
Process dates in a food processor fit with “S” blade until crumbly.
Add coconut, cashews, vanilla and salt and process until well blended and fine.
Add optional ingredients if desired and process until mixture starts balling up or sticking together.
Roll into balls, 1-2 Tbsp at a time.
Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Cashews. I don't recommend substituting the cashews, but a combination of 1 cup of any nuts will work.
Almond butter. Feel free to substitute whatever type of nut/seed butter you prefer.
This is my go-to chocolate recipe and a stamp-sized piece will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Coconut Honey Chocolate
* Required: Candy thermometer
1 bar of dark chocolate (I use 72%)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
6 tablespoons toasted unsalted almonds
6 tablespoons toasted coconut
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt for garnish if desired
Line a small baking dish with parchment paper, leaving several inches to hang over the sides. Sprinkle chopped dark chocolate pieces along the bottom.
Toast almonds in a cast iron pan or in your toaster oven. Watch carefully so they don't burn.
In a food processor or high-powered blender, combine cacao and almonds and pulse until it forms a fine crumbly meal; it should be difficult to detect the almonds. Set aside.
Add honey and coconut oil to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add candy thermometer and bring to 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 120 degrees Celsius. Immediately remove from heat and stir in cacao/almond mixture, as well as vanilla extract.
Pour mixture over chocolate into the baking dish. Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for approximately an hour, until chocolate is firm and set. Cut into desired pieces and enjoy! Keep leftover chocolate in the freezer.
I cut my pieces into postage stamp sized pieces
Get creative with your fillings - dried fruit, almond extract, different nuts, etc.
Store-bought treats are incredibly expensive, and making one at home is equally delicious and more affordable. This is an impressive dessert or birthday "cake"
Flourless Chocolate Honey Torte
4 Tablespoons cacao powder
½ cup boiling water
7 ounce bar of 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
½ cup raw honey
½ cup almond meal or flour
6 Tbsp organic coconut milk
3.5 ounces of 70% dark chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and line the bottom of an 8-inch spring-form pan (or cake pan) with parchment paper.
Put cacao in a heat proof bowl, add the boiling water and stir until smooth.
Add chocolate and coconut oil to the cacao mixture and place over a pot of gently simmering water. Whisk until coconut oil and chocolate have melted and the mixture is smooth.
Stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool.
One by one, whisk egg yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture, then fold in honey and ground almonds.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they reach soft peaks.
Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the rest.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30 minutes.
Let cool before removing from the pan.
For the ganache
Heat the chocolate and coconut milk together in a small pot.
Remove from heat, add the coconut oil and whisk until smooth.
Pour over the cooled cake and garnish with berries or ... ?
Once cooled, the ganache will set and thicken.